Empowering Espoo’s Youth: Sustainable Urban Solutions Through Student Engagement
RIL, Citycon and the city of Espoo organized a SPARCS webinar on Tuesday 30 January 2024. The subject of the webinar was the participation of residents as part of the SPARCS project – especially the guardian class activities implemented in Espoo.
As part of the project, middle school students from the schools of Espoonlahti and Maininki learned about various topics related to urban development and energy positivity. Guardian class activities are organized by city of Espoo and Citycon Oyj, whose city center Lippulaiva is one of the SPARCS project’s development platforms for sustainable solutions. Students had the opportunity to e.g. affects the services and living areas of the new shopping center.
Over the course of three years, middle school students from Espoonlahti and Maininki schools have delved into various topics, including urban development and energy positivity, as part of the buddy class activities. Organized by both the City of Espoo and Citycon Oyj, whose urban center, Lippulaiva, serves as a platform for sustainable solutions within the SPARCS project, students had the opportunity to influence the services and common areas of the new shopping center.
Nelli Vasse, a Project Coordinator from the City of Espoo, shared insights during the webinar about the buddy class concept by the City of Espoo as a model for development projects. She emphasized that while working with the same group of teenagers for three years can be challenging, it’s also incredibly rewarding. Listening to the thoughts and ideas of youth, understanding their interests and concerns about the future, is crucial for development and very fascinating. During the three years of buddy class activities, it became evident that students enjoyed activities where they could actively participate the most, such as exploring new places and trying out new things. The most challenging aspects were meetings held at school, which involved more listening and small group conversations. However, the importance of these kind of meetings cannot be underestimated and should also be considered and included when planning future engagements. The City of Espoo has also developed a buddy class concept that can be utilized by others planning to involve youth in various projects. This concept will be published in the spring 2024.
Karoliina Hurmerinta, a Centre Manager at Citycon, delved deeper into engaging youth, specifically at Lippulaiva. At Lippulaiva, youth, along with the buddy class, actively participated in developing the new urban center before and after its opening. For instance, they have their own security personnel trained to interact with the youth. Given that youth enjoy spending time at Lippulaiva, this approach has proven to be beneficial for all involved. In Lippulaiva urban centre there has also been other actions to improve youth engagement; These are for example Lippulaiva network and collaboration with Nuorten palvelu ry, youth service association.
The webinar shed light on the innovative buddy class initiative in Espoo, where youth actively contribute to sustainable urban development. Through partnerships between the City of Espoo, Citycon Oyj, and local schools, students have had the opportunity to shape the future of their community while learning about important topics such as clean energy and urban planning. Engaging and empowering our youth and recognizing them as key stakeholders is crucial in building more sustainable and inclusive cities for the future.