Erasmus+ ‘Project Your City’, Kaunas 2017
Ever increasing part of the world’s population live in urban areas. This raises global concerns about whether modern cities are ready for increasing diversity and what they should do to make cities friendlier to youth and other vulnerable groups. Another issue is that urban planners and policy makers tend to implement changes without consulting local communities. With this in mind Active Youth Association, based in Lithuania, has gathered 42 young people and policy makers from Lithuania, Italy, Spain, Sweden, France and Cyprus for an 10 days long training held in Kaunas.
The fundamental objective of ‘Project Your City’ was to generate new ideas on how to have more friendly and peaceful city spaces and support youth involvement when taking planning decisions (through a reform in policy). It took place from the 20th of February to the 2nd of March in Kaunas and was funded by the Erasmus+ programme.
The uniqueness of this training was the diversity of participants and the presence of quite a number of policy makers to grace the occasion. Kaunas Municipality representatives and other Youth aligned NGOs were well represented. Additionally, the project also brought on board policy makers from other participating countries.
Participants had the opportunity to learn how to identify the modern city challenges and how to tackle them. The country workshop presented during the project by participating teams informed us about the best practices of urban planning. The climax of this training was meeting with policy makers, where participants showcased their created ideas for making city spaces more open-minded. The given topics were focused on Kaunas city and how they can make certain building and areas more attractive and youth friendly. These areas included:
- Steigiamojo Seimo sq.
- Daugirdas Amphitheatre
- Ex “Fluxus Ministerija” and the space nearby
- Birštono str. underground passage
- Former Jewish hospital and the space nearby
- Pelėdų kalnas park
Six work groups were formed and asked to pitch their ideas to the panel of both International and National policy makers. This event took place at the Kaunas Municipality Conference room. The experts’ panel were amazed by the quality and innovations proposed by the teams. After lengthy discussions, the team ‘Birštono str. underground passage’ was chosen as the winner by the national board while the International experts chose the Idea Hub team (Fluxus Ministerija) unanimously. The ‘Birštono str. underground passage’ team’s idea was to make glass frames that will house artistic paintings in the underground passageway. Also, they proposed a better lighting system with security cameras for better security and visibility. The Idea Hub team proposed a renovation of Fluxus Building to contain a game/chilling zone, business hub, IT hub, an ultramodern conference room, and a glass cover open-top cafeteria.
Right after the pitches of participants, a discussion with the policy makers of Kaunas Municipality and a representative from the Youth oriented NGOs took place. The focus of which was, obviously, ‘Project Your City’ and its prospect along with potential.
The project was a great success in terms of experiences gained and information acquired, as well as satisfaction of the participants. This can be verified by the testimonials given by the participants like: “I’m a proud participant, Well-structured project, I must be an active youth in my city” ,etc. Besides, knowledge assessments done by every participant on the first and the last day of the exchange have shown an increase of almost 50% on average in the knowledge of urban planning.
It is important to state that, the issue about youth involvement in urban planning still continues. The videos and other helpful materials documented during this project will be continuously posted on social networks (www.fb.com/activeyouthlt), press and the participating youth organisations’ websites.
The initiatives proposed by the young participants:
- Idea Hub– A renovation of the Fluxus building to serve as an IT Hub, Business Hub, Chill/ Game Zone, ultramodern conference room, and an open space glass cafeteria
- Birštono str. underground passage’– Establishment of an underground passage with framed artistic designs, and a well lightened tunnel with security cameras
- Helen Keller Team (Former Jewish hospital and the space nearby) – Renovating the abandoned Jewish hospital to serve as an informal education centre for children with special needs
- Daugirdas Amphitheatre– renovate the area using youth volunteer groups to make it a place where open space concerts and activities can be held.
- Steigiamojo Seimo sq– renovate the area with benches and make available mobile public toilets. Also, the team suggested the area be strategically positioned for summer open space events and concerts.
- Pelėdų kalnas park- renovate the area with benches, sports area, build a coffee shop with a view to the city and a lot more to make this park more relevant and appealing to the locals and tourists alike.