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What is good youth engagement and why should we do it, asks Dinah Bornat
It’s the third of our five sessions and we’re standing in a courtyard in a contemporary residential development with a group of year nine pupils from Langdon Park school. Prior to this, we have prepared them by looking at their own neighbourhood, but for this session we have taken them to somewhere new. We want them to get an idea of what their neighbourhood could look like in the future, and to practise interrogating a space that is new to them. Apart from our group, there is no one around, but we’ve spotted the signs of life: toys, chairs and even a few clothes lines are placed around back doors. “This feels like a place where you would trust your neighbours,” one of the boys says. We agree that this is something to aim for on the project.
The design team is scattered among the group, holding conversations and listening to the young people compare this place to where they live now. At the last session they had heard about how difficult it is to get around their own area. One 14-year-old won’t go further than the small park in front of his house, and this is not uncommon. Everyone on the team is determined to change this. The developer who has kindly shown us around his scheme calls later to say how rewarding it was to take part and that he’d like to start using the toolkit in his own company.
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