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Youth as citizens, youth as workers : an action research approach to community mapping Amsden, Jacqueline Cynthia


Since its relatively recent inception with the rise of industrialism, youth has been situated as a process of transitioning to labour market participation. Those that fail to secure their roles as consumers/producers, and thus adulthood, are generally framed as deviant, inadequate. The situation for youth is becoming increasingly 'risky' in the current economic and social restructuring occurring under the name of globalization, in which access to stable and adequate employment is now even more deeply stratified according to social, economic, racial, and gendered memberships. One area in which the 'youth' deficit frame plays out is in the federal government's labour market training programs for youth, such as Skills Link, an occupational and employment training program funded by the Government of Canada to help youth with 'barriers' to employment transition to stable and adequate employment. The Environmental Youth Alliance (EYA), a Vancouver-based non-governmental organization, offers a Skills Link program titled the Youth Community Asset Mapping Initiative. In this program, youth learn about themselves and their local environment by creating community maps of Vancouver. In this study, I examine the experience of three youth as they map Vancouver through an action research framework, ultimately asking 'What is the place of youth in downtown Vancouver?' The question that I pose as I explore their project is 'How does community mapping contribute to the development of youth citizenship?' In my analysis, I draw from photos, maps, interviews, and focus group discussions to illustrate the relational, representational, and reflective knowing they engaged in, as well as the job-related skills they developed during the process of mapmaking, such as project management, communication, and teamwork. In doing so, I reveal the potential of mapmaking to foster youth engagement in social, civil and political rights and responsibilities which underpin modern notions of youth citizenship. However, this analysis also reveals a tenuous, inconsistent sense of community and ability to access resources (through gainful employment) that speak to economic pressures of globalization mentioned earlier. Thus, ultimately demonstrating that whilst community mapping holds the potential to engage 'marginalized' youth in citizenship roles, broader priority shifts in governance—which place humanistic goals before economic ones—are needed if we as a society are dedicated to the inclusion of all our young people.

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