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What is Young Placechangers?

Logo: greenspace scotland

By Ea O’Neill, greenspace scotland Programme Manager

Young people are almost invisible in the Public Realm and are a missing voice in local place consultations. They are frequently described as a 'problem' by the wider community and the answer to the perceived threat of young people 'hanging around' is too often to restrict their access.

Young Placechangers at Glasgow University (GUEST)  (greenspace scotland)
Young Placechangers at Glasgow University (GUEST) (greenspace scotland)

The programme empowers young people to take the lead in changing places where they live. The residential training weekends, bespoke training sessions and support from the Young Placechangers team are designed to give the young people and the adults that support them the skills and confidence to change the places where they live for the better.

We are working with youth groups, scouts, a creative media charity, a school and wider community groups. Some of the groups have focused on the outdoor space near their meeting place, others have arranged events in local greenspaces and parks talking to people about which improvements they’d like to see happen.

The Young Placechangers programme combines greenspace scotland’s experience of working with community groups on placemaking with Youth Scotland’s experience of youth work and supporting young people to take the lead. We have funding from Scottish Government, the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the Gannochy Trust to support the programme until June 2020.

YPC training: place evaluation (greenspace scotland)
YPC training: place evaluation (greenspace scotland)

Why Young Placechangers?

It puts young people in the lead role – bringing together the wider community to look at local spaces and to plan improvements.

The Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 and new Planning (Scotland) Act 2019 bring a strong focus on Local Place Plans and on communities taking the lead on delivery of services and ownership of assets. The Scottish Government and CoSLA (The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities) have also recently agreed to adopt the Place Principle to encourage better collaboration and community involvement. This makes it more important than ever that young people feel they can play an equal part in these collaborations and discussions.

How does it work?

The Young Placechangers programme has three core elements:

1. Young people and youth workers are given training in both residential settings and in local clusters. They are introduced to tools/approaches such as the Place Standard, Community Placemaking and creative consultation techniques.

2. The Ideas Fund supports activity and delivers quick-win projects. Following on from training sessions the groups can apply grants to take forward a place changing project.

3. Peers and ‘place professionals’ inspire and support along the placemaking journey.

YPC training: community mapping (greenspace scotland)
YPC training: community mapping (greenspace scotland)

What do young people get out of it?

“As soon as I got back from the residential, I started working on the plans we had made. The residential gave me the motivation to get it done—we put a budget together and we got in contact with people that could help us change our space. This made me feel more involved and more included in the process of changing the area and it’s nice to know that I have helped to make the change”.

Through the quick-win projects the young people find out that they can have an impact on their local area, it makes them feel proud and they want to do more.

We also ensure that every young person who takes part in the programme can complete a Dynamic Youth Award or a Youth Achievement Award at the appropriate level. Both awards are quality assured by Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) and credit rated on the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF).

YPC Heart & Sound, Dunfermline – celebrating achievement  (greenspace scotland)
YPC Heart & Sound, Dunfermline – celebrating achievement (greenspace scotland)

How does the wider community benefit?

Attitudes to young people in their local communities improve and older people see for themselves that young people have a lot to offer. This change of mindset means that communities will be stronger and better connected. It also helps to develop a shared understanding and appreciation of the heritage of a place and this informs and enhances plans for the future.

“Members of the public walked past and gave us so many compliments and told us how much of a good job we were doing. We also had a few people stop that had tried to do our project in the past but were not successful, so they were very pleased to see that we were successful”.

What have we learned from the project so far?

  • Young people are not the “citizens of the future”, they are citizens here and now and have a lot to offer when it comes to developing our local places.
  • Young people use parks, public spaces and transport more than adults and are very aware of the needs of others and barriers faced, by for example disabled friends.
  • Small-scale quick-win projects are important to garner interest and build confidence. The Community Placemaking approach has as one of its principles to “start with petunias” and this is even more important for young people.
  • Meet young people where they are – in youth clubs, community centres and schools; they must choose to want to work on a place project
  • You must catch their interest and make it important enough for them to get involved. There’s a lot of competition for young people’s time these days.
    Logo: Heritage Fund
    Logo: Scottish Government

    It’s not just about “young people projects”. Our Young Placechangers have an idea of what they would like to do in their place, and through the programme we help them engage with the wider neighbourhood to share and shape their ideas. They end up leading on a community project bringing other local people, of all ages, with them.

    Find out more: Young Placechangers website: https://www.greenspacescotland.org.uk/Pages/Category/young-people or email info@greenspacescotland.org.uk

    First published in CJS Focus on the Next Generation in association with Action for Conservation on 2 December 2019. Read the full issue here