Panel K.07 — Which (public) space for young people’s engagement in contemporary urban areas

Convenors Elisabetta Biffi (University of Milano-Bicocca, Italy); Chiara Montà (University of Milano-Bicocca, Italy)

Keywords Youth Participation, public space, city, urban life


This panel aims to foster a pedagogical reflection on the role of young people in the contemporary process of transforming urban areas, with a specific focus on urban public spaces as hubs of relationships and democratic participation for young people. Spaces within the urban dimension are essential contexts for continuous learning through formal, non-formal, and informal education. In the contemporary scenario, throughout the main European cities, youth participation in the process of urban transformation has emerged as a central theme: local administrations are increasingly promoting actions to create sustainable urban landscapes, including marginalized actors, and investments have been made in the direction of fostering youth participation in the urban area.

Specifically, within the horizon of public pedagogy (Biesta, 2012, 2013), public spaces in urban contexts hold significant theoretical importance at a transdisciplinary level. They are often considered spaces where young people’s actions, practices, and narratives are viewed as political acts (even though the manifestation of dissent). However, despite being some of the most frequent users of urban spaces, adolescents and young people often lack knowledge of and influence over urban planning and city transformations.

In this direction, participatory processes for defining urban spaces also carry elements of power dynamics (Cornwall, 2004) that can either facilitate or obstruct young people’s engagement in public life.

This panel will address the following questions: How can young people be involved as actors in urban transformations? How can education enhance their agency and make them active contributors to contemporary urban development?

The panel will explore various subtopics within the overarching theme:

  1. Territoriality and Urban Spaces for Young People: Investigating the impact of urban spaces on the identity and relationships of young individuals with other generations and/or how young individuals appropriate urban spaces.
  2. Youth Participation in Urban Transformation: Investigating the educational potential for participatory urban planning involving young people.
  3. Youth Identity and Citizenship: Understanding the role of public spaces in shaping young people’s civic identities and preparing them for active citizenship.
  4. Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in Urban Spaces: Exploring the influence of ICT on young people in urban environments.
  5. Research approaches and methodologies to studying youth participation in urban areas.

In conclusion, this panel will allow scholars to engage in a pedagogical dialogue on youth participation in urban transformation. According to this background, the session promotes a reflection on the opportunities and obstacles related to young people’s participation in urban life and the role of education, specifically focusing on young people’s actions in public spaces.


Guidelines and abstracts submission