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Placemaking with Young Adults | Youth, Democracy, and Sustainable Citizenship

Reimagining the City and Empowering Young People through Engagement with Policy-Makers

The objective of this research project is to establish collaborative ecosystems between design-researchers, young adults aged 18-30 in the Lancaster District, and policymakers from the Lancaster City Council and Lancashire County Council. The aim is to collectively explore innovative methods to inform placemaking and sustainable planning policies for the district, with a specific focus on future development in Lancaster District. Led by Professor James Sloam from Royal Holloway, University London, and funded by the British Academy and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, this research pilot project called Youth, Democracy and Sustainable Citizenship seeks to answer the question of what constitutes a good city. The project team includes Dr Carina O’Reilly from the University of Lincoln and Dr Mirian Calvo from Lancaster University.

The Placemaking with Young Adults phase, led by Dr Mirian Calvo in collaboration with a team of local authority officers from the Lancaster City Council, focuses on understanding the views and aspirations of young adults regarding sustainability, creating spaces for collaboration between policymakers and young adults, and collectively identifying and co-designing sustainable policy aspirations for Lancaster Local Plan and envisage a future vision. This phase consisted of three placemaking events involving young adults, policymakers, and academic partners from Lancaster University. These events employed a participatory research approach to bridge the gap between citizens and the public sector, ensuring that city spaces are collectively envisioned and designed to serve the needs of the people who inhabit them. The data collected from these events was analysed using an affinity diagramming-based method to extract key findings.

Young people’s lives have become increasingly risky. This is particularly the case for young people in urban environments, significantly prominent in megacities, who are often pushed to the margins by issues that affect their lives – such as rising house prices, low-paid, short term jobs, and the increasing cost of higher education. This situation was exacerbated by the pandemic through its disproportionate impact on those in crowded housing, and its effects on mental health and wellbeing. Younger generations must also face existential threats to the environment related to challenges of sustainability and survival, both locally and globally. In the last decade, governments in Europe (also the UK) have adopted austerity strategies and developed policies to ignite economies post-2008, which have disproportionally burdened urban settlements with severe public funding cuts. These policies, alongside the pandemic, have expanded inequalities amongst citizens, and left manty local public authorities in financial difficulties. Public policy has become reactive and more geared to older generations in the context of ageing populations, and the demands they place upon resources. However, by amplifying the voices of younger citizens, with their longer time-horizons, it may be possible to reduce inequalities and marginalization, and generate more strategic, long-term, public policy. Thinking of citizenship participation in terms of sustainability offers a pathway to good governance. In the face of these crises, the ‘good city’ needs to be reimagined as ‘sustainable citizenship’.

The overarching research question is as follows:
1. What are the main challenges young Londoners face, and what are their own long-term visions? How can this be mapped onto the concept of ‘sustainability’?

The project involves an interdisciplinary team of researchers – Professor James Sloam, Royal Holloway, University London; Dr Mirian Calvo, Lancaster University; and Dr Carina O’Reilly, Anglia Ruskin University.


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More info:
The British Academy