Whose Voices Matter

Sophie explains why we need to listen to the voices of teenage girls like her.

November 2, 2022
February 22, 2023
Design professionals
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This week’s Guest Blog is from Sophie, 16, founder member of the Youth Panel for League Leaders. League Leaders. She is currently in Year 12 studying her A Levels. Sophie enjoys playing sport as an outlet from academics(swimming, cycling, going to the gym) and she is passionate and committed in her role as a young activist to help young people like herself find their voice to make changes in encouraging inclusivity in active spaces. 
We met Sophie at the Active London Conference in September and were blown away by her passion for participation and co-design at the heart of every stage of developing and creating welcoming spaces. In this blog, Sophie explains why we need to listen to voices like hers...

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Why should we amplify the voices of young people in designing active spaces?

In a world where we are striving for the sporting society to evolve to become more inclusive, the voices of young people, those who it will affect most, are far too quiet. As determined change-makers, we would want, and should be involved in developing spaces that are fit for purpose and welcoming to all. 

Often, those who are designing spaces for young people are not young people themselves. They do not see the prospective world through our eyes. As a result, they miss the value and insight that young people can provide, in order to contribute to the beneficial changes we want to see. 

Listening to those that these big decisions will impact the most is vital for developing successful outcomes. Allowing these silenced ideas that are brimming with imagination, innovation and inspiration to be voiced will  help to build the confidence and self-esteem of young people, and bring about opportunities for us to learn new skills. Furthermore, designing spaces aligned to evidence-based research from today’s youth will not only be more successful if these expressive ideas are taken into account; but also highly likely to encourage greater engagement levels. 

Surely, designing spaces that successfully promote and support equality and inclusion, must begin with the final audience in mind. What do we want? How are we going to use it? How do we want it to make us feel? All of these questions and many more should be considered at the start. Therefore, the best way to be able to answer them, is by engaging us, the youth of today.

Particularly for girls, this engagement would help to grow a passion and spark interest in not only pursuing sport, but also designing the future of our environment and leisure spaces. If we feel more comfortable, safe, listened to and accepted ,young people from all backgrounds and cultures, will be more likely to not only use the spaces, but feel inspired to continue using them to flourish in their sport and activity of choice. 

How do I know this? Well, speaking as a female within the teenage community, I have certainly experienced an aura of underlying expectation to retreat from entering public sport spaces. Whether this be feeling intimidated by the male-dominated corner of the gym, feeling threatened when approaching a public sports pitch, or being uncomfortably outnumbered by males on the field during PE lessons at school, there is a particular difficulty for girls to feel as though they can be celebrated for their sporting talent and passion, irrespective of the level they compete at. The current spaces are simply not welcoming enough, and perhaps with the drive of amplifying youth voices, these spaces can become community based and more successful in turn. 

There is hope in a future where you design active spaces with us, not for us.

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