Youth visions in a changing climate: Emerging lessons from using immersive and arts-based methods for strengthening community-engaged research with urban youth

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Nadia Sitas
Odirilwe Selomane
Ffion Atkins
DFeat once
Urban Khoi soldier
Elona Hlongwane
Sandile Fanana
Theresa Wigley
Teresa Boulle


Despite increasing efforts, youth perspectives remain largely excluded from decision- making processes concerning their future and the social-ecological challenges they are set to inherit. While youth are a critical and powerful force for social change, many youths in underserved communities have limited access to appropriate information on the root causes and consequences of environmental change, in addition to an array of other complex social injustices. To address this, we embarked on a participatory action research process which focused on democratising research, science and the arts by facilitating experiential, immersive learning opportunities with the intention of eventually co-producing artifacts (in the form of participatory murals) in public spaces to facilitate longer term engagement with human nature futures. This article outlines and shares reflections on our process and offers insights for future engagement activities that seek to mobilise youth imaginaries and agency. We found participants were better engaged when conversations were (1) facilitated by other participants; (2) were outdoors and centred on public art; and (3) were happening in parallel with a hands-on activity. This contrasted with asking interview-type questions, or asking participants to write down their answers, which felt more like a test than a conversation, minimising participation. Key learnings included: the need to co-develop knowledge around enhancing climate literacy that is based on local realities; that multiple capacities and hives of activity already exist in communities and need to be mobilised and not built; that creative visioning and futuring can help identify options for change; and that many youths are seeking creative, immersive and safe spaces for co-learning and connection. Initiatives that aim to engage diverse voices should therefore be well- resourced so as to carefully co-design processes that start by acknowledging contextual differences and capacities within those contexts, and co-create immersive dialogues, in order to move away from test-like engagements which perpetuate power imbalances and discourage participation.

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Practice-based articles (Non-refereed)


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