Silvia Velasco Arellano
What is behind prosperity and urban regeneration projects for young people? For Suraya, a young Camden resident, there is a sense of belonging and the need for community support. For Farzana, another young resident, a concern about safe and affordable housing in her neighbourhood; a fear to be priced out of the area where she grew up. For Joshua, there is an interest to better his community, to make it a better place to live.
Like Suraya, Farzana and Joshua, young people in the Borough of Camden, London, want to speak out their concerns and ideas to make positive contributions and impact their area. With this in mind, in the Summer of 2020, they formed a group of eleven young residents from Euston and a new citizen social science project called the Euston Young Voices (EYV).
The EYV is a research programme aimed to explore what matters to Euston neighbours to have a good, prosperous life, and what inclusive regeneration means for young people in Somers Town, Regent’s Park State and Clarkson Road. Especially, as these areas are experiencing a urban transformation process, which includes new offices, homes, shops, public and green community space and other facilities around High Speed 2 (HS2) and the Euston Station.
Throughout six weeks, eleven young residents were trained about research methods, to become young citizen social scientists, walking around their community and use photography and other artistic methods such as smell diagrams, as a tool to identify what hinders and enhances a good life for the neighbourhood, portraying its strength, their concerns and expectations.
“… The area, this area has the potential to be like that [a butterfly], better than it is. I’d say it’s in a chrysalis stage. It could be – that’s really why I took that photo to be honest because I thought it kind of represents the area because if, it’s not hard to fix, I don’t think – a lot of the problems here can be fixed with a lot more talking. A lot of people just talking to each other more so people could get their point across. That’s all it needs really to make the area flourish and prosper some might say.”
– A young citizen social scientist from the Euston Young Voices.
What started as a social-rooted, fun and different photography project became a safe space for the youth to reflect on their own stories, on their feelings linked to the idea of a good life, and the processes they experimented when evolving and overcoming difficulties or aspirations. A room for empowerment, where thoughts and ideas were encouraged, with a chance to grow and mature them through collaboration with decision-makers, community members and stakeholders. A place to echo the youth’ main barriers –poverty, crime, inequalities, top-down approaches – and facilitators –mentorship, education, community, freedom of expression – of prosperity when looking into the future. For Ryan, a young citizen social scientist, his focus groups were a process of showing “...that everyone is different, unique, but we are still connected in a way...” In essence, a space to connect through their experiences, concerns and needs and to propose ideas on what the youth aspire for their communities.
“I think a lot of people in gangs, some of them, to be fair it’s what Melissa said, they’re portraited in a different light. A lot of people with friends in a gang, they haven’t had that before. They might not have, this is kind of stereotypical, but they might not have, they might have had problems socialising in the past. […]
Some people find community in that, and there’s a lot of other stuff going on, but its ways people make friends, it shows different ways, I guess.”
– Jaques, a young citizen social scientist from the Euston Young Voices.
Over the half-term break, through innovative online workshops designed to cope with COVID, the young citizen social scientists will continue their analysis and reach for well-defined and truthful issues underpinning prosperity for the youth and the Euston neighbourhoods; to co-design and co-implement a more inclusive, effective decision-making and investment.
The Euston Young Voices represents an opportunity for the youth and the local communities to lead research, draw impactful policies and build growth and development. Moreover, to empower and build capacity in younger generations, promoting effective and inclusive participation and assuring communal growth and prosperity.
The EYV is only the beginning of a more significant blueprint called ‘Good Life Euston’. This 18-month collaborative research project will develop a set of indicators to measure wellbeing in Euston and across the whole of Camden, and identify opportunities for local people to prosper while regeneration is underway. It is also an essential first step in building a borough-wide index in Camden, complementing the IGP’ efforts in understanding diversity when measuring prosperity for London and promoting sustainable and inclusive policies and strategies for enhancing prosperity that resonates with local conditions and experience.
The EYV and the Good Life Euston is a shared commitment between Lendlease, Camden Council, Camden Giving and the Institute for Global Prosperity (IGP) at UCL, for a strong and inclusive borough where everyone can make their contribution and lead a healthy independent life. For more information about this project, news and ways to engage, please visit The Prosperity Co-Lab website.
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