Negotiating obstacles in the making of a parkour site at Leitet – children and young people’s participation in area development

Negotiating obstacles in the making of a parkour site at Leitet – children and young people’s... Abstract The article is based on the designing of a parkour site at Leitet, in the borough Laksevåg, in Bergen, Norway. It explains the different stages of participation and the process of developing the Leitet parkour site. The Municipality of Bergen plays a significant role in involving children and young people in area development. Dialogue and collaboration with residents and other actors in the area are identified as essential approaches. Laksevåg was given priority on the basis of several years of mapping and statistical research, confirming the importance of a comprehensive and coherent area development, both social and physical. The area is distinguished, negatively, from Bergen as a whole by several variables. The article also emphasizes the connection between living conditions and good social networks, active involvement, and participation in society. Introduction Anchored in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), the Norwegian Government White Paper: ‘Childhood and living conditions of children and young people in Norway’ (UN, 1989; St.meld. nr. 39, 2001–2002) concludes that the active engagement of children and young people is critical for an open and vital democracy. The Government, therefore, aims to encourage, amongst other things, coresponsibility and agency in individual lives and in society, starting from childhood and continuing through teenage years. In this article, the establishment of a new parkour site in a borough within the Municipality of Bergen, is used as a case study to show how pupils at the local secondary school (age thirteen to sixteen) and the municipality worked together in area development. The website Parkourpedia describes parkour as the combination of a philosophy/principles with a concept of movement, that concept being to move as if to escape or reach (Parkourpedia, 2017). Parkour involves moving around, pursuing and refining skills, and voluntary risk-taking. More importantly, it involves the deliberate use of urban environments and areas not originally designed for sport or leisure activities. Kidder (2013) states that parkour is a new and increasingly popular sport in which individuals athletically and artistically negotiate obstacles found in the urban environment (Kidder, 2013:1). Underpinning this is a philosophy of altruism and useful strength, longevity, self-improvement, and self-understanding (Parkourpedia, 2017). It is interesting to note that participation in the parkour project has a double meaning, not only to identify and overcome barriers in the development and design of Leitet, but also to overcome personal obstacles in the enactment of parkour as such. The article begins with a brief description of area and community development in the Municipality of Bergen. It then shows in detail how children and young people were invited to get involved in Barnetråkk™ (Kids’ Tracks™) and the development of Leitet parkour site. Kids’ Tracks™ (Norsk form, 2010) is an educational programme where children tell area planners, the municipality and local politicians how they use places where they live, and what is important to them in their local environment. The authors have followed the project from the Kids’ Tracks™ registration via the ongoing processes of participation in area development to the completion of Leitet parkour site. The article also highlights the process of young people’s involvement in and influence on the final result. Area development in Inner Laksevåg Bergen is the second largest city in Norway, with around 280,000 inhabitants. The Municipality of Bergen is organized in eight districts: Laksevåg is a borough near the city centre of Bergen. The area is planned to be more densely populated and compactly laid out, in accordance with the vision of Bergen as a well-functioning, urban, space-efficient and environmentally friendly city (Bergen Municipality, 2015). The state-initiated programme for area development is directed towards defined areas in the largest Norwegian cities. A similar ‘big city’ emphasis is found in other countries where significant challenges in living conditions are documented (Lawless, 2012). The White Paper The equalization report. Redistribution of income and living conditions in Norway (St.meld nr. 50, 1998-99) emphasizes that all inhabitants should receive a reasonable share of society’s material resources and that these resources should be distributed in a better and more just manner. In 2011 the Municipality of Bergen became part of a state programme and Inner Laksevåg became one of three main priorities for the city’s area development (Bergen Municipality, 2011; Husbanken, 2014). The work is politically anchored in the town council as owner of the area programme, and the municipality directors constitute the internal group of management (Bergen Municipality, 2012). Bergen town council has pinpointed objectives in area development (Bergen Municipality, 2012): Physical and technical upgrade and development Strengthening of social and cultural actions The establishment of arenas for dialogue and collaboration with residents and other actors in the area In order to establish closer dialogue and facilitate increased involvement, the Municipality of Bergen employed Coordinators for areas of community development. Among other tasks, they maintained the collaboration with local residents and organizations, which were bridgebuilders to the municipality’s system of decision-making, and played a coordinating role within the municipality and different service areas (Henriksbø and Grimen, 2014). Inner Laksevåg was given priority on the basis of several years of mapping and statistical research confirming the importance of a comprehensive and coherent area development. According to the report Living conditions and health in Bergen (Bergen Municipality, 2016), several variables distinguish the area negatively from other boroughs and Bergen as a whole. For example, the average income is lower (approximately GBP 4000 lower than the Bergen average of GBP 32,440), the involvement with child protective services is higher (Bergen 3.8 percent, Inner Laksevåg 6.8 percent), the level of child poverty is higher (Bergen 5.5 percent, Inner Laksevåg 13 percent), the level of physical inactivity among young people is higher (Bergen 17.4 percent, Inner Laksevåg 25.8 percent), as is the number of children entering school with insufficient language skills (Bergen 4.3 percent, Inner Laksevåg 8.11 percent). Around one in five (23 percent) of the inhabitants of Inner Laksevåg are immigrants, compared to the Bergen average of 13 percent. These immigrants are from Eastern Europa (and countries from former Eastern Europe which are now members of the EU), Asia, Africa, and Latin America. The municipality owns about 300 rental apartments in the area, and is one of five areas in Bergen with the most municipality apartments. The apartments are allocated according to a set of requirements and documentation of potential tenants’ limited opportunities in the open housing market. In addition, many tenants have problems with substance abuse. Oslo and Bergen are the Norwegian cities with the greatest problems of substance abuse and the only ones with downtown drug scenes. Bergen’s drug scene is presently located by the bridge between Bergen City and Inner Laksevåg (Nasjonal overdosestrategi, 2014-2017). In 2016 Inner Laksevåg had approximately 8700 inhabitants. A relatively high level of families with children (age zero to five years) were moving in and out of this area (Bergen 6 percent, Inner Laksevåg 9.4 percent). A high relocation index can hinder stable childhood environments and the development of good neighbourhoods. A resident survey (Ipsos MMI as, 2014) showed that 48 percent partially or completely disagreed that Inner Laksevåg had many good meeting places. The residents expressed a need for more local meeting places, this was also evident in the Kids Tracks registration. The two schools in the area will be demolished and reconstructed by 2020, and an additional meeting place could be a valuable contribution to the creation and sustenance of social networks. Kids’ Tracks™ – children’s own registration in outdoor spaces The Norwegian term ‘dyretråkk’ (animals track) refers to paths created by animals such as moose or deer over time, leaving visible trails in nature. Barnetråkk™ (Kids’ Tracks™, Norsk Form, 2010) is a methodological approach to children’s movements in outside spaces, which can be observed and mapped in the same manner as their parallels in the animal kingdom. It is a tool to get a better understanding of which areas children make use of when they move in their local environment. The purpose of the Kids’ Track™s registration is to encourage the involvement of children, to capture their experience and description of the local environment, and to register their information in order to take their interests into consideration in the municipality planning work. The Municipality of Bergen took the method developed by Norsk form as a point of departure (Norsk form, 2010). Through it, the municipality developed its knowledge about school tracks, short cuts, meeting places and other areas which are used or avoided. The hallmark of Kids’ Tracks registration is that the children themselves, in collaboration with planners from the municipality authorities, carry out the mapping of their local environment, with safe and unsafe zones in mind. In 2013 principals of the local schools gave permission to the area development project in cooperation with the Municipality of Bergen planning department, to carry out the Kids’ Tracks™ registration during school hours. Contact teachers for different grades were informed some days beforehand, so that they could prepare the children for the task. Seventy pupils from sixth grade and 115 pupils from ninth grade in the area’s two schools spent two days on mapping. The first day, after a common briefing about Kids’ Tracks™ by the Coordinator for Area Development and a City Planner from the Municipality of Bergen, the pupils formed groups based on residential area. The groups, (maximum eight young people) were given maps of the area in A3 format on which they drew school tracks, short cuts, where they like to hang out, places they avoided and physical changes they would like. The pupils then went outside with disposable cameras, taking pictures of the places they had previously marked on the map. The photos were printed that day, for use the following day. On the second day, in the same groups, the young people sorted the photos into categories suggested by the Area Coordinator: ‘like/love to be’; ‘needs improvement’; and ‘scary/dangerous’. They were then asked to choose two or three within each category. Some areas were marked with symbols: areas they especially liked (star symbol), and areas and school routes that were felt to be especially unsafe (lightening symbol). The photos were then glued onto a new corresponding map. After adding registrations, the maps looked as in Figure 1. After completing the registration, the planning department conducted an evaluation of the areas mentioned. The registration was and is used actively in Area Development as a work document for the implementation of improvements involving different departments. The registration revealed, amongst other things, that the young people desired improvements to playgrounds. Young people in the ninth grade (13–14 years) missed having a meeting place, such as a park, where they could spend time and hang out with friends. This last finding corresponded well with the resident survey that revealed a need for more meeting places. The process of designing a parkour site at Leitet As a consequence of the information received through the Kids’ Track™s registration regarding meeting places, the Coordinator of Inner Laksevåg contacted Holen School in February 2014, asking for permission to follow up on this topic by giving lower secondary school pupils an opportunity to participate in a young people group to focus on creating a meeting place. The meeting was announced on an information board at the school, and the Coordinator visited all classrooms to recruit for the meeting. The Coordinator was a familiar face to those who had previously participated in Kids’ Tracks. The young people who showed an interest had diverse backgrounds and all the lower secondary school grades were represented (thirteen to sixteen years), five girls and ten boys. Given the background of the Coordinator (holding a Master’s degree in Community work) with an emphasis on Freire and his perspective on dialogue and awareness, this became a backdrop for the process into which the young people and the Coordinator entered (Ledwith, 2011). Freire (1972) emphasizes that the dialogue is a collective process, a meeting between human beings who give the world names, and that one cannot give names on others’ behalf. Consequently, it was important to highlight topics and ideas that were important to the young people, here in the context of their leisure time activities. At the same time, the young people need to reflect on the spaces, or lack of them, available for their leisure activities, and the possibility of influencing decision makers to change this. Leitet, located approximately 100 m from the shopping centre, was a place well-known to the young people, where they already spent time (as shown in Figure 1). The playground was near an intersection, with regular traffic and heavy goods vehicle traffic. It contained a scuffed bench, two swings and a sandbox, and was in need of a major upgrade, which was already included in municipality plans. In the first meeting the young people expressed a wish for a place to spend time and meet others, and we discussed Leitet as a potential location for such a meeting place. Figure 1 View largeDownload slide Kids Tracks registration (Bergen Municipality, 2013). Holen School, Shopping centre, Leitet, Damsgård School Figure 1 View largeDownload slide Kids Tracks registration (Bergen Municipality, 2013). Holen School, Shopping centre, Leitet, Damsgård School The young people sat in smaller groups of three and four for the assignment to draw or write about the perfect meeting place. They presented a trampoline, skate ramp, tables and benches, a soda and water-vending machine, an open and illuminated place, access to sunlight and protection from rain. They described activities as well as the possibility to remain inactive if desired. Before the meeting finished, another meeting was set up a month later, where a representative of Barnas byrom (The Children’s City Space, department of the Municipality of Bergen) would participate. It employs an interdisciplinary working group, including architects and landscape architects. The Children’s City Space is a prioritized commitment for the Municipality of Bergen on upgrading public playgrounds. In the second meeting, there was an inspection of Leitet by the young people together with the Coordinator. The young people presented reflections about the space, commented that there was noise due to traffic, the sandbox was in bad condition, the space was wet and muddy, and much space was under-used. On the positive side, they reported a large and open space with swings, located near the shopping centre. After the inspection the meeting moved indoors and new suggestions were presented from the young people regarding the content of the space: for example, seats under a roof, a noise barrier, grill, basketball hoop, new ground surface (asphalt/grass), flowers, garbage bins, air hockey tables, swing set, toilet, slack line and facilities for climbing and table tennis (Figures 2–6). Figure 2 View largeDownload slide The planning process from February to March 2014 Figure 2 View largeDownload slide The planning process from February to March 2014 Figure 3 View largeDownload slide The final part of the planning process in April and May 2014 Figure 3 View largeDownload slide The final part of the planning process in April and May 2014 Figure 4 View largeDownload slide An ordinary afternoon in August 2016 at Leitet parkour site Figure 4 View largeDownload slide An ordinary afternoon in August 2016 at Leitet parkour site Figure 5 View largeDownload slide The figure shows the process of consultation, planning, design and implementation from autumn 2014 to summer 2016 Figure 5 View largeDownload slide The figure shows the process of consultation, planning, design and implementation from autumn 2014 to summer 2016 Figure 6 View largeDownload slide Different phases of the making of the parkour site at Leitet Figure 6 View largeDownload slide Different phases of the making of the parkour site at Leitet The third meeting took place in April: the young people were informed of place and time via text message. The representative from The Children’s City Space presented a first draft of possible solutions of the playground. Young people responded with several additional comments, such as including a hammock and painting colours on the ground. The draft included a half pipe (skate ramp), but a number of young people expressed a preference for a skating box or rail for skateboarding. As these elements would have occupied much space and left little room for other functions, parkour was suggested by some of the young people. Jeffrey Kidder (Kidder, 2013) has studied parkour and those who practice the sport. He writes that parkour can resemble skating, only without the skateboard. The skateboarders of the young people group in Inner Laksevåg preferred to have a good skateboarding park than a second-rate one, and suggested other local areas more suited for skating. When the representative from The Children’s City Space returned in May for a fourth meeting to have a closer look at different drafts, it was time for the young people to make a choice between skateboarding and parkour. It was a finely balanced decision but parkour was the final choice. The young people considered that there were already spaces for skateboarding, but few for just hanging out. After a discussion it was decided by the young people that the site should include parkour, as well as other elements. The decision was influenced by several young people who knew about parkour and had seen it on film. As a result of the group choice of parkour, the original plan of the municipality was amended. The municipality had planned to upgrade what was already on the site rather than introduce new elements such as a parkour pitch. The Leitet parkour facility was designed as a colourful site with new lighting, several parkour structures, seats that could also serve as tables, a basketball hoop, a trampoline, balance balls, a hammock, a parasol, grass, plants, and rubbish bins. Leitet parkour site is now a place for rehearsal and demonstration of new skills, which can later be expanded to free movement in an urban and natural environment. The local newspaper interviewed ninth-grader Sebastian Vaksdal at the opening of the parkour site. He summed up his experience of the process: I think this is fantastic. It is good that they include us and ask us, the users, about our interests (Edvardsen, 2016). Sebastian Vaksdal also attended a short movie about the parkour site at Leitet and the prior process. The movie was published in January 2018 (Pandora Film AS, 2017). Engaging in making and shaping Cornwall and Gaventa (2001) remind us that some participants have limited influence, despite efforts to include everyone. In their view, more voices are heard and more people included if collaborative work is undertaken. Seeing the potential of working in collaboration with active residents in order to find new and better possibilities for the local community is important in community work. In a discussion of the Scandinavian welfare model, Sivesind (2016) points to the centrality of the democracy perspective, and especially the importance of local democracy. The democratic processes are also emphasized by writers of a Nordic book in English on community work (Hutchinson, 2009; Ronnby, 2009; Økland and Henriksbø, 2009). The accentuation of local coparticipation is a central element in the area development and has, in our view, encouraged the effort to include young people in the process. Participation is a key word in community work (Larsen, Sewpaul and Hole, 2013; Ledwith and Springett, 2010; Minkler and Wallerstein, 2005). Through participating processes, young people were given influence on decisions affecting themselves in their local environment. Efforts were also made to give an insight into and knowledge about democratic processes and, hopefully, a certainty that their participation would generate positive changes for the community as a whole. It was essential to the result that the young participants would work with the Coordinator and the representative from The Children’s City Space. Young people contributed experience and knowledge about their local environment and interests, previously unknown to the Coordinator. The Coordinator, on the other hand, brought knowledge about what was possible and the challenges to be resolved. Implementing the young people Leitet project, the municipality has to deal with a number of premises, laws and regulations concerning budgets, location, design, etc. In addition, the proposition has to pass through different processes of detailed planning, projection, bidding, and construction, extending the time frame of the project. The project consisted of three phases: phase one was planning, phase two was designing and phase three was the implementation. The degree of coparticipation varied according to the phase of the work (Figure 7). Figure 7 View largeDownload slide Roger Hart’s Ladder of children’s participation (Hart, 1992) Figure 7 View largeDownload slide Roger Hart’s Ladder of children’s participation (Hart, 1992) The process of young people’s participation occurred in the planning phase. During this phase, the young people were given influence on what a particular space (Leitet) should include. But in this phase, there were also limitations related to the fact that the location was already defined and that the space was restricted physically. The space was regulated as a playground by the municipality, which meant that other functions would be out of the question. Given these limited conditions, Leitet acquired its present form with involvement from the young people in the local school. The development of phase two was carried out by the representative from The Children’s City Space. From this phase onwards, leading to implementation in phase three, young people were informed about the plans, but were no longer offered the opportunity of affecting the final result. This meant that they were given a passive role, while adults performed the work. The Municipality of Bergen is obliged to act in accordance with specific demands related to construction and execution. Ideally, the young people should have had the opportunity to participate in all three phases, in order to gain a greater sense of ownership of the space. The different degrees of participation in the process leading to the creation of the parkour facility can be illustrated using the ladder of children’s participation in planning, developed by Hart (1992) (Figure 7). His point of departure is the following: ‘A nation is democratic to the extent its citizens are involved, particularly at the community level. The confidence and competence to be involved must be gradually acquired through practice. It is for this reason that there should be gradually increasing opportunity for children to participate in any aspiring democracy’ (Hart, 1992: 4). Hart has thus designed a children’s version of Sherry Arnstein’s famous Ladder of Participation (Arnstein, 1969). Participation should, he argues, be a resident’s privilege. ‘It might be argued that ‘participation’ in society begins from the moment a child enters the world and discovers the extent to which she is able to influence events by cries or movements’ (Hart, 1992: 4). As expressed by Hart, children are social actors who affect and are affected by their environment, and one can consequently conclude that individuals and structures influence each other. Parts of the Leitet process are located high up on Hart’s ladder, where the young people were given free rein to influence. Nevertheless, steps four to six in his ladder are most evident in the process. Step four is assigned but informed, characterised by adult-led activities in which young people understand the purpose of participation and the decision-making process, and have a role. Step five is consulted and informed, characterised by adult-led activities in which young people are consulted and informed about how their registrations will be used and outcomes of adult decisions. Step six involves adult-initiated activities where decision-making is shared with young people. Brownill (2009) highlights the project Cowley Road Matters (Oxford, England) as an example of participation in city planning. Contribution was emphasized through different processes of participation, including interviews, workshops and user surveys. Similarly, in the context of Leitet, evaluations such as Kids’ Tracks™ and the resident survey were conducted prior to the workshops. As we can see, the projects Cowley Road Matters and Leitet share some characteristics at this stage of the process. The project Cowley Road Matters demonstrated that the processes of participation strengthened involvement in the local environment, as well as the principle of frontloading. Frontloading refers to project plans where the greatest effort is concentrated early in the process. However, the project also showed that the processes of participation had limited influence on the final result. The Coordinator of Cowley Road Matters was interviewed once after the processes of participation had ended, and again after the implementation. In the first interview the Coordinator saw the influence of local residents as substantial, while in the second the influence was perceived to be minor. It is thus relevant to ask to what extent the possibility of influence on the final result was real, and what may have affected this. Brownill (2009: 373) writes: ‘The Cowley Road example has shown new roles, relationships and tensions are emerging within current attempts to increase participation in planning.’ In Cowley Road as well as in Leitet, most consultation activities occurred during the planning period, when participants were informed about the municipality plans (frontloading). The representative from The Children’s City Space handled the technical implementation at Leitet, based on the knowledge and experience expressed by the young people. Contrary to the findings of the Cowley project, the Coordinator of Inner Laksevåg found that the young people had a great influence on the contents of the space. The dialogue and development of ideas produced through the young people group became the critical factors. The main task of the municipality was to look at options to accommodate the young people’s ideas. Through the processes of participation, the young people could see results from their involvement. What inspired the decisions is uncertain, as the group had several voices. It was not given that parkour would be the ultimate choice. At the same time, it is important to emphasize the question of how representative the processes of participation actually were, as only a few young people attended the meetings. That said, we all influence our environment by our mere presence (Hart, 1992: 4), and in many cases the competence and ability to participate of children is underestimated (Hart, 1992: 15). Although all the young people spoke at some point, some were more active than others. According to Cornwall and Hart, being involved in a process is not equivalent to actually having a voice. People need to feel able to express themselves without fear of reprisals or the expectation of not being listened to or not being taken seriously (Cornwall, 2008: 278; Hart, 1992). Taking into account that the group was made up of ten boys and five girls, it is possible that the choice of parkour was a result of this particular composition, and would probably have been a different choice had the group composition been different. If other ideas had been presented, the municipality would have accommodated them to the same extent as the proposals of parkour and other elements present at Leitet. Parkour and participation Parkour involves movement in urban space, but it distinguishes itself from ordinary movement by the purpose of its practice. In addition to movement, parkour accentuates the ability to escape (Parkourpedia, 2017). In the description of Højbjerre Larsen (2016: 295–309), play and voluntary risk taking has an important role in developing parkour skills. Many will see parkour as a high risk activity with a high probability of injury. Lupton (1999) has portrayed people who seek out and practice activities considered to be of high risk, and comments that much academic literature carries a notion that risk is something negative and synonymous with danger (Lupton, 1999: 148). ‘In some social contexts, risk-taking is actively encouraged as a means of escaping from the bounds of everyday life, achieving self-actualization, demonstrating the ability to go beyond expectations of performing gender’ (Lupton, 1999: 171; Lyng, 2014). Lupton continues; ‘Risk positions may be important to people’s sense of self-identity as part of a social group or sub-culture. People who live in areas designated as high risk may define themselves positively as ‘survivors’ and ‘battlers’, as part of a community that has chosen to ignore experts’ warnings and continue to live in these areas’ (Lupton, 1999: 112–113). The idea of parkour as an urban sport and a philosophy has resonance with aspects of community development and democratic participation. Along similar lines, Hart (1992: 9) emphasizes that adults sometimes underestimate young people’s capabilities and the actual degree of their participation. On the contrary, the concept of parkour encourages independent thinking and the choice of life paths; ‘this concept allows for a great amount of creativity and freedom within what we do, it also calls for us to think for ourselves and make our own path our own way’ (Parkourpedia, 2017). In an interview, David Belle, considered the founder and leading pioneer of the parkour discipline, says that with practice the athletes of parkour will see what is possible and what is not. ‘You learn through good technique not to take stupid risks. I wanted to show that there’s a method that allows you to overcome obstacles, to navigate obstacles without taking major risks’ (Parkourpedia, 2017). Based on the premise that young people want the best for themselves and their local environment, they can contribute if given the opportunity. This notion has a parallel in the underlying thinking of parkour, which can be defined as a philosophy of altruism involving mutual help and care of others (Parkourpedia, 2017). Sudmann and Henriksbø (2015) emphasize the role of children, arguing that community work builds on the conviction that everybody, including children, has knowledge and competence, determination and the ability to influence their environment and improve their life conditions. In addition, social communities are based on the idea that every single individual is capable of evaluating her own situation and orient herself towards other people and her environment, and capable of acting and interacting according (Henriksbø and Sudmann, 2011:2, my translation). It is, however, important that adults also participate in the process. The article ‘A place for young people in the social policy life of their communities’ (Sullivan et al. 2011) argues that the adult approach to support and acknowledgement is an important factor in young people participation. According to Hart participation of children is not meant to substitute that of adults (Hart, 1992: 31). Children and young people as important collaborators Brian Head (2011: 543–544) presents three aspects that are important for the increased participation of children and young people in issues that affect them: rights, efficiency, and development. As an example of rights, Head points to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. In terms of efficiency, he shows that services that directly affect young people become more efficient when young people’s perspectives are included in the planning process. Municipality services could thus be performed in a more cost-efficient manner. The third aspect is connected to the benefits of development, as young people’s experience of collectively participating in a democracy in cases that affect them. MacNaughton, Hughes, and Smith (2007) have taken a special interest in childhood and children’s voices, and discuss different ways in which children have been addressed in Western thinking. Children have the right to participate and their inputs represent important contributions. In the processes of participation leading up to the parkour facility, the adults’ perception of young people as competent actors was a crucial factor. Head, as well as MacNaughton, Hughes, and Smith, see children and young people as social participants, agents, whose participation is important and meaningful. Similarly, Hart, whose work has focused on children’s development in relation to the physical environment, sees participation as a fundamental right for members of society (Hart, 1992: 5). Area Development is about forces pulling in the same direction, be that the municipality or local young people (Økland and Henriksbø, 2009; Økland, 2012; Henriksbø and Grimen, 2014). In the planning of Leitet, as community work, emphasis has been on working together, and not just on providing young people services. Processes of participation are challenging, as they require competence, time and resources, as well as the theoretical and value-oriented foundation needed to see young people as resources, and not just passive recipients (Camino, 2000; Sullivan et al. 2011; Augsberger et al. 2017; Brennan, Barnett and Lesmeister, 2007; Checkoway, 2011). When young people’s suggestions and efforts contribute to the improvement of an area, they can learn something about how they can affect systems and decisions, and make their voices heard. Aasen, Grindheim, and Waters (2009) write about outside environment and children’s democratic participation. Their examples are taken from kindergartens, but nevertheless witness to how demanding it can be to implement processes of participation. In their own words; ‘When children and practitioners are working together the practitioner’s attitude towards the child should be characterized by sensitivity, nearness, ability, meaningfulness and respect’ (Aasen, Grindheim and Waters, 2009: 11–12). Young people’s perspectives provide an important foundation of knowledge concerning which local areas they make use of and what they miss, within a given period of time. The collaboration between adults and young people that we have described in the context of the Leitet process has been of importance for the final result (Camino, 2000; Sullivan et al. 2011; Augsberger, Collins, Gecker, and Dougher, 2016). Within the municipality, collaboration and the ability to see potential opportunities are perceived as important for implementation. In the context of community work, Camino (2000) emphasizes the importance of young people participation in their local environment, in close collaboration with adults. Camino features three dimensions of collaboration; principles and values, skills and competences, and an action-oriented method. In her research, Camino found that; Mentioned in interviews by nearly all youth and adults, were respect and equality. It is working with youth and not for youth (Camino, 2000: 14). She concludes; Youth and adult participation is a principle asset that all communities have the potential to tap (Camino, 2000: 19). Good results are not only due to young people participation; it is also a matter of accentuating the competence they possess. The Coordinator makes collaboration possible through facilitating the employment of municipal resources at the right time. Financial funding was available in Inner Laksevåg through the Area Development (grants from the Husbanken) that could be used to follow up on the Kids’ Tracks™ registration and other processes of participation. Even though the Municipality of Bergen is the major investor, supplementary funding stimulates constructive local processes and adds quality to investments and enterprises such as parkour. The realization of the project would have been difficult without clear political commitment to priority areas. Through dialogue, young people presented their ideas and overcome obstacles, and therefore experience agency in their own daily life. The process contributed to a strengthening of the sense of belonging and community, and probably also to a sense of individual and collective agency. Observing the process, from the Kids Tracks’ registration to contact with schools and collaboration with the representative from The Children’s City Space, it is evident to the Coordinator that many actors and departments have been involved. Planning, designing and implementation took more than two years. Perhaps several of those who participated were no longer interested in using Leitet? Judging by the previously-mentioned statement of pupil Sebastian Vaksdal, and the busy daily activity at the site, young people do make use of Leitet. Whether these are the same young people who participated in the process, however, is not clear. But what can nevertheless be concluded, is that many other children can enjoy a new and exciting space for play or, in the words of Twelvetrees, get a better deal (Twelvetrees, 2008: 2). As we write this, the site is used on a daily basis by young people of all ages and it is easily accessible for children and young people who want to meet and move around outside. Parents also bring younger children. Concluding remarks The process of making Leitet into what we see today shows some of the experiences from the area development of Inner Laksevåg. The commitment has assumed a comprehensive perspective that corresponds to the municipality objectives of physical, social and cultural enhancement, and of including different municipal departments as well as local residents. Area development is guided by long-term planning perspectives and predictable budgets. Leitet would never have become what it is today without the processes of participation from the young people, and the support and funding facilitated by the area development. The Coordinator role is important as instigator and facilitator for both residents and municipality. Such experiences with processes of participation can hopefully contribute to providing knowledge to local planners, who can again offer the conditions for increased participation in future projects. To make sure that all voices are heard is a challenge, but it is even more important to increase young people’s opportunities to influence democratic processes. The participation of children can be useful in particular cases, but of even greater value are the social long-term effects of cultivating democratic attitudes, abilities and knowledge from which society may benefit (Kjørholt, 2010: 19). The Kids Tracks™' registration and the group process indicates that participation and mobilization can provide results which are also important to others, and can constitute fundamental education in democratic principles. In this context, small projects, such as Leitet parkour site, are meaningful contributions both in terms of process and result. This project has provided new content to the space Leitet, which is still the only existing parkour site in Bergen. Leitet was planned with young people, based on their desires and needs, within the boundaries set by the municipality. Linda CM is a pre-school teacher and holds a master’s degree in community work. Her practical interests and research are related to children’s participation in area development, and to their possibilities for participation and contact with incarcerated fathers. Mary Alice Økland is a social worker, and holds a master’s degree in sociology. Her practical interests and research relate to area development and social housing. She has contributed to several articles, chapters and a book on community work and social housing. Kjell Henriksbø is a social worker and holds a master’s degree in political sciences. His practical and scholarly interests relate to anti-oppressive practice and local and social mobilization. Tobba Therkildsen Sudmann is a physiotherapist, and social scientist, with a PhD from Department of Global Health and Primary Care at the University of Bergen. Her research interest is related to how people use their bodily resources to enhance their well-being and social participation, whether the means are physical activity, horses, or technology. Publications and research are directed towards social inequality in health and anti-oppressive professional practice. Acknowledgements We would like to express our gratitude to Dr Penny Bayer for copy editing and final quality check on this article. Funding Mary Alice Økland’s and Linda Cathrine Nordgreen’s contribution is funded by the Municipality of Bergen, Kjell Henriksbø’s and Tobba Therkildsen Sudmann’s contribution is funded by his employer Western Western Norway University of Applied Science’s annual research grants. References Aasen , W. , Grindheim , L. T. and Waters , J. 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Negotiating obstacles in the making of a parkour site at Leitet – children and young people’s participation in area development

Community Development Journal , Volume Advance Article (3) – May 8, 2018

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Abstract

Abstract The article is based on the designing of a parkour site at Leitet, in the borough Laksevåg, in Bergen, Norway. It explains the different stages of participation and the process of developing the Leitet parkour site. The Municipality of Bergen plays a significant role in involving children and young people in area development. Dialogue and collaboration with residents and other actors in the area are identified as essential approaches. Laksevåg was given priority on the basis of several years of mapping and statistical research, confirming the importance of a comprehensive and coherent area development, both social and physical. The area is distinguished, negatively, from Bergen as a whole by several variables. The article also emphasizes the connection between living conditions and good social networks, active involvement, and participation in society. Introduction Anchored in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), the Norwegian Government White Paper: ‘Childhood and living conditions of children and young people in Norway’ (UN, 1989; St.meld. nr. 39, 2001–2002) concludes that the active engagement of children and young people is critical for an open and vital democracy. The Government, therefore, aims to encourage, amongst other things, coresponsibility and agency in individual lives and in society, starting from childhood and continuing through teenage years. In this article, the establishment of a new parkour site in a borough within the Municipality of Bergen, is used as a case study to show how pupils at the local secondary school (age thirteen to sixteen) and the municipality worked together in area development. The website Parkourpedia describes parkour as the combination of a philosophy/principles with a concept of movement, that concept being to move as if to escape or reach (Parkourpedia, 2017). Parkour involves moving around, pursuing and refining skills, and voluntary risk-taking. More importantly, it involves the deliberate use of urban environments and areas not originally designed for sport or leisure activities. Kidder (2013) states that parkour is a new and increasingly popular sport in which individuals athletically and artistically negotiate obstacles found in the urban environment (Kidder, 2013:1). Underpinning this is a philosophy of altruism and useful strength, longevity, self-improvement, and self-understanding (Parkourpedia, 2017). It is interesting to note that participation in the parkour project has a double meaning, not only to identify and overcome barriers in the development and design of Leitet, but also to overcome personal obstacles in the enactment of parkour as such. The article begins with a brief description of area and community development in the Municipality of Bergen. It then shows in detail how children and young people were invited to get involved in Barnetråkk™ (Kids’ Tracks™) and the development of Leitet parkour site. Kids’ Tracks™ (Norsk form, 2010) is an educational programme where children tell area planners, the municipality and local politicians how they use places where they live, and what is important to them in their local environment. The authors have followed the project from the Kids’ Tracks™ registration via the ongoing processes of participation in area development to the completion of Leitet parkour site. The article also highlights the process of young people’s involvement in and influence on the final result. Area development in Inner Laksevåg Bergen is the second largest city in Norway, with around 280,000 inhabitants. The Municipality of Bergen is organized in eight districts: Laksevåg is a borough near the city centre of Bergen. The area is planned to be more densely populated and compactly laid out, in accordance with the vision of Bergen as a well-functioning, urban, space-efficient and environmentally friendly city (Bergen Municipality, 2015). The state-initiated programme for area development is directed towards defined areas in the largest Norwegian cities. A similar ‘big city’ emphasis is found in other countries where significant challenges in living conditions are documented (Lawless, 2012). The White Paper The equalization report. Redistribution of income and living conditions in Norway (St.meld nr. 50, 1998-99) emphasizes that all inhabitants should receive a reasonable share of society’s material resources and that these resources should be distributed in a better and more just manner. In 2011 the Municipality of Bergen became part of a state programme and Inner Laksevåg became one of three main priorities for the city’s area development (Bergen Municipality, 2011; Husbanken, 2014). The work is politically anchored in the town council as owner of the area programme, and the municipality directors constitute the internal group of management (Bergen Municipality, 2012). Bergen town council has pinpointed objectives in area development (Bergen Municipality, 2012): Physical and technical upgrade and development Strengthening of social and cultural actions The establishment of arenas for dialogue and collaboration with residents and other actors in the area In order to establish closer dialogue and facilitate increased involvement, the Municipality of Bergen employed Coordinators for areas of community development. Among other tasks, they maintained the collaboration with local residents and organizations, which were bridgebuilders to the municipality’s system of decision-making, and played a coordinating role within the municipality and different service areas (Henriksbø and Grimen, 2014). Inner Laksevåg was given priority on the basis of several years of mapping and statistical research confirming the importance of a comprehensive and coherent area development. According to the report Living conditions and health in Bergen (Bergen Municipality, 2016), several variables distinguish the area negatively from other boroughs and Bergen as a whole. For example, the average income is lower (approximately GBP 4000 lower than the Bergen average of GBP 32,440), the involvement with child protective services is higher (Bergen 3.8 percent, Inner Laksevåg 6.8 percent), the level of child poverty is higher (Bergen 5.5 percent, Inner Laksevåg 13 percent), the level of physical inactivity among young people is higher (Bergen 17.4 percent, Inner Laksevåg 25.8 percent), as is the number of children entering school with insufficient language skills (Bergen 4.3 percent, Inner Laksevåg 8.11 percent). Around one in five (23 percent) of the inhabitants of Inner Laksevåg are immigrants, compared to the Bergen average of 13 percent. These immigrants are from Eastern Europa (and countries from former Eastern Europe which are now members of the EU), Asia, Africa, and Latin America. The municipality owns about 300 rental apartments in the area, and is one of five areas in Bergen with the most municipality apartments. The apartments are allocated according to a set of requirements and documentation of potential tenants’ limited opportunities in the open housing market. In addition, many tenants have problems with substance abuse. Oslo and Bergen are the Norwegian cities with the greatest problems of substance abuse and the only ones with downtown drug scenes. Bergen’s drug scene is presently located by the bridge between Bergen City and Inner Laksevåg (Nasjonal overdosestrategi, 2014-2017). In 2016 Inner Laksevåg had approximately 8700 inhabitants. A relatively high level of families with children (age zero to five years) were moving in and out of this area (Bergen 6 percent, Inner Laksevåg 9.4 percent). A high relocation index can hinder stable childhood environments and the development of good neighbourhoods. A resident survey (Ipsos MMI as, 2014) showed that 48 percent partially or completely disagreed that Inner Laksevåg had many good meeting places. The residents expressed a need for more local meeting places, this was also evident in the Kids Tracks registration. The two schools in the area will be demolished and reconstructed by 2020, and an additional meeting place could be a valuable contribution to the creation and sustenance of social networks. Kids’ Tracks™ – children’s own registration in outdoor spaces The Norwegian term ‘dyretråkk’ (animals track) refers to paths created by animals such as moose or deer over time, leaving visible trails in nature. Barnetråkk™ (Kids’ Tracks™, Norsk Form, 2010) is a methodological approach to children’s movements in outside spaces, which can be observed and mapped in the same manner as their parallels in the animal kingdom. It is a tool to get a better understanding of which areas children make use of when they move in their local environment. The purpose of the Kids’ Track™s registration is to encourage the involvement of children, to capture their experience and description of the local environment, and to register their information in order to take their interests into consideration in the municipality planning work. The Municipality of Bergen took the method developed by Norsk form as a point of departure (Norsk form, 2010). Through it, the municipality developed its knowledge about school tracks, short cuts, meeting places and other areas which are used or avoided. The hallmark of Kids’ Tracks registration is that the children themselves, in collaboration with planners from the municipality authorities, carry out the mapping of their local environment, with safe and unsafe zones in mind. In 2013 principals of the local schools gave permission to the area development project in cooperation with the Municipality of Bergen planning department, to carry out the Kids’ Tracks™ registration during school hours. Contact teachers for different grades were informed some days beforehand, so that they could prepare the children for the task. Seventy pupils from sixth grade and 115 pupils from ninth grade in the area’s two schools spent two days on mapping. The first day, after a common briefing about Kids’ Tracks™ by the Coordinator for Area Development and a City Planner from the Municipality of Bergen, the pupils formed groups based on residential area. The groups, (maximum eight young people) were given maps of the area in A3 format on which they drew school tracks, short cuts, where they like to hang out, places they avoided and physical changes they would like. The pupils then went outside with disposable cameras, taking pictures of the places they had previously marked on the map. The photos were printed that day, for use the following day. On the second day, in the same groups, the young people sorted the photos into categories suggested by the Area Coordinator: ‘like/love to be’; ‘needs improvement’; and ‘scary/dangerous’. They were then asked to choose two or three within each category. Some areas were marked with symbols: areas they especially liked (star symbol), and areas and school routes that were felt to be especially unsafe (lightening symbol). The photos were then glued onto a new corresponding map. After adding registrations, the maps looked as in Figure 1. After completing the registration, the planning department conducted an evaluation of the areas mentioned. The registration was and is used actively in Area Development as a work document for the implementation of improvements involving different departments. The registration revealed, amongst other things, that the young people desired improvements to playgrounds. Young people in the ninth grade (13–14 years) missed having a meeting place, such as a park, where they could spend time and hang out with friends. This last finding corresponded well with the resident survey that revealed a need for more meeting places. The process of designing a parkour site at Leitet As a consequence of the information received through the Kids’ Track™s registration regarding meeting places, the Coordinator of Inner Laksevåg contacted Holen School in February 2014, asking for permission to follow up on this topic by giving lower secondary school pupils an opportunity to participate in a young people group to focus on creating a meeting place. The meeting was announced on an information board at the school, and the Coordinator visited all classrooms to recruit for the meeting. The Coordinator was a familiar face to those who had previously participated in Kids’ Tracks. The young people who showed an interest had diverse backgrounds and all the lower secondary school grades were represented (thirteen to sixteen years), five girls and ten boys. Given the background of the Coordinator (holding a Master’s degree in Community work) with an emphasis on Freire and his perspective on dialogue and awareness, this became a backdrop for the process into which the young people and the Coordinator entered (Ledwith, 2011). Freire (1972) emphasizes that the dialogue is a collective process, a meeting between human beings who give the world names, and that one cannot give names on others’ behalf. Consequently, it was important to highlight topics and ideas that were important to the young people, here in the context of their leisure time activities. At the same time, the young people need to reflect on the spaces, or lack of them, available for their leisure activities, and the possibility of influencing decision makers to change this. Leitet, located approximately 100 m from the shopping centre, was a place well-known to the young people, where they already spent time (as shown in Figure 1). The playground was near an intersection, with regular traffic and heavy goods vehicle traffic. It contained a scuffed bench, two swings and a sandbox, and was in need of a major upgrade, which was already included in municipality plans. In the first meeting the young people expressed a wish for a place to spend time and meet others, and we discussed Leitet as a potential location for such a meeting place. Figure 1 View largeDownload slide Kids Tracks registration (Bergen Municipality, 2013). Holen School, Shopping centre, Leitet, Damsgård School Figure 1 View largeDownload slide Kids Tracks registration (Bergen Municipality, 2013). Holen School, Shopping centre, Leitet, Damsgård School The young people sat in smaller groups of three and four for the assignment to draw or write about the perfect meeting place. They presented a trampoline, skate ramp, tables and benches, a soda and water-vending machine, an open and illuminated place, access to sunlight and protection from rain. They described activities as well as the possibility to remain inactive if desired. Before the meeting finished, another meeting was set up a month later, where a representative of Barnas byrom (The Children’s City Space, department of the Municipality of Bergen) would participate. It employs an interdisciplinary working group, including architects and landscape architects. The Children’s City Space is a prioritized commitment for the Municipality of Bergen on upgrading public playgrounds. In the second meeting, there was an inspection of Leitet by the young people together with the Coordinator. The young people presented reflections about the space, commented that there was noise due to traffic, the sandbox was in bad condition, the space was wet and muddy, and much space was under-used. On the positive side, they reported a large and open space with swings, located near the shopping centre. After the inspection the meeting moved indoors and new suggestions were presented from the young people regarding the content of the space: for example, seats under a roof, a noise barrier, grill, basketball hoop, new ground surface (asphalt/grass), flowers, garbage bins, air hockey tables, swing set, toilet, slack line and facilities for climbing and table tennis (Figures 2–6). Figure 2 View largeDownload slide The planning process from February to March 2014 Figure 2 View largeDownload slide The planning process from February to March 2014 Figure 3 View largeDownload slide The final part of the planning process in April and May 2014 Figure 3 View largeDownload slide The final part of the planning process in April and May 2014 Figure 4 View largeDownload slide An ordinary afternoon in August 2016 at Leitet parkour site Figure 4 View largeDownload slide An ordinary afternoon in August 2016 at Leitet parkour site Figure 5 View largeDownload slide The figure shows the process of consultation, planning, design and implementation from autumn 2014 to summer 2016 Figure 5 View largeDownload slide The figure shows the process of consultation, planning, design and implementation from autumn 2014 to summer 2016 Figure 6 View largeDownload slide Different phases of the making of the parkour site at Leitet Figure 6 View largeDownload slide Different phases of the making of the parkour site at Leitet The third meeting took place in April: the young people were informed of place and time via text message. The representative from The Children’s City Space presented a first draft of possible solutions of the playground. Young people responded with several additional comments, such as including a hammock and painting colours on the ground. The draft included a half pipe (skate ramp), but a number of young people expressed a preference for a skating box or rail for skateboarding. As these elements would have occupied much space and left little room for other functions, parkour was suggested by some of the young people. Jeffrey Kidder (Kidder, 2013) has studied parkour and those who practice the sport. He writes that parkour can resemble skating, only without the skateboard. The skateboarders of the young people group in Inner Laksevåg preferred to have a good skateboarding park than a second-rate one, and suggested other local areas more suited for skating. When the representative from The Children’s City Space returned in May for a fourth meeting to have a closer look at different drafts, it was time for the young people to make a choice between skateboarding and parkour. It was a finely balanced decision but parkour was the final choice. The young people considered that there were already spaces for skateboarding, but few for just hanging out. After a discussion it was decided by the young people that the site should include parkour, as well as other elements. The decision was influenced by several young people who knew about parkour and had seen it on film. As a result of the group choice of parkour, the original plan of the municipality was amended. The municipality had planned to upgrade what was already on the site rather than introduce new elements such as a parkour pitch. The Leitet parkour facility was designed as a colourful site with new lighting, several parkour structures, seats that could also serve as tables, a basketball hoop, a trampoline, balance balls, a hammock, a parasol, grass, plants, and rubbish bins. Leitet parkour site is now a place for rehearsal and demonstration of new skills, which can later be expanded to free movement in an urban and natural environment. The local newspaper interviewed ninth-grader Sebastian Vaksdal at the opening of the parkour site. He summed up his experience of the process: I think this is fantastic. It is good that they include us and ask us, the users, about our interests (Edvardsen, 2016). Sebastian Vaksdal also attended a short movie about the parkour site at Leitet and the prior process. The movie was published in January 2018 (Pandora Film AS, 2017). Engaging in making and shaping Cornwall and Gaventa (2001) remind us that some participants have limited influence, despite efforts to include everyone. In their view, more voices are heard and more people included if collaborative work is undertaken. Seeing the potential of working in collaboration with active residents in order to find new and better possibilities for the local community is important in community work. In a discussion of the Scandinavian welfare model, Sivesind (2016) points to the centrality of the democracy perspective, and especially the importance of local democracy. The democratic processes are also emphasized by writers of a Nordic book in English on community work (Hutchinson, 2009; Ronnby, 2009; Økland and Henriksbø, 2009). The accentuation of local coparticipation is a central element in the area development and has, in our view, encouraged the effort to include young people in the process. Participation is a key word in community work (Larsen, Sewpaul and Hole, 2013; Ledwith and Springett, 2010; Minkler and Wallerstein, 2005). Through participating processes, young people were given influence on decisions affecting themselves in their local environment. Efforts were also made to give an insight into and knowledge about democratic processes and, hopefully, a certainty that their participation would generate positive changes for the community as a whole. It was essential to the result that the young participants would work with the Coordinator and the representative from The Children’s City Space. Young people contributed experience and knowledge about their local environment and interests, previously unknown to the Coordinator. The Coordinator, on the other hand, brought knowledge about what was possible and the challenges to be resolved. Implementing the young people Leitet project, the municipality has to deal with a number of premises, laws and regulations concerning budgets, location, design, etc. In addition, the proposition has to pass through different processes of detailed planning, projection, bidding, and construction, extending the time frame of the project. The project consisted of three phases: phase one was planning, phase two was designing and phase three was the implementation. The degree of coparticipation varied according to the phase of the work (Figure 7). Figure 7 View largeDownload slide Roger Hart’s Ladder of children’s participation (Hart, 1992) Figure 7 View largeDownload slide Roger Hart’s Ladder of children’s participation (Hart, 1992) The process of young people’s participation occurred in the planning phase. During this phase, the young people were given influence on what a particular space (Leitet) should include. But in this phase, there were also limitations related to the fact that the location was already defined and that the space was restricted physically. The space was regulated as a playground by the municipality, which meant that other functions would be out of the question. Given these limited conditions, Leitet acquired its present form with involvement from the young people in the local school. The development of phase two was carried out by the representative from The Children’s City Space. From this phase onwards, leading to implementation in phase three, young people were informed about the plans, but were no longer offered the opportunity of affecting the final result. This meant that they were given a passive role, while adults performed the work. The Municipality of Bergen is obliged to act in accordance with specific demands related to construction and execution. Ideally, the young people should have had the opportunity to participate in all three phases, in order to gain a greater sense of ownership of the space. The different degrees of participation in the process leading to the creation of the parkour facility can be illustrated using the ladder of children’s participation in planning, developed by Hart (1992) (Figure 7). His point of departure is the following: ‘A nation is democratic to the extent its citizens are involved, particularly at the community level. The confidence and competence to be involved must be gradually acquired through practice. It is for this reason that there should be gradually increasing opportunity for children to participate in any aspiring democracy’ (Hart, 1992: 4). Hart has thus designed a children’s version of Sherry Arnstein’s famous Ladder of Participation (Arnstein, 1969). Participation should, he argues, be a resident’s privilege. ‘It might be argued that ‘participation’ in society begins from the moment a child enters the world and discovers the extent to which she is able to influence events by cries or movements’ (Hart, 1992: 4). As expressed by Hart, children are social actors who affect and are affected by their environment, and one can consequently conclude that individuals and structures influence each other. Parts of the Leitet process are located high up on Hart’s ladder, where the young people were given free rein to influence. Nevertheless, steps four to six in his ladder are most evident in the process. Step four is assigned but informed, characterised by adult-led activities in which young people understand the purpose of participation and the decision-making process, and have a role. Step five is consulted and informed, characterised by adult-led activities in which young people are consulted and informed about how their registrations will be used and outcomes of adult decisions. Step six involves adult-initiated activities where decision-making is shared with young people. Brownill (2009) highlights the project Cowley Road Matters (Oxford, England) as an example of participation in city planning. Contribution was emphasized through different processes of participation, including interviews, workshops and user surveys. Similarly, in the context of Leitet, evaluations such as Kids’ Tracks™ and the resident survey were conducted prior to the workshops. As we can see, the projects Cowley Road Matters and Leitet share some characteristics at this stage of the process. The project Cowley Road Matters demonstrated that the processes of participation strengthened involvement in the local environment, as well as the principle of frontloading. Frontloading refers to project plans where the greatest effort is concentrated early in the process. However, the project also showed that the processes of participation had limited influence on the final result. The Coordinator of Cowley Road Matters was interviewed once after the processes of participation had ended, and again after the implementation. In the first interview the Coordinator saw the influence of local residents as substantial, while in the second the influence was perceived to be minor. It is thus relevant to ask to what extent the possibility of influence on the final result was real, and what may have affected this. Brownill (2009: 373) writes: ‘The Cowley Road example has shown new roles, relationships and tensions are emerging within current attempts to increase participation in planning.’ In Cowley Road as well as in Leitet, most consultation activities occurred during the planning period, when participants were informed about the municipality plans (frontloading). The representative from The Children’s City Space handled the technical implementation at Leitet, based on the knowledge and experience expressed by the young people. Contrary to the findings of the Cowley project, the Coordinator of Inner Laksevåg found that the young people had a great influence on the contents of the space. The dialogue and development of ideas produced through the young people group became the critical factors. The main task of the municipality was to look at options to accommodate the young people’s ideas. Through the processes of participation, the young people could see results from their involvement. What inspired the decisions is uncertain, as the group had several voices. It was not given that parkour would be the ultimate choice. At the same time, it is important to emphasize the question of how representative the processes of participation actually were, as only a few young people attended the meetings. That said, we all influence our environment by our mere presence (Hart, 1992: 4), and in many cases the competence and ability to participate of children is underestimated (Hart, 1992: 15). Although all the young people spoke at some point, some were more active than others. According to Cornwall and Hart, being involved in a process is not equivalent to actually having a voice. People need to feel able to express themselves without fear of reprisals or the expectation of not being listened to or not being taken seriously (Cornwall, 2008: 278; Hart, 1992). Taking into account that the group was made up of ten boys and five girls, it is possible that the choice of parkour was a result of this particular composition, and would probably have been a different choice had the group composition been different. If other ideas had been presented, the municipality would have accommodated them to the same extent as the proposals of parkour and other elements present at Leitet. Parkour and participation Parkour involves movement in urban space, but it distinguishes itself from ordinary movement by the purpose of its practice. In addition to movement, parkour accentuates the ability to escape (Parkourpedia, 2017). In the description of Højbjerre Larsen (2016: 295–309), play and voluntary risk taking has an important role in developing parkour skills. Many will see parkour as a high risk activity with a high probability of injury. Lupton (1999) has portrayed people who seek out and practice activities considered to be of high risk, and comments that much academic literature carries a notion that risk is something negative and synonymous with danger (Lupton, 1999: 148). ‘In some social contexts, risk-taking is actively encouraged as a means of escaping from the bounds of everyday life, achieving self-actualization, demonstrating the ability to go beyond expectations of performing gender’ (Lupton, 1999: 171; Lyng, 2014). Lupton continues; ‘Risk positions may be important to people’s sense of self-identity as part of a social group or sub-culture. People who live in areas designated as high risk may define themselves positively as ‘survivors’ and ‘battlers’, as part of a community that has chosen to ignore experts’ warnings and continue to live in these areas’ (Lupton, 1999: 112–113). The idea of parkour as an urban sport and a philosophy has resonance with aspects of community development and democratic participation. Along similar lines, Hart (1992: 9) emphasizes that adults sometimes underestimate young people’s capabilities and the actual degree of their participation. On the contrary, the concept of parkour encourages independent thinking and the choice of life paths; ‘this concept allows for a great amount of creativity and freedom within what we do, it also calls for us to think for ourselves and make our own path our own way’ (Parkourpedia, 2017). In an interview, David Belle, considered the founder and leading pioneer of the parkour discipline, says that with practice the athletes of parkour will see what is possible and what is not. ‘You learn through good technique not to take stupid risks. I wanted to show that there’s a method that allows you to overcome obstacles, to navigate obstacles without taking major risks’ (Parkourpedia, 2017). Based on the premise that young people want the best for themselves and their local environment, they can contribute if given the opportunity. This notion has a parallel in the underlying thinking of parkour, which can be defined as a philosophy of altruism involving mutual help and care of others (Parkourpedia, 2017). Sudmann and Henriksbø (2015) emphasize the role of children, arguing that community work builds on the conviction that everybody, including children, has knowledge and competence, determination and the ability to influence their environment and improve their life conditions. In addition, social communities are based on the idea that every single individual is capable of evaluating her own situation and orient herself towards other people and her environment, and capable of acting and interacting according (Henriksbø and Sudmann, 2011:2, my translation). It is, however, important that adults also participate in the process. The article ‘A place for young people in the social policy life of their communities’ (Sullivan et al. 2011) argues that the adult approach to support and acknowledgement is an important factor in young people participation. According to Hart participation of children is not meant to substitute that of adults (Hart, 1992: 31). Children and young people as important collaborators Brian Head (2011: 543–544) presents three aspects that are important for the increased participation of children and young people in issues that affect them: rights, efficiency, and development. As an example of rights, Head points to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. In terms of efficiency, he shows that services that directly affect young people become more efficient when young people’s perspectives are included in the planning process. Municipality services could thus be performed in a more cost-efficient manner. The third aspect is connected to the benefits of development, as young people’s experience of collectively participating in a democracy in cases that affect them. MacNaughton, Hughes, and Smith (2007) have taken a special interest in childhood and children’s voices, and discuss different ways in which children have been addressed in Western thinking. Children have the right to participate and their inputs represent important contributions. In the processes of participation leading up to the parkour facility, the adults’ perception of young people as competent actors was a crucial factor. Head, as well as MacNaughton, Hughes, and Smith, see children and young people as social participants, agents, whose participation is important and meaningful. Similarly, Hart, whose work has focused on children’s development in relation to the physical environment, sees participation as a fundamental right for members of society (Hart, 1992: 5). Area Development is about forces pulling in the same direction, be that the municipality or local young people (Økland and Henriksbø, 2009; Økland, 2012; Henriksbø and Grimen, 2014). In the planning of Leitet, as community work, emphasis has been on working together, and not just on providing young people services. Processes of participation are challenging, as they require competence, time and resources, as well as the theoretical and value-oriented foundation needed to see young people as resources, and not just passive recipients (Camino, 2000; Sullivan et al. 2011; Augsberger et al. 2017; Brennan, Barnett and Lesmeister, 2007; Checkoway, 2011). When young people’s suggestions and efforts contribute to the improvement of an area, they can learn something about how they can affect systems and decisions, and make their voices heard. Aasen, Grindheim, and Waters (2009) write about outside environment and children’s democratic participation. Their examples are taken from kindergartens, but nevertheless witness to how demanding it can be to implement processes of participation. In their own words; ‘When children and practitioners are working together the practitioner’s attitude towards the child should be characterized by sensitivity, nearness, ability, meaningfulness and respect’ (Aasen, Grindheim and Waters, 2009: 11–12). Young people’s perspectives provide an important foundation of knowledge concerning which local areas they make use of and what they miss, within a given period of time. The collaboration between adults and young people that we have described in the context of the Leitet process has been of importance for the final result (Camino, 2000; Sullivan et al. 2011; Augsberger, Collins, Gecker, and Dougher, 2016). Within the municipality, collaboration and the ability to see potential opportunities are perceived as important for implementation. In the context of community work, Camino (2000) emphasizes the importance of young people participation in their local environment, in close collaboration with adults. Camino features three dimensions of collaboration; principles and values, skills and competences, and an action-oriented method. In her research, Camino found that; Mentioned in interviews by nearly all youth and adults, were respect and equality. It is working with youth and not for youth (Camino, 2000: 14). She concludes; Youth and adult participation is a principle asset that all communities have the potential to tap (Camino, 2000: 19). Good results are not only due to young people participation; it is also a matter of accentuating the competence they possess. The Coordinator makes collaboration possible through facilitating the employment of municipal resources at the right time. Financial funding was available in Inner Laksevåg through the Area Development (grants from the Husbanken) that could be used to follow up on the Kids’ Tracks™ registration and other processes of participation. Even though the Municipality of Bergen is the major investor, supplementary funding stimulates constructive local processes and adds quality to investments and enterprises such as parkour. The realization of the project would have been difficult without clear political commitment to priority areas. Through dialogue, young people presented their ideas and overcome obstacles, and therefore experience agency in their own daily life. The process contributed to a strengthening of the sense of belonging and community, and probably also to a sense of individual and collective agency. Observing the process, from the Kids Tracks’ registration to contact with schools and collaboration with the representative from The Children’s City Space, it is evident to the Coordinator that many actors and departments have been involved. Planning, designing and implementation took more than two years. Perhaps several of those who participated were no longer interested in using Leitet? Judging by the previously-mentioned statement of pupil Sebastian Vaksdal, and the busy daily activity at the site, young people do make use of Leitet. Whether these are the same young people who participated in the process, however, is not clear. But what can nevertheless be concluded, is that many other children can enjoy a new and exciting space for play or, in the words of Twelvetrees, get a better deal (Twelvetrees, 2008: 2). As we write this, the site is used on a daily basis by young people of all ages and it is easily accessible for children and young people who want to meet and move around outside. Parents also bring younger children. Concluding remarks The process of making Leitet into what we see today shows some of the experiences from the area development of Inner Laksevåg. The commitment has assumed a comprehensive perspective that corresponds to the municipality objectives of physical, social and cultural enhancement, and of including different municipal departments as well as local residents. Area development is guided by long-term planning perspectives and predictable budgets. Leitet would never have become what it is today without the processes of participation from the young people, and the support and funding facilitated by the area development. The Coordinator role is important as instigator and facilitator for both residents and municipality. Such experiences with processes of participation can hopefully contribute to providing knowledge to local planners, who can again offer the conditions for increased participation in future projects. To make sure that all voices are heard is a challenge, but it is even more important to increase young people’s opportunities to influence democratic processes. The participation of children can be useful in particular cases, but of even greater value are the social long-term effects of cultivating democratic attitudes, abilities and knowledge from which society may benefit (Kjørholt, 2010: 19). The Kids Tracks™' registration and the group process indicates that participation and mobilization can provide results which are also important to others, and can constitute fundamental education in democratic principles. In this context, small projects, such as Leitet parkour site, are meaningful contributions both in terms of process and result. This project has provided new content to the space Leitet, which is still the only existing parkour site in Bergen. Leitet was planned with young people, based on their desires and needs, within the boundaries set by the municipality. Linda CM is a pre-school teacher and holds a master’s degree in community work. Her practical interests and research are related to children’s participation in area development, and to their possibilities for participation and contact with incarcerated fathers. Mary Alice Økland is a social worker, and holds a master’s degree in sociology. Her practical interests and research relate to area development and social housing. She has contributed to several articles, chapters and a book on community work and social housing. Kjell Henriksbø is a social worker and holds a master’s degree in political sciences. His practical and scholarly interests relate to anti-oppressive practice and local and social mobilization. Tobba Therkildsen Sudmann is a physiotherapist, and social scientist, with a PhD from Department of Global Health and Primary Care at the University of Bergen. Her research interest is related to how people use their bodily resources to enhance their well-being and social participation, whether the means are physical activity, horses, or technology. Publications and research are directed towards social inequality in health and anti-oppressive professional practice. Acknowledgements We would like to express our gratitude to Dr Penny Bayer for copy editing and final quality check on this article. Funding Mary Alice Økland’s and Linda Cathrine Nordgreen’s contribution is funded by the Municipality of Bergen, Kjell Henriksbø’s and Tobba Therkildsen Sudmann’s contribution is funded by his employer Western Western Norway University of Applied Science’s annual research grants. References Aasen , W. , Grindheim , L. T. and Waters , J. 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Community Development JournalOxford University Press

Published: May 8, 2018

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