The Young Researchers-in-Residence (YRIR) is a multi-series peer-research project run by LSE Cities in collaboration with advocacy group Make Space for Girls and Countryside. It aims to further develop an inclusive peer-research methodology for young people across higher education and the built environment; to foster and teach skills in the social sciences (eg. ethnography) and architectural fields (eg. mapping) to youths; and to collaboratively compile an evidence base on young people and young women’s experiences of and desires for the public realm.
It is structured as a series of five short-term paid learning and working experiences which engage local young people aged 16-25 – and notably young women – in public space research, planning and design processes in locations in and around London (Ashmere, Barking and Dagenham, Clapham, Brent, and Hemel Hempstead) where significant urban changes are ongoing. Six YRIR per site will follow a bespoke and site-specific curriculum composed of readings, lectures, activities, and site and mapping visits to apply a critical lens to investigating public space and to imagine new ways of designing public spaces in their localities.
This project stems from contexts in which young people, especially young women, are excluded from public realm planning and design processes and provisioning. Existing research by Grosvenor shows that 89% of young adults aged 16-18 in the UK have never been asked about their neighbourhood by those capable of effecting change. In research, there is little focus on young peoples’ experiences of the public realm and less still on young women’s. And in terms of provisioning youth expenditures have declined by 69% on average since 2010, which has been particularly nefarious to young women seeing as when youth allocation is dispensed it is almost entirely invested in football pitches, basketball courts, skateparks and BMX tracks which are overwhelmingly used by men and boys.
Our researcher-in-residence project seeks to directly challenge this reality by offering arguments for and methodologies to include youths in city-making; by providing an evidence base on public space experiences for young people(notably, young women); and through encouraging the YRIR to consider what provisioning should and could be like for them with the aim of inspiring future design possibilities and a novel public realm.
The YRIR Beam Park project, in Barking and Dagenham, will see six 16-21 year old young people being hired from the local area. They will research their local experiences of public space and explore and suggest design innovations by thinking through the Beam Park development site – the old Ford factory brownfield. The project will therefore offer reflections on creating sustainable development for young persons in areas of high growth and in London’s ‘priority areas’. This project will focus on site specific innovations and research and make a case for the inclusion of young people in such large-scale brownfield developments. This project has additional funding from L&Q. Beam Park is a project being delivered by Countryside Partnerships in collaboration with L&Q and the Greater London Authority.
The YRIR project in Brent, north-west London, hired four, 16-25 year old young women from across the borough. This project focused on gathering evidence of the experiences of young women in their local areas, in order to understand more about what they use, value, avoid, dislike, want and need in their local public realm. The final stage of the project consisted of opening up such conversations to the wider community by hosting a mapping workshop for young women residents of Brent, run by the RIR. Northwest Quarter is a project being delivered by Countryside Partnerships in collaboration with LB Brent Council at the South Kilburn Estate.
Young Researchers in Residence
In Clapham, the YRIR, will comprise of six 16-21 year old young women, who will investigate themes of gender and safety and who will focus on the Clapham Park development. This project responds to a current focus within Lambeth council on tackling women’s street harassment and youth violence. Evidence gathered will describe how design – such as poor lighting– and urban change – such as gentrification processes – impact young women’s experiences of safety and unsafety and how planning and design may and could be used as critical tools to address un/safety. This project has additional funding from Metropolitan Thames Valley Housing Trust.
The YRIR project in Ashmere, Kent, will consist of working with 6 young people aged 16-21 with a focus on large scale developments. Through peer research, the project will investigate how young people move in and access public spaces, how this relates to housing needs, and how young people can inform new ideas to shape new cities. The YRIR will focus on Ashmere and the Ebbsfleet development. This project has additional funding from Clarion Housing Association, who are partners of Countryside Partnerships in collaboration with Ebbsfleet Development Corporation.
In Hemel Hempstead, the YRIR will comprise of six year-12 young women from the Astley Cooper School, building on a series of workshops undertaken in August 2022. The YRIR will investigate their experiences of public space in Hemel, focusing on youth provisioning and facilities in the local area. They will then contextualise their experiences of youth provisioning to inform the youth strategy for Spencer’s Park, a new housing development on public sector land owned by Homes England in the northern part of Hemel. They will come up with suggestions on how residential planning can better include girls and young women in their approaches. Findings gathered will serve as an evidence base for the private and public sector on creating gender inclusive public spaces for youths in residential developments. This project has additional funding from Sigma Capital who have purchased a number of homes for private rental accommodation for local people and will be a long term partner.
Findings across the sites will be compiled into one central report. This project builds on work in Spencers Park conducted in the summer of 2022. Work began on the first site, Brent, in October 2022 and is currently being rolled out to the other sites and is due to complete by June 2023.