How can you use an bus to create a mobile youth centre? What is needed and what does it offer? How does it work? If any of these questions sparked your interest, we invite you to read on!
Within the European Academy on Youth Work, we have started a short series of “Innovative practices of the week” to share with you some of the contributions that will be presented at the 2nd Edition of the European Academy on Youth Work that will happen in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, from 31 st May to 3rd June. This time, we talked with Ksenija Perko, one of the EAYW contributors, who shared with us more about their project on a mobile youth centre which became an important place for young people in Ljubljana. Enjoy reading!
What is your practice about?
With the transformation of an unusable city bus into a mobile youth centre, we have created a mobile unit of needed infrastructure with programmes and space for supporting youth. Rather than becoming a burden for the environment, the unusable city bus starts a new life cycle and it continues serving the residents in a different form. Youth actively participate in co-creating everyday in the city. The challenge we are addressing is a lack of programmes and spaces for young people in Ljubljana. We identified this need for youth to have an accessible infrastructure within the development of ‘The strategy for youth in Ljubljana 2016-2025’. We want to achieve a better life of its residents by accelerating the inclusion of youth. Because we strongly believe that the state of wellbeing of youth is affecting the wellbeing of the broader society. The mobile youth centre connects residents in the neighbourhoods and connects the neighbourhoods to each other. It provides youth, but also other people, a point of social life, creativity and a sense of belonging.
What problem or situation inspired the development of your practice?
The idea draws from the strategic background of the City of Ljubljana – MOL Youth Strategy 2016-2025, which envisages the establishment of youth centers in all neighborhood communities of the city. The strategy is designed in accordance with the European Charter for Local Youth Work and the values on which it is based – it comes from the needs and interests of young people and supports them in their development into independent and responsible members of the community.
What is the concrete outcome that you will present at the Academy?
The Mobile Youth Center ‘Ljuba and Drago’ is a complement to the range of programmes and facilities for young people in Ljubljana. Due to its mobility, it can address young people where it is not possible to set up a youth center at the moment. With the transformation of an unusable city bus into a mobile youth centre, we also share the idea of new possibilities for unusable city buses. So, after the first one we created a second one: we transformed an old bus into a community center, Borc (The Fighter).
Why is this practice important and what makes it different from similar projects in this field in your country or region?
We see the project as innovation in youth work from different angles. We developed new partnerships: In general, the initiative has connected youth (in all stages of the transformation); youth sector organisations; creative industries organisations (mentorship programmes); local communities and citizens (followed the progress and gained new services); city officials and public companies who gained a better insight into the lives of youth and another great example of circular economy.
Furthermore, we used a new participatory process methodology. A public invitation was opened to young people from 18 to 29 years old, to participate in one or more working groups – (1) Programme, (2) Design and Architecture, (3) DIY Workshops and (4) Communications – of the transformation process. Moreover, we followed a sustainable approach, we used recycled and reused materials. We also included a green roof that acts as cooling for the bus.
Finally, the Strategy for youth of the City of Ljubljana has among one of its most important goals thea establishment of a Network of Youth Centres. By now, it comprises youth centres in 19 locations in the city, which cover the needs for premises and quality programmes on daily basis for youth. As stated in the European Charter on Local Youth Work: “A democratic society needs the voices and active participation of young people. In order to fulfil this role, young people need a place where they can set their own agenda.” A youth centre is a place for the personal and social development of young people through non-formal and informal learning. The mobile youth centre Ljuba & Drago, as young people named it, fulfills the conditions to enable such a development in areas where there are still no permanent premises, or where they could not be realised, e.g. very remote parts of the city.
Which concrete challenges did you need to overcome in order to develop this project?
The participatory process is the core value of our project management. Three stages have been planned, initially defined on a forecast of a 5-years life span:
1. Refurbishing the bus with youth in a ‘learning by doing’ mentoring programme + Usability test in the neighbourhoods (December 2018 – March 2020);
2. Conducting programmes in the neighbourhoods, which are based on cultural projects as defined by and with local communities (March 2020 – 2025);
3. The new housing stage when the mobile youth centre becomes a home of culture and social life in the most needed neighbourhood (2025 – ).
Which conditions, resources and/or competences present in your organisation were the most important to influence the creation and development of the project?
The story of Ljuba and Drago would not have been done if the Young Dragons (Mladi zmaji) Public Institution, the Public Company Ljubljana Passenger Transport – LPP and the City of Ljubljana had not entered into a partnership, which enabled a collaborative approach to the project in the typical hierarchical structure of operation. Ljuba and Draga’s story is the documentation of a project where participatory practices have entered public institutions and have opened the door widely for the active involvement of all the stakeholders involved. Ljuba and Drago’s story offered the young participants co-decision and input at all stages of the project. It is a story that transformed a used city bus into a mobile youth center, hierarchical pyramids into participatory intersections, leaders into hosts, associates into people of value, and young people into bearers of ideas that enrich the city’s life. The story of ‘Ljuba in Drago’ is a story of relationships, decisions, cooperation and trust. It is a story of love. The project is a collaboration between various partners of the city’s public administration, young residents of the city and professionals from the creative industries.
How do you envisage this project to grow in the future and what resources do you need in order to do so?
The story Ljuba and Drago has opened the door to the active contribution of all the stakeholders involved. On this foundation, we are developing new projects: a community centre, a central youth centre in Ljubljana. It is important to have:
1. A great idea for the start. The idea stems from a strategically defined need in the city.
2. Leadership which motivates all the participants to develop innovative approaches.
3. Understanding that our diversity is our priority and that we are dedicated to an inclusive process that we trust will deliver a result we will all be proud of.
4. We should offer young participants co-decision making and encourage their inputs at all stages of the project.
5. Public-private partnership. At the intersection of youth work and creative industries, creative and pedagogical processes.
Where can people find more information about your practice?
The Story of Ljuba and Drago (in PDF format): https://www.mladizmaji.si/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/WEB_LD_BROsURA-1.pdf
Ksenja Perko, firstname.lastname@example.org
You’re interested to learn and exchange more about current developments and innovative practices in youth work? Follow the plenary sessions of the 2nd EAYW 2022 live! Find more information HERE.