Crafting the future: involving young people in urban design

Article by Alastair Bailey: “About 60 per cent of urban populations will be under 18 years of age by 2030, according to UN Habitat, but attempts to involve young people in the design of their cities remain in their infancy. Efforts to enlist this generation have often floundered due to a range of problems — not least an unwillingness to listen to their needs.

“The actual involvement of young people in planning is negligible” says Simeon Shtebunaev, a Birmingham City University doctoral researcher in youth and town planning and researcher at urban social enterprise Social Life. However, new technologies offer a way forward. Digitisation has come to be seen as a “panacea to youth engagement” in many cities, notes Shtebunaev.

Hargeisa, the largest city of Somaliland in the Horn of Africa and home to 1.5mn people, has already been demonstrating what can be achieved by digitally engaging with young people — notably through the Minecraft video game. This enables users to design and build structures in a manner similar to expensive 3D modelling software.

Despite large-scale reconstruction, the city still bears the scars of the 1981-91 civil war, during which former Somalian dictator Said Barre sought to wipe out members of the city’s dominant Isaaq clan to enforce his own rule. Up to an estimated 200,000 Isaaq died.

In September 2019, though, “Urban Visioning Week” brought Hargeisa residents together over five days to discuss the city’s future as part of the UN’s Joint Programme on Local Governance. The aim was for residents to identify the city’s problems and what improvements they felt were needed…(More)”.