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Community-based planning with children

Community-based planning – in other words, engaging local residents in urban development and urban planning – has a long tradition in Western countries, and has also been gaining popularity in the Hungarian urban planning practice. Community-based planning is a democratic method that allows the locals involved to create a common vision for the future of their city or district.

In recent years, more and more attention has been paid to involving underprivileged social groups, such as children and youth. We need to consider the viewpoints, needs and ideas of even the youngest generations when designing the community spaces we share with them, and we need to encourage them to express their opinions about their environment. Engaging them requires special methods embedded in a creative learning process. It is the aim of our Association to support the involvement of children in community-based planning, and to create pilot projects with the goal of establishing a methodology on which to base further participatory projects.

We design our programs based on our extensive experience in the field of built environment education. One of the goals of built environment education is to give children an opportunity to gain experience and to become aware of the influx of stimuli and impressions from the spaces they use day by day. In the first phase of our projects, therefore, we discover the area to be re-designed, and process our impressions through creative methods.

Immediate experience provides a foundation for recognizing and understanding the factors that shape our environment. In the second phase, we transmit the necessary knowledge, and then proceed to analyzing the dynamic factors that shape the space.

In the third phase, it’s time to design: as we understand the processes that shape urban spaces, the children may realize that the built environment is not a given, but rather something that has evolved over time through the work of people just like them, their parents and acquaintances, and it carries values. They will also need to take part in preserving these values and to contribute to the future development of the city.