The South Park Youth Vision Project

Juntos Podemos Nuestro Rio Duwamish

This project aimed to create a sense of belonging in the city by using an app adapted from the Urban Belonging Project in Copenhagen.

A Visionary Project between the DVSA and the City of Seattle

The South Park Youth Vision Project is an interdisciplinary, community-based research project based in Seattle, Washington, with a focus on the neighborhood of South Park. Our goal is to understand the complexities of the South Park community’s needs and challenges through the lived experience of community members, and co-create policy strategies for meaningful local change. The project centers three POC youth as leaders of community engagement strategies and policy design efforts, with the ambition of elevating them as future community leaders. With the value of upholding the labor and visions of existing community organizations in South Park, we aim to prioritize community autonomy in our project outcomes.

About the Project

The Duwamish Valley Sustainability Association (DVSA), was one of six community-based organizations (CBO) to be selected by the City of Seattle to help design and carry out public engagement strategies for strategies for the Seattle 2035 Comprehensive Plan Update, and the Seattle Transportation Plan – funded by OPCD and SDOT, respectively. The original project scope from the City was to conduct a survey based off of the six issue briefs extracted from the Comprehensive Plan: Climate Change, Transportation, Parks and Open Space, Housing, Economic Development, and Growth Strategy. However, following conversations with other CBO partners and with the Youth Leaders, it became clear that our engagement scope needed to expand beyond surveys in order to better support the South Park community, and to prioritize equitable engagement and data collection practices.

Community Generated data: agency + capturing nuance

As a team, we wanted to elevate how data is political, personal, and vulnerable. We firmly believe communities participating in data collection engagement strategies should have agency over the data that they generate and what information is shared with the city.  Through conversations with the youth leaders we learned that over recent years, the community has seen groups come and go with surveys and no follow through. However well intentioned, these extractive practices have led to a lack of trust, from the community members towards outside organizations and City officials.


Photovoice as a powerful methodology

Photovoice is a visual research methodology that puts cameras into the participants' hands to help them to document, reflect upon and communicate issues of concern. This method allows the participants to not only generate data, but also invites them to be researches and analysts in the process. The Eye Level City app, used in our project, builds on this methodology through the development of a digital tool,  that delivers photo “tasks” to participants and collects GIS data tied to their images and walking routes.

Photovoice for Community Engagement

The Youth Leaders led two summer workshops to train youth and adult community members living in South Park on how to use the Eye Level City app.

Expanding Insights Workshop

The youth leaders led a community workshop where community members were welcome to view their own photos in conversation with the perspectives of other participants and expand on their insights through a series of organized activities and exercises.

Data Analysis

Data analysis was two-fold; involving an analysis of the image and GIS data collected by the Eye Level City App, and the qualitative insights from the Expanding Insights Workshop in the fall. The workshop exercises were collected and analyzed by the DVSA staff and Youth Leaders. Recorded interviews and conversations at these workshops also served as a critical tool for data analysis.

From Engagement to Policy Design

Accountability Walks

The Accountability Walks were intended to directly engage policy-makers with the insights gathered through community engagement work. These self-guided walks were a tool for ensuring accountability by the City of Seattle in their decision making processes. These walks were specifically prepared for the representatives of SDOT and OPCD.

Policy Workshop

The team members of the SP Youth Vision Project and representatives from OPCD and SDOT met at Seattle City Hall to conduct the policy workshop. The intention behind this workshop was to provide an opportunity for Youth Leaders, representing South Park residents, and policy-makers to strategize where policy can be most impactful.

Project team members:

Alexandra Burgos, Jorge Arturo Lara, Leila Jackson, Joanne Ly, Maria Perez, and Sebastian Hernandez