To the Leaders of Tomorrow: “Build your own Adventure Playgrounds!”

by Cassidy McDonnell and Simran Parwani

After hearing all the discussions at the Remaking Cities Congress 2013, we were curious to see if there were any plans to incorporate youth in urban planning.  To see how the experienced delegates plan to pass the torch of municipal management to the next generation, we interviewed the Mayor of Bristol, England, George Ferguson.

As Mayor of Bristol, how have you invested in youth and how do you plan to continue to do so?

“In Bristol, we have two youth mayors and an elected youth committee comprising of 20 representatives.  Because of austerity measures, money from the central government has been diminished, so what I am saying to youth is to “run your own adventure playgrounds” and “run your own facilities”, and I will get the local companies to mentor you and provide the resources you need to do that.  We have moved from publicly-funded youth clubs to something that is much more self-help.  That is probably good for the young people.”

It is evident that youth-led initiative has been successful in Bristol.  From Mayor Ferguson’s example, it is indubitable that youth need to be exposed to mentoring and decision-making, so that they can take the reins  at a later point in their life to be involved in urban planning.  If it is the youth that are going to be living in these cities in the future, they should be actively involved in planning for that future.

How do you retain youth?

“Well young people tend to stay in Bristol.  I arrived in Bristol when I went to school at the University and there is a very high retention factor because it is a good city to live in.”


Bristol involves their youth through its youth mayors and youth committee, revealing that it is a city concerned with involving the younger generation in important decisions and training these up-and-comers to be the next leaders in their city.  Cities all over world can learn from Bristol’s incorporation of youth in order to ensure the continuation of city building, urbanization, and productive leadership.

To get a totally different perspective on the importance of youth in urban planning, we talked to Grant Erwin, the Regional Director of 10,000 Friends, which focuses on policy-making for land use and infrastructure to strengthen and diversify Pennsylvania.  According to Erwin, youth need to educate themselves about the issues that concern them, so that they can make better decisions about what careers to select and where to live.  What we can take from this is that providing youth with the opportunities to learn more about the issues they care about will promote civic engagement and taking actions on these issues.

Emeritus professor at Carnegie Mellon University, David Lewis, overall believes that it is up to the youth to create their own dreams and work hard to achieve the changes they want to see.  He argues that no matter what one’s goals are, if they are important to that person, it is worth all the hard work to get there.  He to “Set your own goals; don’t let other people set your goals. Look inside yourself to be what you want to be and then look for the courses in order to achieve your own personal goals; it doesn’t matter what they are!  Find out [what is] inside yourself [and] what you want to do, and be very comfortable.  You’ll live your whole life with yourself; that’s the one person you live with all your life, yourself.  So make up your own mind!”

Leave a Comment

Posting your comment...

Subscribe to these comments via email