Young people and commercial spaces – what is it about and what to do with it?
In present day Finland, young people tend not to gather outdoors like they used to about 15 years ago. Instead they hang out with their friends indoors in warm, homey spaces that are open long and easily accessible; for example shopping centres, service stations and supermarkets. These commercial spaces have become important settings for young people’s hanging out which is important to young people since they need unscheduled and unorganized time when they can just be with their friends and grow up; search their own identity and values, practice social interaction with peers and other adults than their parents.
Some young people spend all of their free time in commercial spaces and to these heavy users (see picture below) e.g. a shopping centre can be the most important space of their social life. Among them there are those who do not have possibilities to spend a lot of money, meet peers in other places or practise sports and other activities. Shopping centres, service stations and supermarkets are spaces that are (usually) open to everyone and they offer an important way to join the community and be social to those who are at disadvantage otherwise.
All together this means that the personnel, guards and owners of these spaces are facing a new and unfamiliar task – how to cope with growing youngsters!
Youth Service Association (Nuorten Palvelu ry) is a national non-governmental organisation in Finland that was founded in 1969. Since 2010 the organisation has worked in cooperation with different companies and commercial property owners. Longtime partners include e.g. the multinational companies Citycon Oyj and Securitas. Also other national shopping centre owners and managers, service stations and educational institutions that educate youth workers or security personnel are our partners.
Currently the organisation is aiming to enhance young people’s participation, social responsibility and equality in commercial spaces and also develop the communication and understanding between young people and the adults who work in these spaces. These adults include the owners, administrators and staff of the spaces; tenants, guards and customer servants.
Methods used in the project include:
- Increasing the participation of young people in the design and development of shopping centres
- Making rules of behaving in commercial spaces with young people
- Educating and training the personnel (e.g. guards, tenants and service staff) of commercial spaces
- Educating the students studying e.g. youth work or security
- Creating multi-disciplinary networks around the commercial spaces
- researching and providing information of the phenomena in different ways
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pauliina.lampela @ nuortenpalvelu.fi
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