Young people give input on their neighborhood through Minecraft

28 April 2020
Bergsjön in Minecraft

What do children and youngsters in Bergsjön, a suburb of Gothenburg, think about their neighborhood? How do they move? What routes do they take to school? What do they do in their spare time? What places do they like or not like? What does the future Bergsjön look like? These were some of the questions raised during two workshops in Bergsjön during the Easter holidays. The workshops are part of an EU-funded collaboration project on smart cities and citizen engagement that the City of Gothenburg conducts together with Johanneberg Science Park and Chalmers, among others.

During the Easter holidays, children and youngsters gathered at the Bergsjö School to work together with planners from the City Building Office and an Architectural Educator to explore their local environment virtually. Inside Minecraft, the students got to walk around and experience the new neighborhoods that is planned to be built.

“For us working with urban development, this input is important and we also get to reach out to young people with issues concerning urban development, says Martin Steen,” plan architect at the City Building Office who is responsible for the planning work at Solgatan in Bergsjön.

A way to get the views of children and youngsters
A lot is going on in Bergsjön. In addition to the construction of a new cultural center, work on the local plan Housing between Rymdtorget and Komettorget is underway. The idea is to link Rymdtorget and Komettorget by creating new streets as well as about 700 new homes and facilities. The plan will also include an extension of the Bergsjö School, the relocation of a football field, improvement at Komettorget, new preschools and accommodation with special services and more.

The workshops at the Bergsjö School during the Easter holidays were the first in a series to be carried out during the year, and it is a way to get the views of children and youngsters on their local environment and on the planned development. The computer game Minecraft is one of several different dialogue tools used and through the EU project IRIS Smart Cities, the workshops also aim to test and evaluate how Minecraft works to engage children and youngsters and involve them in urban development. The city of Gothenburg has been built up in Minecraft for a couple of years and the City Building Office has now also put in the new local plan in order to get a sense of what it will be like in the future.

How are different places experienced?
“Today, there is a great and urgent need to develop methods and tools for dialogue with children and young people in order to incorporate their experiences and make them participate in the development of society. The collaboration between the ongoing planning work in Bergsjön and IRIS Smart Cities is valuable in several ways. On the one hand, thanks to the work done in Minecraft, we have received many good ideas and new knowledge from the young people that we can use in the local plans for Bergsjön and on the other hand we can use the experience of the dialogue tool in other planning projects in the City Building Office as well as in all the cities that are part of the EU project,” says Anna Reuter Metelius, at the City Building Office and project manager for the city of Gothenburg in the focus area Citizen Engagement of IRIS Smart Cities.

During the workshops, maps and walks outdoors were also used to identify places and routes to understand how the young people experience them. What places and environments in the area are experienced as nice and inviting? What places are perceived as unsafe or unused? The work resulted in many ideas and wishes. For example they wanted a bigger space or playground for all generations - a central meeting place where everyone has something to do – play or just hang out.

Increase the influence and participation of young people
We now have a large material to continue working with. We have tested several tools, that have reinforced one another. Minecraft is a good dialogue tool and we see great potential in using the game to increase the influence of young people in urban planning. Unlike just seeing plans or visualized images, it becomes more understandable when you can wander around the environment as well as tear down, build up and shape completely freely,” says Martin Steen.

The workshops in Bergsjön are part of the detailed planning of the child impact assessment, to collect and take advantage of the perspectives of children and young people, their local knowledge and needs.

The Easter holiday activity in Bergsjö School has also taken place in cooperation with Bergsjön2021, which is a collaboration between property owners in Bergsjön.

Facts about IRIS
IRIS is a five-year EU project that started on October 1, 2017. Within the project, new solutions for urban development within the areas in energy, mobility and ICT (Information and Communication Technology) are being tested. Three cities, which are considered to have come a long way in these areas, are selected as so-called "Lighthouse cities" - Utrecht (Netherlands), Nice (France) and Gothenburg.

Four follower cities are also participating: Vaasa (Finland) Alexandroupolis (Greece) Santa Cruz de Tenerife (Spain) and Focsani (Romania). The idea is that the follower cities will learn from and be able to use the solutions that are developed within the Lighthouse cities.

In total, 43 organisations from 9 countries collaborate. Eleven partners participate in Gothenburg: Johanneberg Science Park coordinates the project on behalf of the City of Gothenburg and additional partners are the following: Akademiska HusChalmersHSBIMCGMetryTrivectorTyrénsRiksbyggen och RISE.

Link to IRIS

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For more information about the IRIS project, contact:

Eva Edman Pavic, Project Coordinator

+46 721 63 28 64 LinkedIn