UBC Graduate Research

SPACE FOR CHANGE - Partnership examples: Local Government and Youth Wilkinson, Clarissa K


This research project centres around the topics of participatory planning and community development. It specifically investigates and illustrates the contributions of youth through their participation in initiatives that contribute to the improvement of the communities in which they live. According to the United Nations Human Settlements and Cities statistics, the global population has quadrupled since 1950 and cities of the developing world account for over ninety percent of the worlds urban growth. The measures also highlight that the world is also more youthful. Even as decreasing birth rates and longer life spans are influencing an overall trend toward population ageing, in absolute numbers, there are more people under the age of 25 today than ever, nearly 3 billion or half of the total global population (UN-Habitat 2007). The purpose of this project is to address what planners can do in cities where youth, or those aged under 25, are the age majority of the urban population. The research: • investigates what issues are associated with such demographic trends • questions what facilitates successful youth participation • questions how local authorities can create opportunities given this situation • examines what role physical space can provide. A mixed methodology is used to examine and present one case study of a space called the One Stop Youth Information Research Centre (One Stop) which exists in Nairobi, Kenya. The One Stop is a hub for youth to engage in cultural and physical activities such as music, theatre and sports, allowing them to interact positively with their community and their peers. The research was conducted in 2006 and 2007 using interviews, site visits, observational analysis, an architectural study of space and supplementary data analysis. These were conducted as part of an internship project with UN-Habitat. The Once Stop case example is part of the UN-Habitat Global Partnership Initiative. At a local level, it has been used as a strategy to facilitate meaningful youth participation within local government and community. To introduce the case study, particular emphasis is given to existing studies that have investigated youth empowerment, engagement, participation, and support mechanisms. The case study demonstrates how young people have the ability to take the lead in determining what action is needed to address the concerns that they face, and are demonstrating this ability through meaningful initiatives. It also demonstrates the passion and energy of young people when they are engaged in a collaborative effort to bring about transformation in improving their world. Underpinning this research is the assertion that providing a formalised, physical space can be the fundamental catalyst for positive youth action and development. The examples, observations and recommendations from this project have been documented for UN-Habitat, and also the Nairobi City Council, who operationalised this initiative in Kenya. The findings and profile may also be of use to other local governments, policy makers, civil society and those who share a willingness to take action and generate an investment in youth, and an interest in reaping the associated rewards and dividends.

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