A Teenager-Friendly Community
This project is part of my master's thesis in urban planning and design. In this project, I used stakeholder group meetings, designing surveys with Maptionnaire, and interviews to engage young people in the process of designing their built environment. In Iran, the involvement of youth in designing their communities is not very common. The main challenges I faced, in the top-down system of planning in Iran, were asking the schools' agreement to let students participate in the project, teaching young people about spatial studies, and making them believe that their voice matters. A short report of the project was featured on in Designing with Children website.
My Role: UX researcher and designer
Research Method: Stakeholder group meetings, workshops, survey
Research Type: Exploratory and evaluative research
A growing body of research highlights the role of urban spaces in the improvement of young people's well-being and the involvement of young people in designing their communities. However, young people have been frequently ignored in the process of making their communities because they are immature or have less knowledge and training them takes time and budget. The main question which this research aims to answer is:
How can we foster young people's participation in community planning in an unfavorable context?
quality of open spaces in Golha community
I got an approval from the ministry of education in the city and region. Then I went to 2 boys' schools and three girls' schools in the region 6. I talked to the principal about the project, some welcomed the idea, some did not. Espacialy girls' school principals told me that they do not want their students to go outside. I also created a flyer explaining my project and the Maptionnaire link to the survey. I put the flyer in other cultural and educational centers for young people.
I wrote about this experience in journal of Childhood Explorer . I also created a Facebook page for online discussions.
I held three workshops. At the beginning of each workshop, I explained some concepts and then engage participants in activities and discussion. for the first meeting, we discussed popular and unpopular places and route in the community by using place mapping method. I also used photo elicitation method and asked them to describe photos I gave them from public spaces in the community. In the second workshop, We defined the problems and worked on how to describe an urban problem. In the third workshop, they mostly proposed open and green spaces in which they could have their authority over it.
Home location (green), Favorite places(red) Least Favorite places(Purple, Least Favourite route (purple), Buffer zones 375m
We took a participatory approach to the design and found that schools and the municipality were reluctant to engage young people in designing their spaces. students told me: "We are happy that finally, someone counted us.", frequently. we mapped out all the design solutions that we came up with youths on the third workshop.
With this project, I learned that the role of context in involvement of young people in the process of making their communities is very important. For instance, in some countries with a strong background in planning, young people are more prepared to participate in the planning process, but others may not. I also found using different methods very helpful for youth engagement. Because some of the young people were not comfortable with cognitive mapping, and writing was easier for them or vice versa.