“I live here too”

James Raynor CEO, Grosvenor Britain & Ireland introduces our latest research into why young people want a stake in the future of their neighbourhood.

“We design places that young people have to use but never ask them what they want or if they like what we are designing. That is the clear rebuke from the research we’ve published today entitled “I live here too” which  supports the launch of a new toolkit to increase and enhance youth participation in the way places are made and managed:   

That community participation should be meaningful is no longer part of the debate about how we make and manage places. The time of any credible developer - from the private or public sector - presenting their plans to the community without an open exchange of views on the designs, their trade-offs and benefits is long gone.

But in seeking to increase participation, we have often focused on the number of participants, not their diversity or how well they represent the whole community. 

Young people aged 13-24 make up 1 in 7 of our population, and one quarter of our society is under 19. They are the ultimate consumers of our work, inheriting both the benefits and consequences of the decisions we make today.

What you see in this research is a generation that’s highly engaged, shaped by different experiences, and motivated by different aspirations and social norms than their predecessors, the Boomers, Gen X and Millennials.

Yet our study of the experiences of 16-18 year olds – people old enough to drive and in many cases consume alcohol, vote and marry - shows that young adults are almost entirely excluded from conversations about the future of the place they live.

Without change we will continue to build to suit the lives of those most likely to participate and face losing perspectives and attitudes that will not, and could not, emerge from other groups.

When Grosvenor launched its community charter, Positive Space, earlier this year, we set out how we would broaden the conversation about planning and placemaking and involve people of all ages and backgrounds. We think that involving young adults should be a routine part of how places get built and managed. And though policy change might be coming, nobody needs to wait.

So from our perspective, the new national youth engagement toolkit, Voice.Opportunity.Power we created in partnership with Sport England, the TCPA and ZCD Architects could not be more timely. It provides a free off-the-shelf framework to help people meaningfully engage young adults in the future of the places where they live.

Already backed by nearly 30 developers, councils, designers and youth organisations, it gives me hope that in future we can focus on the quality of engagement – not whether it’s being done at all.”