The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have little.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
In this activity participants draw, contemplate and discuss their hopes and concerns for the future of their generation. Among the issues addressed are:
• Environmental issues affecting future generations
• How local development does or does not meet local people's needs
• The forces that drive development
- Related rights
• The right to an opinion and access to information
• The right to be heard on all matters concerning the best interests of the child
• The right to a decent standard of living
• To develop understanding of community life, rights and responsibilities
• To practise skills to discuss openly, work in a team and to have vision
• To promote curiosity and belief that the future is in the hands of every young person and that what they do matters.
• Paper for drafts
• Large sheets of paper for the final design
• Paints, brushes, pencils, pens and markers
• Materials for a collage, for example, coloured paper, magazines, twigs, rice, beans, dead leaves, shells, drinking straws
• Glue and tape
• Pictures or photographs of how the neighbourhood/town looked ten or twenty years ago. (Optional)
• Maps of where you live, both old and new maps (optional)
- 12 AugustInternational Youth Day
1. Introduce the concept of change over time. Ask participants to think back to when they were younger and what their homes and the local streets looked like, and how they have changed. Have any of the rooms in the school or centre where you meet been redecorated, or is there any new furniture? Are there any new buildings in the neighbourhood, for instance, shopping centres, housing estates, roads, play parks or cycle tracks?
2. Ask people why these things have changed and who made the decisions about what should be renewed and how it should be done. For example, did a particular housing scheme provide much-needed, low-cost housing for local people or was it luxury apartments or holiday homes built as an investment by a finance company?
3. Briefly discuss one or two examples: who has benefited from the developments and how? What would they have done if they had been in control?
4. Now make the links with making decisions that affect other people and human rights. Do people think that human rights make a useful framework for decision making? Will human rights be more or less important for decision-makers in the future? Why?
5. Tell the group that the opportunity is now! This is the moment for them to take the chance to start thinking about - and influencing - the futures they may inhabit.
6. Ask people to get into groups of three to four.
7. Hand out the paper and pens and ask them to draft or sketch ideas for their ideal neighbourhood/town of the future. They have a free hand. The limits are their own imaginations.
8. When each group has agreed a draft plan, they should transfer it onto a large sheet of paper and complete it with paint and collage materials.
9. When the work is done, ask each group in turn to present their plan and to say where they got their ideas from and how they developed them. Allow time for short questions and answers after each presentation, but leave general discussion for the debriefing.
Start with a review of how people worked together in their groups. Then go on to talk about how the plans did or did not meet people's needs for a healthy living environment.
• Did everyone feel able to participate and to contribute to the work? How did the different small groups make the best use of the individual talents of their members?
• How did it feel to receive feedback about their plans?
• How did it feel to give feedback about their plans?
• Would they be prepared to compromise some of their ideals if they now had to design a single class or group plan that met the needs and aspirations of everyone in the class or group?
• Did the plans take environmental protection into account, for example the need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, to use renewable and sustainable resources and to recycle?
• Did people enjoy the feeling of being "architects of their futures"? Do they believe these ideals could ever come true? Why? Why not?
• Do they believe adults would be ready to discuss their plans? Why? Why not?
• What was the biggest surprise in any of the plans?
• What will be their rights as citizens in the future?
• What will be their duties as citizens in the future?
• Do young people in your school (club or community) have a say either in developments that affect them directly or in developments in general? Which rights could they claim to give them the right to participate in decision-making processes?
• What opportunities do young people in general have to influence the democratic processes which shape their lives and their futures?
• What sorts of local amenities are needed to ensure everyone's rights to health, rest and leisure and cultural life?
The title of this activity is "Our futures". The intention of using the plural is to emphasise that the future is not pre-determined, but rather that it is what we make it. Therefore, there are many possible futures and the challenge for young people is to build a future which reflects their ideals and aspirations.
To reinforce the concept of change, you may like to show old pictures of how the local area looked ten or twenty years ago. You can also ask them to think of global changes. For instance, they should think about the fact that thirty years ago the Internet was the stuff of science fiction, but that in a few years time there will be connections to the web in every school and library in the world.
If the participants are not sure about what the future town may be like you could prompt them by asking:
• Who will live here? People born here, or newcomers? What ages will they be? Will they live in families?
• What will their daily lives be like? Where will they shop for food? How will they travel around?
• What sort of welfare services, such as hospitals, dentists, etc. will they need?
• What will their schools be like?
• How will they travel?
• What will the houses be like?
• What will their social lives be like? What will they do in their leisure time?
• Will they have pets?
• What work will people do?
• What new technological developments might there be?
• What about the environment? The natural surroundings?
Instead of a collage you could make models using scrap materials, for instance cardboard boxes / packaging, toilet roll tubes, or folded card, or you could use building bricks, for instance, Lego blocks.
Instead of making general plans for what they would like their locality to look like, participants could choose a site locally that is currently disused and which could be developed. Let the group research into the needs of different sections of the community and come up with a proposal that they can put to the local council. Options for what to put on the site may include a shopping centre, a leisure centre, a school, housing, a car park, an open green space, a playground, a sports field, a quiet rose garden with seating for elderly people, a city farm, a wildlife sanctuary, an amusement park, a site for travellers or a bowling green. If you want to do this as an action project, you will find information about planning and implementing action projects in Chapter 3.
You may like to explore how your locality could adapt itself to the future challenges of peak oil and climate change. The Transition Town initiative involves local people looking at all aspects of their community (food, energy, transport, health, heart and soul, economics and livelihoods, etc.) and finding creative ways to eventually launch a community-defined, community-implemented "Energy Descent Action Plan" over a 15- to 20-year timescale. Initiatives so far have included the following: creating community gardens to grow food; a business waste exchange, which seeks to match the waste of one industry with another industry that uses this waste; repairing old items rather than throwing them away, and developing local exchange trading systems (LETS). For more information and examples of what how people are developing this concept all over the world, see www.transitiontowns.org or put "Transition Towns" into your search engine.
Another follow-up idea is to ask participants to draw up a personalised, idiosyncratic, illustrated, and annotated large-scale map of where they live to show the features that are important to them. For instance, graffiti on a wall, a particular tree along a road, or an unofficial track that they use as a short-cut across town. Recording something's existence is the first step to showing that it is valued; it is a way to protect it from being demolished in some future "development". See www.commonground.org.uk and their Parish Maps project.
Another way of looking at and recording the location and distribution of resources, features, the landscape and main land uses in an area is the tool known as a "transect walk" which is used in the World Bank's poverty and social impact analysis. Try it one afternoon if you want to get out into the countryside! Search for "transect walk" at http://web.worldbank.org
Find out more about the planning processes for local development and how to influence them. Get involved with decision-making in the school, club or association by attending council meetings, or even standing for election. There are other activities that can be useful to explore futures options. For instance, "The path to Equality-Land" looks at how to achieve gender equality.
If you want another activity that involves young people in democratic decision making – this time about what sort of education they want through participation in school councils - look at "Let every voice be heard".
While we dream about our futures, we can make a start at building a more just society. If the group would like to look at the issue of bullying and explore ways to develop empathy and respect for everyone, then they could do the activity "Do we have alternatives?".
Make an exhibition of the collages and invite local councillors to come and hear your views.
Get a copy of the strategy plans (annual and long-term ones) for your community. Analyse them within the group and then consult with friends and family. Give your feedback by creating a blog, writing to a local newspaper, organising a public meeting on this issue or participating in a public assembly organised by the authorities.
Contact the local Agenda 21 or another environmental group and get involved with working for a sustainable future.