The project consists of two intertwined parts or phases, which will run in parallel throughout the project and strengthen, presuppose and enrichen each other. All participants are considered as knowledge producers in both phases. The first is the ethnographic phase where the children show us their city. The urban space will in this phase be studied with different methods, both traditional and experimental. The children will act as co-researchers (Hillén 2013a &b) and take part in a collective learning process (Kellett 2010). Methods used includes walk-a-longs where children acts as guides to show their urban spaces (cf. Högdahl 2003), photos taken by the children to document their environment and photomapping may be used to visualize the children’s thoughts, wishes, and views (Greene & Hogan 2005). To understand how children actually use their neighborhood, informal observations will be made.
The other parallel phase is characterized by participatory action research (cf. Argyris et al. 1985; Faga 2006) where children, teachers and planners interact. It consists of learning workshops lead by pedagogical experts and documented/analyzed by researchers in a collaborative process with all involved actors. This is a reflective process involving a systematic cyclical method of planning, taking action, observing, evaluating (including self-evaluation) and critical reflecting prior to planning the next cycle (cf. Reason & Bradbury 2001).The workshops we will carry out, may be considered as capacity-building based on interactive and collaborative learning processes as basis for change (Innes & Booher 2010). The expectations of the participants compared to the perceived outcomes will be addressed along with levels of empowerment, as described by Senbel and Church (2011), and levels of participation based on Harts (1997) Ladder of Participation.
To gain knowledge about children’s different perspectives, and as a way to put children’s views into action, new ICT-tools will be used; e.g. Minecraft: a free online game recently initiated as a tool for citizen dialogues; and Urbania: a web-based soft-GIS visualization tool not requiring expert knowledge. Iivari, Kinnula, & Kuure (2015) state that children have been recognized as an important user group for ICT-tools and there are interesting methods for involving themin ICT design. Levy, Martens, & van der Heijden (2015) say that a common criticismagainst citizen participation is that the process can be difficult and slow. However, those problems can be easily overcome. ICT-tools makes it possible to extend public participation to a wider sphere of urban planning matters (ibid:313). Therefore, a theoretical framework with potential to grasp over the issue of increased citizen participation in urban development need to be based not only on theory related to participation and empowerment, but also to action research. ICT-tools that can be used in processes similar to this are games and geographic information systems (GIS) (e.g. Nordin et al. 2005). Gaming is mainly used to gain understanding on sustainability and urban development but also in participatory design projects (Løssing, 2005; Eriksson 2013; Billger et al. 2012). The computer game Minecraft has been used, e.g. in the Swedish project “My neighbourhood”, but also in developing countries (Arkitekten, 2013). Senbel and Church (2011) conclude that visualization media can facilitate the process but “it is evident that improving dialogue to the point of empowerment requires much more than simple tool development”, and can be used in exposed areas (Young & Barrett 2001). The methods used in our project will facilitate empowerment of children and youth by using visualization as a tool for their participation in fieldwork and workshops.