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Youth show policymakers the way to neighbourhood transformation

Youth from Amsterdam, Brussels, Gouda and Antwerp have started projects to improve conditions in their neighbourhoods and exchanged ideas and experiences in the exchange project “Changing the Neighbourhood” (Wij(k) in Verandering). They will get together for the third time in The Hague on the 21 of September, when they will share the progress of their projects with other youths and policymakers by way of presentations and short documentaries. In addition, MP Tanja Jadnansing and Prof. Jaap Doek (former Chair of the Committee for the Rights of the Child) will discuss opportunities for real youth participation.

The groups will also lead workshops on the basis of their projects. Youth from D’broej Brussels will discuss ways to deal with discrimination in schools, youth from Combiwel Amsterdam will discuss ways to improve city planning and public safety and youth from KRAS Kiel Antwerp and Gouda will discuss their cooperation projects with the local police units. These projects will hopefully inspire youth and policymakers from other cities and neighbourhoods to cooperate more on local neighbourhood transformations.

The young people in the Changing the Neighbourhood project all live in neighbourhoods that have received a lot of negative attention recently, due to tensions among the inhabitants, or between them and the police or because of being considered disadvantaged neighbourhoods. They are often confronted with discrimination in their neighbourhoods and a generally negative atmosphere, for which they do not see any solutions. This often leads to feelings of exclusion and disconnection from society, which is exactly what IDEA and youth workers in these cities have tried to combat through Changing the Neighbourhood.

The young people learned how to analyse the problems in their neighbourhood and propose solutions through debate methodology. They came up with the ideas for change and developed them further during the first exchange weekend in Amsterdam early February. That weekend gave them the kickstart to get them going and each group was able to present progress and exchange experiences through films, workshops and presentations during the second exchange weekend in Antwerp and Brussels towards the end of March. They also dealt with questions of discrimination and exclusion during that weekend: how to recognise what discrimination is and is not and how to respond to it.

The project has given these young people a chance to propose changes in their neighbourhood and take control over their living conditions. They have presented their ideas to local politicians, civil servants, police, teachers and other stakeholders. It was the first time that these policy makers listened to their ideas and asked for their opinions in most instances. That alone has given these young people a great opportunity to transform the dynamics in their neighbourhoods, even if the end goals are not yet in sight. They have caught the whole process of their engagement with policy makers on film and will share these documentaries as well as their preliminary conclusions during the last exchange weekend in The Hague.

Changing the Neighbourhood is supported by the Youth in Action fund of the European Commission. Youth in actions subsidises and supports European projects for youth and youth initiatives. The international branch of the Nederlands Jeugdinstituut. is responsible for Youth in Action implementation in the Netherlands. Changing the Neighbourhood (Wij(k) in Verandering) is a project of Combiwel Amsterdam, Kras Antwerp, D’broej Brussels, Participe Gouda and IDEA NL

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