A more comfortable environment through cooperation
During safety walks, the residents and local partners in the area are brought together to review the region. Places that are thought unsafe or safe are observed during these walks. In addition, the participants discuss ways of improving the safety and pleasantness of the uncomfortable places.
In recent years, safety walks have been used for involving Finnish citizens in municipal decision-making. The method increases awareness of street-level conditions among local partners and officials.
The majority of the safety walks are arranged from the perspective of adult citizens. Young voices are often left unheard in adult-driven events and the conversation can even incriminate youth. Young people may also experience the municipal decision-making process itself as distant or boring. The wishes of the young, however, rarely require lengthy processes or great investments. They just need to be heard.
Adults and young people may also experience the same environment in completely different ways. Things adults do not even notice or think about may make young people feel either safe or unsafe. It is important that a participative atmosphere is created during the walks where young people feel that they can express their thoughts freely.
During the safety walk young people are consultants of their own free time. At the same time, information can be provided to them regarding, for example, possibilities for hobbies and other activities in the area.
Children of the Station has developed the safety walks to make them more youth-friendly. The method will be applied to all the activities of the Walkers Bus.
Successful walks create a pleasant atmosphere for young people.
In order to organise successful safety walks, the following have to be taken into account:
• YOUTH ORIENTATION. The language of young people is used in the walks and the walks are designed on their terms.
• IDENTIFICATION OF AGE GROUPS AND SUB-GROUPS. The differences between young people are observed when forming groups. For example, age or being part of a specific subculture may affect their hangout places and habits. If the age range of a group is too wide, the voices of younger people may be left unheard.
• GROUPING. The group members for the walks are selected in a way that ensures no one is too intimidated to express their views.
• MOTIVATING YOUTH. The walk leaders describe the importance of participating in the safety walk. Concrete examples will help young people understand that the method can indeed make a difference.
• ASKING AND VERBALISING. The walk leader comes up with questions that support young people’s expression of their own views before the walk. Discussions during the walks are written down.
• ANALYSIS AND FOLLOW-UP. The discussion is analysed carefully after the walk. Young people should also be informed about the progress of the proposals that are forwarded to municipal decision-making.
• REWARDING. A small reward shows that adults appreciate the fact that young people devote their time and effort to a common goal. Walking and taking photos provide a functional way to influence their everyday environment.
In addition to providing young people the opportunity to express their thoughts with the support of a adult professional, the walks can be used for reflecting on how one’s own activities add to the comfort of the environment. This way, it helps young people get an understanding of what safe activities and behaviour are. The walks can also help eliminate unnecessary fears. Safety walks allow young people to gain confidence and a sense of belonging to the community.
It is possible to modify the safety walks to suit specific contexts. The safety walks of Aseman Lapset are developed on young people’s terms, and local partners are always sought to be included. The involvement of the police has proven especially useful, because they are, for example, able to correct false perceptions of an area.
The safety walk is a method that can also be included in the everyday life of schools and youth centres. Contents from various school subjects such as geography, social studies and the visual arts can easily be included in the walk. The method opens up a possibility for workers of youth centres to get acquainted with young people’s hangout places and habits.
1. Gathering a group of young people
2. Getting to know each other and grouping
3. Inviting local partners and officials
4. Mapping the area
5. Planning the route
6. Taking the safety walk
7. Discussing the walk
9. Youth photo exhibition
10. Keeping track of potential proposals in municipal decision-making.
ASEMAN LAPSET RY
Simonkatu 3 A, 00100 Helsinki
Tel. +358 9 654 740
info [at] asemanlapset.fi
Please contact us for more information about the safety walks!