Praise for UCLan social inclusion project from European Union

14 June 2023

YouCount project commended at inaugural EU Citizen Science Prize awards

A European-wide social inclusion project involving the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) has been commended by the European Union (EU).

Community stakeholders, staff and young citizen scientists at the third Living Lab.

The three-year YouCount project, which examines ways to increase social inclusion for young people, received an honorary mention in the EU’s inaugural Citizen Science Prize out of a total of 321 initiatives and projects submitted for the awards.

UCLan is the UK lead on the YouCount EU Horizon 2020 funded initiative, which involves University partners from nine European countries. YouCount has enlisted young people aged 13 – 29-years-old to act as citizen scientists by taking a hands-on approach to finding news ways to engage youths most at risk of marginalisation in terms of poverty, migration, disability, low education, unemployment, and disenfranchisement.

Led by Professor Julie Ridley from the UCLan Centre for Citizenship and Community, the UK case study explores youth experiences and views of belonging in Preston using creative participatory methods, a short questionnaire designed by young citizen scientists, and mapping opportunities for social inclusion using an app.

As part of a ‘Living Lab’, providing an open collaborative space that is young person centred, Preston’s young citizen scientists have engaged in intergenerational dialogue with significant stakeholders from the statutory, community and voluntary sectors, including the Mayor of Preston Councillor Neil Darby and Preston youth movement Strive to Thrive.

Professor Julie Ridley from the UCLan Centre for Citizenship and Community opening and setting the scene for the third Living Lab.

The Living Lab met four times to discuss issues and solutions to increase young people’s inclusion. For instance, young citizen scientists identified a safety issue with a route to the Cardinal Newman College and have been working with stakeholders from the Police and Crime Commissioners Office, Preston City Council and the College to find solutions.

Julie said: “YouCount uses a citizen science approach to democratise research, which hasn’t been used much in the social sciences so it’s very experimental.

“It’s offered a unique opportunity that young people in Preston have clearly valued to speak out about their experiences of inclusion and what they think is needed so that all young people can feel they belong. Some things they’ve shared have been difficult for stakeholders to hear but the Living Labs have been such a great space to have amazing discussions and bring people together across the generations.

“This has happened at a time when there is growing interest in Preston for engaging with young people, which we hope bodes well for sustaining dialogue once the local case ends on the 30 June.”

Ars Electronica in Austria organised the new competition, which was launched to celebrate outstanding citizen science projects that promote collaborative, sustainable and fair shaping of the future.

Commenting on YouCount, judges said: “This programme supports nine projects where young citizens are supported as co-researchers in all stages of the research – from the planning, design of website, data analysis to dissemination activities.

“The jury particularly appreciated the focus on young people who are often excluded from these types of processes to democratise social sciences and make an impact for those involved.”

More information about the YouCount project is available online and to learn more about UCLan’s involvement visit the University’s website.

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