CASE STUDY: Youth engagement workshop to imagine the creative spaces of the future

Brixton is changing – several large developments are on the horizon that will have a significant impact on the community. 

Developers need to hear what places and spaces these creative young people want to support them, so they stay and continue to thrive here on our doorstep in the ‘gentrified’ community. 

Can we use this as an opportunity to inspire more creative young people from diverse backgrounds to take up careers in Architecture and design so that they can influence this change in the future?

For this workshop our aims were: 

  • To bring young people’s voices to the table – we asked them what they need rather than getting them to comment on what they are being given. How do we know what they really want if we don’t ask?
  • Give them creative design and Architecture career inspiration through enjoying meeting, networking, creating, team working and hearing from the professionals through a co-creating process.

What we did

We ran a 2 hour interactive workshop in Brixton after school for a group of local creative young people and several hand selected young Architects who want to amplify diverse voices.  

Together with their Architect the young attendees created their ‘Brixton My Creative Future’ visual manifesto by exploring what places, spaces, facilities and support they would need to stay and thrive in their community in their future working lives.

The workshop had 7 young attendees (aged 16-18) with 4 Architects from: Gibson Thornley, Denizen Works, Archio.

In their groups the young people found out what inspired the Architects and shared their own aspirations for their future, practising their networking and presenting skills as they fed back each other’s answers to the whole group.

Together they created their manifesto by sketching what their future perfect working environment in Brixton would include topic by topic:

  • Travel / transport
  • Workspace
  • Nourishment
  • Well being
  • R + R / Socialising
  • Support

The workshop was highly structured and intense and after each heading the YP presented their ideas back to the group before moving on to the next.  

We encouraged the young people to be as creative and inventive as possible and with the help of the Architects they really explored what it would mean to them to have their future creative career.  Having to create a shared drawing together meant they were able to quickly relax and interaction was maximised.

By regularly feeding back to the whole group we were able to steer the conversation to provide career insights from the professionals and focused ideas from the young participants.

Planning engagement is so often a tick box exercise or feels like a fait accompli but we want to make it easy for it to go way beyond so that the inevitable changes keep existing communities sustainable by meeting the future needs of those who are growing up in them, especially the racially and economically disadvantaged.

Benefits for professionals and organisations

We are embedded in our community and we really care about it and want to demonstrate to organisations who create and influence change that consultation can be so much more.

We also want to demonstrate that working with organisations that already have community connections is much more effective than parachuting in someone from outside. 

In return the outcome for our clients is that they are guaranteed engagement from diverse YP.  We have turned engagement on its head and created a win-win situation.

The impact for the young professionals taking part in the project was also incredibly positive and valuable for them.  We always leverage the professionals involved in our projects by asking them to share their journeys because there is never a perfect route into a job and career and it’s really important for the young people involved to hear that. By sharing their advice and experiences they tell us they are equally empowered in return.

Benefits for young people

We have an established measurement framework based on our theory of change to evidence the impact of our programmes. We have measured increases in: confidence, essential skills such as organisation, teamwork, project planning, leadership, problem solving. increased awareness, motivation, connections. We do this by collecting feedback from the participants at the end of the project through a self assessed feedback and evaluation form and also a review and personal development form that our coaches complete with the participants. 

In all areas the students reported a marked improvement after taking part in the project.

There are lots of things you can do in the creative industries.  Working with Architects made me open my mind a lot more and it has allowed me to have more of an idea about what I want to do in the future. I really enjoyed this workshop because talking to people from the same industry that I want to be in is very useful for me.’ Tyree, 18

This was one project that directly benefited 7 YP out of the 330 we have worked with on other similar projects.  As a result of this project we are in direct discussions with two large developers currently in the set up stages of projects in central Brixton about how to engage young people in their proposals from the outset.

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