Engaging young people

New Commonplace research points the way for better engagement with younger people in the making of places


New research undertaken by the leading digital platform for places, Commonplace, and launched at MIPIM 2019, demonstrates that the trope that younger people are apathetic and disinterested in their physical environment is outdated; but, because most planning conversations happen away from where this demographic feels comfortable, they have become misleadingly defined as a ‘hard to reach’ group.

Commonplace connects residents, developers and local authorities to discuss the needs and potential improvements to an area. The responses of people under the age of 35 from twenty of the 300 Commonplace Conversations in the UK were sampled, chosen to reflect a variety of locations and project types (housing, highways, town centre regeneration, neighbourhood plans and private development). In total, these Conversations have attracted over half a million people.

The results showed that this group is in fact insightful, analytical, practical and full of energy for positive local change. But their voices are often inadvertently blocked - because the planning conversations happen away from the places they find comfortable. Whilst for the over 55s it might be a local meeting, for the under 35s it is online.

One of the more startling findings, given the growing dominance of online shopping, relates to the high interest in the availability and variety of local High Street shops. Of the topics discussed, this was the single thing they talked about the most, with just over 8% of responses referring to it explicitly. This was the case in both cities and rural towns.

Other key findings included:

  •  Overall younger people are most interested in the amenities that a place has to offer - whether that means shops, children’s play areas or green spaces. Over 25% of the responses discussed these aspects of their neighbourhood;
  •  The are least vocal about economic factors when talking about changes to their area. Less than 18% of responses talked about issues such as the availability of affordable housing, training and employment;
  •  They are keen to discuss the ease of getting around their area, whether on bike, walking or by car. Their current user experience, particularly of road safety, is reflected in comments, many of which related to specific to unsafe aspects of the roads (e.g. junctions) and make suggestions for improvements.
  •  Younger people who live in rural areas are much more focused on health and well-being than their more urban counterparts (almost double: 29% of the discussions in rural towns compared to 15% in cities)

Mike Saunders, CEO of Commonplace, said: “Our research is heartening. Younger people are waiting. And waiting, and waiting... to be talked to about the place they live, work or socialise. But too often when it comes to these local conversations, there is nobody listening to them.

“Young people are the future of every area, and there is a huge opportunity to engage with them using the right mixture of tools and techniques. Our research shows that when they are offered a high-quality online opportunity to interact, they do so with gusto.”

Download the full report here

Kayleeann Maritz

Kayleeann Maritz