Children have excellent ideas — also when it comes to public participation and urban development! This is something we adults tend to forget sometimes.
But how could we encourage and increase possibilities of influencing city planning for kids and the youth?
Organizing planning workshops at schools with Public Participation tools had given fantastic results! Maptionnaire tells the story about how its community engagement tool has been used for increasing youth participation in urban development in Finland.
City Planning for Kids: Workshops at Finnish Schools
Maptionnaire has been a member of City Learning workshops at schools in Espoo, Kauniainen and Helsinki, Finland. In Helsinki, the workshop was organized as part of the Helsinki Education Week.
The goal of these workshops has been to bring city planning and public participation closer to children. It’s important not only for us adults making the decisions to understand that the younger generation has something to say, but more importantly for the children to understand the ways they could influence the development of their own neighborhood and the city they live in.
Children spend time in places adults don’t, they find different things important, unimportant, and even scary than we adults do. Additionally, they don’t drive. This already should be a signal that we shouldn’t be making decisions about their living environment without having heard what they have to say.
Paper Map vs. Online Questionnaire – Which Works Better with Kids
At the workshops, we used a paper map and an online Maptionnaire questionnaire to demonstrate their difference between digital and analog approaches. The children were asked to mark their favorite and least favorite spots of their neighborhood on a paper map and virtual map (in Maptionnaire). We also asked them what ideas they have for improving their living environment. It was fun to see how enthusiastic the children were in telling what they think.
We then discussed with them about how these two different participation methods, online and offline, differ from each other and what the pros and cons are. Kids agreed that answering the online survey was easier for them because you could do it anywhere, anytime. But on the other hand, they liked adding stickers on the paper map for their favorite and least favorite places because it was much more tangible.
As the case usually is with online surveys vs. face-to-face workshops, those who are shy and quiet don’t necessarily get to say what they think at a workshop discussion. The same goes for children. The quiet ones might find it easier to answer an online survey at their own pace.
City Planning for Kids in Stockholm and Lahti
These City Learning workshops were about educating school kids about the different possibilities of participation. There are real life examples of how cities have included children in their public participation processes.
- In Lahti, urban planners took the initiative of researching which urban green areas local kindergartens use.
- In Stockholm, Sweden it was especially challenging for the city to reach younger people since they don’t attend public meetings on weekdays. That’s why Stockholm wanted to find a digital tool for public participation.
So there are other ways than local youth councils for school kids to influence decision making when it comes to urban planning. You just need to get creative and decide if a face-to-face workshop or an online participation tool, or a combination of both, works better with kids.