by Mateja Mihinjac
On this blog, we’ve written about the importance of giving youth a voice and engaging them in public life. When they can participate, or even drive, the development of services for their use, they feel especially empowered.
EXPLORING LOCAL POTENTIALS
I like to explore hidden potentials in cities and one recent discovery in my hometown emerged as I enjoyed an autumn walk. It was a "Pumptrack", a continuous loop track intended for cyclists and skateboarders. Even more exciting for me was recognizing that track was situated adjacent to public housing thus providing youth with opportunities for prosocial activities, in this case, a recreational service.
The American National Recreation and Park Association stress that parks and recreation represent essential public services.
Apart from economic value, health and environmental benefits, the Association recognized that access to such infrastructure reduces crime and juvenile delinquency. From criminology, we also know that providing recreational and healthy activities for youth builds resilience and provides a protective factor against delinquency.
POSITIVE YOUTH DEVELOPMENT
When communities invest in their assets to assist with the development of youth and their potential, they communicate to young people that they care for them. Reciprocally, the youth develop an attachment to the community and contribute to its wellbeing. Thus, according to one report, “youth are valuable resources to invest in and not problems to be solved”.
Recreational infrastructures in cities are not extras! They offer an ideal platform for engaging and developing youth. Any future vision of the city must include them.