The city of Mortsel (a Belgian town of +/- 25,000 inhabitants) had a vibrant Youth Centre for many years: it was the meeting spot for young people in town, with concerts and all kind of activities being organised in a multifunctional building. Over the years, the city’s population has changed a lot (it became more diverse) and only a very specific group still connected with the Youth Centre.
The city administration decided to use the momentum not only to think about the future use of a building, but to investigate what matters to young people in Mortsel. They decided to work with Voices That Count and to use its Large-Scale Listening methodology. A trained group of civil servants from different departments (not only youth workers) took the streets and truly listened to the young people in Mortsel: what makes them feel at home? What are their needs? Which public spaces do they visit? And how can we make young people to take responsibility for their meeting places?
In the end 468 stories of young people were collected at the skate ground, at the school gate, near the popular pizza restaurant. The collected stories were analysed during two online (corona times…) workshops. The insights found their way in different city departments: leisure, public safety/police, welfare.
Two years later, we see a more diverse group of young people taking ownership over the Youth Centre. Following the insights of the Large-Scale Listening study, fixed activities are replaced by moments to ‘hop in’. Social and youth workers only play the role of ‘enabler’: they connect young people with the ‘new’ space and support initiatives if needed. This new way of working helped the city to keep finger on the pulse in the youth communities and take their needs into account.