What are the enablers of meaningful youth engagement in urban planning processes in Christchurch?
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
An issue facing city builders that is no longer conceptual, but rather, procedural is how to engage youth meaningfully in urban planning processes. This has been expressed anecdotally by youth who participate in civic engagement events targeted at them, but feel as if their views haven’t been genuinely taken into account. To truly improve the outcomes that occur as a result of youth engagement initiatives there is a need for more empirical research in the youth engagement literature regarding the circumstances that enable and disable meaningful youth engagement. Thus, the purpose of this research was to move beyond anecdotal evidence towards a more genuine analysis of youth’s experiences in a youth engagement initiative in Christchurch. This initiative saw young people directly participate in, and make decisions regarding the fit-out of youth space in Christchurch’s city centre, a co-creation approach to stakeholder engagement thought to bring about more meaningful outcomes than that of traditional consultation methods. To achieve the research aim, which was to uncover the enablers of meaningful youth engagement in urban planning processes in Christchurch, this research comprised semi-structured interviews with the project stakeholders, a focus group with the working group youth, plus two other focus groups with disengaged youth. Together, with a literature review on the enablers of meaningful youth engagement, these findings were synthesized into a set of recommendations for meaningful youth engagement. The resulting set of recommendations were consistent with the literature and reaffirmed the requirement of shared-decision making with adults as a foundation for meaningful youth engagement. In practice, these set of recommendations provide a tried and true framework for meaningful youth engagement in urban planning processes in Christchurch and will be useful for the second phase of the youth space project that was studied. In general, more needs to be done to convince youth that their voices are important, and to create opportunities for a wider range of youth to participate. Moreover, given that youth engagement initiatives vary greatly in their size and nature, there is a need for more formal evaluation mechanisms in the field of youth engagement to increase the legitimacy of these recommendations. Formative evaluations will also be more useful in optimizing youth’s participation in youth engagement initiatives, as monitoring youth’s experiences throughout the project would ensure the process remained on track with its overarching purpose, and youth were found to be more likely to provide feedback during, rather than following the conclusion of an initiative.