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Creating Better Cities with Children and Youth is a practical manual on how to conceptualize, structure and facilitate the participation of young people in the community development process. It is an important tool for urban planners, municipal officials, community development staff, non-governmental organizations, educators, youth-serving agencies, youth advocates, and others who are involved in the community development process. It offers inspiration to all who believe in the value of community education and empowerment as a fundamental building block of a vibrant and resilient civil society.
The manual's core ideas and methods have been field-tested in a wide range of urban settings in both developing and industrialized cities through the work of the UNESCO Growing Up in Cities project. Case studies from project sites help to demonstrate the methods in action and show how they can be customized to meet local needs. They provide lessons and insights to help ensure a successful project, and highlight the universal applicability and value of young people's participation.
The ideas and results from the country studies of the Growing Up in Cities project are presented in the companion volume Growing Up in an Urbanising World.
Children and youth are seldom involved in the construction of their environment. They are considered too inexperienced, too unrealistic, too unqualified. Yet their fresh perspectives may be exactly what is needed to see clearly into the realm of new possibilities. It is my strong conviction that tapping into young people’s ideas and reflections is essential to improving our cities. Creating Better Cities with Children and Youth can help us move in that direction.
This manual is the culmination of a remarkable international project that began twenty-six years ago under UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme, and then re-emerged six years ago under the auspices of UNESCO’s Social and Human Sciences Sector. It suggests how to create an atmosphere of trust between youth and adults in order for real communication to take place. It shows ways of assisting young people to be heard by those who are in positions to make official policy decisions that affect the quality of their lives. It is a guide on how to access children’s knowledge – both intuitive and based on experience – that is so often repressed or lost, yet that can be a precious insight into their daily realities and a powerful lever for improvement of urban life.
In taking the time to explore and apply the methods that have been developed in this research project, you will be sensitized to new ways of approaching poverty reduction and environmental design projects. You will also discover methods for involving local officials in such a way that they will remember to listen to all sub-groups in their population, particularly children and youth, and to include them in developing policies.
As a person continuously devoted to the compliance and enforcement of all human rights – civil, cultural, economic, political and social – I feel particularly committed to the guidance contained in this volume – guidance that encourages patience, perseverance and hope.
Putting into practice the methods described in Creating Better Cities for Children and Youth can help ensure that children’s rights are respected. I am therefore proud to offer it to the international community, with the firm belief that it can contribute to making this world a better place for current and future generations of children and youth.
About this Manual
As support for young people's participation in community development grows - and it has significantly in recent years - questions like "Is young people's participation really worthwhile?" are heard less and less, and questions like "What methods are proven to be effective?" are heard more and more.
Creating Better Cities with Children and Youth is a direct and detailed response to the latter type of question. It devotes some space to the principles and concepts of young people's participation, but focuses on field-tested approaches and methods for actually making it happen.
Apart from involving young people in making improvements to the places where they live, one of the most effective strategies for creating better cities is through the actual process of participation: helping young people to listen to one another, to respect differences of opinion, and to find common ground; developing their capacities for critical thinking, evaluation and reflection; supporting their processes of discovery, awareness building, and collective problem-solving; and helping them develop the knowledge and skills for making a difference in their world.
hope this manual will be a useful tool for those of you who share these
beliefs, and that it will help you to realize the potential that exists
in the simple yet powerful act of listening to young people's voices and
engaging them in processes of constructive community change.
Creating Better Cities with Children and Youth is a practical manual on how to conceptualize, structure and facilitate the participation of young people in community development. It is intended for use by urban planners, municipal officials, community development staff, non-governmental organizations, educators, youth-serving agencies, youth advocates, and others who are involved in community development: for everyone who feels concern for young people and the quality of their lives, and who believes in the value of community education and empowerment as the foundation of a vibrant and resilient civil society.
This manual provides a framework for planning participatory projects and building institutional and political support for implementation. It outlines the necessary steps for organizing a participatory project, and shows how young people can be engaged in analysing and prioritizing their needs and implementing appropriate responses.
The manual's core ideas and methods have been field-tested in a wide range of urban settings in both developing and industrialized cities through the work of the Growing Up in Cities project. Examples from project sites help to illustrate the methods and demonstrate how they can be customized to local needs. They also highlight the universal applicability and value of young people's participation and provide lessons and insights to help ensure a successful project.
HOW TO USE THE MANUAL
Here are tips for how to get the most out of this manual:
Familiarize yourself with the basic concepts. Chapters 1 and 2 present basic concepts about youth participation in community development - why it is important, what benefits it has, and what factors should be considered when trying to develop a youth participation programme. If this is a new area of interest for you, spend time reviewing the information in these chapters, and review the list of books, documents, videos and online resources in Appendix B.
Determine how much work is needed to 'get started.' Chapter 3 discusses the logistical issues in putting together a participatory project. If you already have a project or programme in place, you may not need to spend much time on this chapter. But if you are starting from scratch, this chapter should be studied carefully. A quick review of the checklist at the beginning of the chapter should help determine how much of this chapter is relevant to you.
Develop a logical sequence of methods. A successful participation programme leads participants together through a sequence of activities and events that allows them to explore issues, develop and evaluate alternatives, and take action. Chapter 4 provides an approach for thinking about the overall process design to ensure an effective programme.
Do what it takes to ensure success. Making participation `work' requires more than simply going out in the field and talking with young people. You need to make sure that all project staff are appropriately trained, that there is a high level of comfort and trust between participants and staff, that ethical issues are understood and respected, and that the basics of daily project management are taken care of (i.e. there is good communication between team members, consent forms are filled out, field notes and materials are properly filed, etc.). Chapter 5 covers these issues.
Choose and customize methods according to your needs. The ‘Participation Toolkit' in Chapter 6 provides an overview of basic methods that can be used to facilitate young people's participation. But it is not a cookbook! There are no magic recipes for meaningful participation. You need to select the methods that are appropriate for your needs, and customize them accordingly. Use the information as a starting point, and then create your own method variations and ideas.
Always maximize participation. Throughout the process, tap into the resources and knowledge of your local community - especially children and youth. Share the manual and its ideas with them, and facilitate a group process of creative innovation.
Use the manual as a training tool. This manual was developed as a training resource as well as a field guide. Use it to train your staff, young people, and community residents about what participation is, why it is important, and how young people can become effective participants in community development. The methods in Chapter 6 have been written and designed so that they can be used for field training and group discussions.
Focus on action. Ensure that every participation programme leads to some form of action in response to the input and ideas of the participants - with the participants involved in deciding upon and implementing the action. An ‘action' does not have to be grand in scale to be meaningful. Chapter 7 provides examples of how evaluation results can be translated into action programmes.
Build networks of support and share your ideas. Join with others who are interested in or involved in projects that promote young people's participation. Work together to support each other's efforts, share ideas, and develop local resources. The Growing Up in Cities project has a network of groups and individuals working to promote young people's participation. For information regarding members in your area and current network activities, contact Growing Up in Cities (www.unesco.org/most/growing.htm).
1. First Steps
2. Young People's Participation
3. Organizing a Project
4. Designing the Process
5. Getting Under Way
6. Participation Toolkit
7. Making Change Happen
You may order "Creating Better Cities with Children and Youth" at:
Thank you for your interest!
Award: GUIC has won the 2002 EDRA/Places Research Award - out of 115 candidates. EDRA is the Environmental Design Research Association and Places is an international environmental design journal, both based in the USA. The awards were presented at EDRA's annual meeting in Philadelphia, in May, and the winners'projects were published in Places.
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