“My Place is so diverse and I feel a very accurate representation of what Finsbury Park is. To be included in spaces where we can talk about the changes we all want to see in our community is amazing.”
Shukri, 16 years old, My Place Pioneer
My Place is an innovative programme which empowers young people to act as advocates for their communities, enabling local people to play a proper role in how their neighbourhoods change and develop.
“They should have taken into consideration the people that already lived here because they built this community. They knocked it down and there’s no community now.”
It was the heartfelt accounts of young people like Rico, born and brought-up on London’s housing estates, that sparked the idea for My Place. He was one of several whose experiences of regeneration were powerfully communicated in a series of films Footwork made for the London Festival of Architecture. Besides the impact of redevelopment, they expressed frustration at the lack of say their communities had in the dramatic changes taking place.
My Place proposes a new model of local involvement in place-making with the aim of creating resilient communities: in which people have an active role in developing their area; by empowering young people to be researchers, advocates and leaders for the diverse communities they represent; and supporting them to build a positive future for their ‘place’, as its guardians.
My Place Finsbury Park Pilot
Since June a pilot has been operating out of a community space in Seven Sisters Road in Finsbury Park. Led by a cohort of local 13-18-year-olds - the My Place Pioneers - it is being delivered in partnership with community development specialists London Development Trust.
The central ethos of My Place is that young people take a co-leadership role throughout its design and delivery. Programme research for the pilot included community workshops and stakeholder mapping, with 50/50 attendance between local young people and decision makers. Half the advisory board are young people, including a co-chair and youth advisors have been involved in designing our programme of activities.
Together we have developed an innovative method of inclusive co-creation, summarised by The Three C's:
Commission We commission and train local young people, aged 13-18, to find out what their community loves about their area, and how they want it changed
Connect We connect our young, empowered leaders with local decision-makers and help them build active, ongoing relationships
Co-create We support these new partnerships between young community representatives and those in power to co-create the future of their areas together
The young Pioneers are being paid in this role - for most of them their first job - and for which they have been trained as ‘citizen scientists’. Built environment professionals, researchers and community leaders, have equipped them with the tools to reach out to their communities and conduct research into what people need and want from their neighbourhood and local decision-makers.
Their investigations reveal key themes, such as a demand for development that retains and enhances the existing sense of community; the need for ways to involve local people in decisions about regeneration; investment in measures to improve community safety; and ensuring young people have access to safe spaces, activities and training opportunities. In this way My Place has reached many hundreds of people in Finsbury Park, through online surveys and long-form interviews conducted with individuals of all ages across this highly diverse area.
Members of the Finsbury Park and Stroud Green Neighbourhood Forum, Councillors from Hackney and Haringey, researchers from The University of Westminster and King’s College London and local architects Levitt Bernstein have been working together with the Pioneers to generate potential solutions.
In workshops devised and led by the Pioneers, decision-makers have been invited to commit to working together, now and in the future. This innovative partnership model - between young community representatives and those in positions of power - has the potential not just to co-create the future of their areas but to build relationships of trust between local communities and those driving change.
We are learning through this process the true power young people hold to identify, access and harness the knowledge and opinions of their neighbourhood – therefore not only as a youth voice, but as advocates for others. In the case of Finsbury Park, this has been made possible by their own diverse affiliations within multiple community groups.
My Place is an essential tool in ensuring local people, who have a wealth of knowledge and experience, have a proper say in decision-making. It gives young people a platform to work alongside Neighbourhood Forums and local decision-makers to co-design solutions to community issues and influence local development plans. We are heartened to see the way My Place builds bridges and can embed a culture of mutual respect in this and any other community.
This work would not be possible without our terrific collaborators: The My Place Advisory Board, London Development Trust, Finsbury Park Trust, Finsbury Park + Stroud Green Neighborhood Forum, Quality of Life Foundation, Commonplace, University of Westminster, King’s College London, Haringey Council, Hackney Council and Levitt Bernstein.