About us

The project is about how children and youth can have more substantial impact on urban development and focuses on three questions: (a) how children as part of their school work can become co-creators of urban space, (b) in what way ICT-tools can facilitate this process, and (c) how to establish a continuous dialogue between school children and planners in urban transformation processes.

The case study for the project is an urban transformation process in a stigmatized suburb of Gothenburg, Hammarkullen, which focuses both physical aspects and social problems. Ensuing the UNCRC, the co-creators in this project are children and youths in a local school.The study is based on ethnographic and participatory action research approaches, and will be carried out in co-operation with stakeholders in the municipality, with special assignments to work with citizen dialogue. The theoretical framework includes theories of empowerment, deliberative democracy, and participatory action research. The research is carried out in two parallel and intertwined phases. In the ethnographic phase children and teachers are involved as both informants and co-researchers. The phase of participatory action research consists of workshops in the school, led by pedagogical experts, and revolves around testing ICT-tools for co-creation of the urban space. This phase includes relating to municipal planners responsible for ongoing transformation process with densification and refurbishment in the case study area.


PhD | Project leader | University of Gothenburg | Sweden

Sandra Hillén sandra.hillen@cfk.gu.se

Associate Professor | Chalmers University of Technology | Sweden

Jenny Stenberg jenny.stenberg@chalmers.se

Associate Professor | University of Gothenburg | Sweden

Barbro Johansson barbro.johansson@cfk.gu.se

Professor | Chalmers University of Technology | Sweden

Monica Billger monica.billger@chalmers.se

Senior Lecturer | University of Gothenburg | Sweden

Lasse Fryk lasse.fryk@socwork.gu.se

Social worker | School counselor at Nytorp School Hammarkullen | Sweden

Ola Terlegård olaterlegard@gmail.com

Associate Professor | Chalmers University of Technology | Sweden

Liane Thuvander liane.thuvander@chalmers.se

Theoretical themes


imply ‘effective citizenship’ in a process where inhabitants gain knowledge and skills to play a meaningful role in local decision-making (Andrews et al. 2006). Empowerment in planning and organization of local societies implies inhabitants as key actors in governance city improvment processes (Swyngedouw 2005; Faga 2006; Lyons et al. 2001).
Research based on Swedish experiences argues that the highest level of empowerment occurs in the phase of independence: “Empowerment releases and redirects energy, and to a certain extent it can also be considered a source of new energy” (Stenberg & Fryk 2012:3286), even though children are also in need of a supportive setting (cf. Hillén 2013a). Improving a dialogue to the point of empowerment requires more than mere tool development (Senbel & Church 2011). It implies institutional changes in e.g. planning offices. Therefore, analyses of the relationship to institutions on a higher level are necessary, as they need to acclimatize to public participation and practice (Fung 2006). When inhabitants are co-actors in urban change, they become producers rather than mere consumers of the urban environment.

Deliberative democracy

(Bessette 1980) can be described as equal distributions of power, while in other situations the term refers to decision-making directly by lay citizens, as in direct democracy. For democracy to be deliberative in research, all participants must be given time to understand and discuss the scientific process. Deliberative processes also include joined evaluations such as scientific peer review, oppositional presentation of competing arguments, and refereed journals. Deliberative democracy tends to produce outcomes which are superior to those in other forms of democracy (Fishkin 2011), where opposing views are generally met with greater respect which leads to greater chances for shared consensus and social cohesion between people fromdifferent backgrounds.

Participatory action research

(PAR) is a collaborative action based approach that emphasize reflection and empowerment (cf. Freire 1970; Young & Barrett 2001). It is a way of understanding the world by trying to change it, and it is common in the field of rural and community development. PAR is linked to open politics and deliberative democracy and committed to problemsolving, to democratize knowledge making and to ground it in real community needs using research adapted to support rural participation and sustainable livelihoods (cf. Argyris et al. 1985; Faga 2006). PAR is also about reflecting and learning throughout the process, and is compatible with working tools like ICTs.