youth people at night

One of the main aims of the Tonite project is to activate and involve locals in reshaping their communities.  Among the 19 selected sub-projects in Tonite, I have decided to focus on two projects, both of which accentuate the role played by young people in community development. The first one is Aurora in Movimento, a project that organises itinerant sports activities (aerobics, basketball, other team sports) and street games in public spaces in the evening and at night with the support of youth volunteers. These activities brought locals together to better understand the needs of the community.  The second project - Yalla Aurora - renovated an abandoned laundry shop into a new hub co-designed and co-managed by young people. This physical infrastructure will serve the community also after the end of the project.

Despite each project’s different approach, both managed to engage local youth. This aspect is key since it is often young people who are identified as troublemakers in the use of public spaces.  In these projects, the youth were involved in seeking solutions to counter fears of crime and disorder and the general perception of insecurity.

Aurora in Movimento is an itinerant project, run by the UISP Torino (Italian Union Sport for All) in collaboration with other local organisations (Associazione Arteria Onlus, ASD Balon Mundial Onlus and Orizzonti di libertà) working on youth engagement and sports.

In the project, six young people living in the area were recruited. After having received community engagement training, they put theory into practice by engaging with the local community. During the activities these ‘young leaders’ (this is the nickname they have) spoke with community members (both young and old) and encouraged them to participate in the activities.

The sports activities were organised from 6.30 to 8.30 PM in autumn and wintertime and from 8 to 10.30 PM in spring and summer time, four days per week in different areas of the neighbourhood, such as gardens (the Giardini Alimonda), small squares (Piazza Borgo Dora), and other recreational areas next to the river. Some of the chosen areas had been labelled as problematic (dark corners or benches where marginals loitered), while other areas, e.g. gardens, were frequented by different groups of citizens (elderly people, mothers with children, youth).

A wide range of activities were offered (volleyball, basketball, light fit, table-football, darts, hip hop, street games for children, etc.) along with other complementary open-air activities, such as the Italian language course for adults while children played sports. A first of its kind five-man football competition of the neighbourhood took place and additional group activities were organised, such as walks along the Dora river, tactical urbanism activities (i.e. citizen-led neighbourhood building activities) and community engagement next to one of the pedestrian bridges. All these group activities aimed at strengthening social ties within and across communities.

Yalla Aurora is one of the Tonite projects that carried out structural interventions by renovating and opening private indoor spaces to local communities. In particular, this project renovated an abandoned former laundry next to a local mosque, which is located in a street (via Chiavasso) that had been empty for years.

The project is run by The Islamic Association of the Alps and by a smaller organisation founded by a group of refugees, Generazione Ponte. Project members were able to involve other young people and students, Italians and foreign-origin youth, without a specific connection to the religion. The renovation of the space started in November 2021 and ended in May 2022. The citizens' engagement began by promoting an initial public presentation, and then seven co-design meetings open to the entire community were held. The meetings focused on how to organise the spaces inside the hub, which activities to promote within the hub and in public spaces and, finally, how to communicate the activities. The hub offers a study/coworking room, cultural meetings (from cinema to reading club), language courses and, more generally, a space for the local communities. In addition, the hub has been used to organise conferences and events.

Both projects were able to achieve the primary aim of improving liveability in the evening and the night (see the analysis of the 19 projects carried out here). Yalla Aurora established a group to keep the community hub open at night. Aurora in Movimento persuaded young people to get involved in community activities and engage in dialogue with people who are commonly identified (no matter if this is true or false because the project deals with perception) as one of the area’s security problems. Furthermore, other Tonite sub-projects, such as Dora in Avanti and Usanze Pellegrine collaborated in designing and organising additional activities like clean-up campaigns along the Dora River and dinners in the public spaces.

Projects’ legacies:

  • a renovated indoor space that can be used to continue current activities, promote new services for the neighbourhood, and further connect established projects with new organisations
  • newly established connections among citizens and more awareness about opportunities in  the neighbourhood;
  • continuation of activities on a small scale, thanks to efforts of participating organisations and local volunteers

We had already underlined for all 19 selected projects, that it was unclear how well the selected interventions can complement those of the urban authority. Now that the projects have been completed, this question is somehow more urgent.

There are two key considerations when analysing not only the Aurora in Movimento and Yalla Aurora projects, but also all the projects on a broader scale.

The first pertains to the social and educational services provided by the projects. Low threshold activities that get in touch with people living at the margins did not have any connection with the city social services and this did not give any possibilities to make the first contact more stable. Should these activities be maintained in the future and better connected to the municipality social services? Or is this not a priority to improve the city urban security?

The second one pertains to the urban authority’s regeneration strategy. How does the renovation of indoor and outdoor spaces (not only in Yalla Aurora project but also in Leone Ginzburg campus, Baracot and Bocciofila 2.0 project) relate to public strategies?

To further gains made in these projects, the urban authority needs to address this question.

About this resource

Valeria Ferraris, UIA Expert
Turin, Italy
About UIA
Urban Innovative Actions

The Urban Innovative Actions (UIA) is a European Union initiative that provided funding to urban areas across Europe to test new and unproven solutions to urban challenges. The initiative had a total ERDF budget of €372 million for 2014-2020.

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