The IYTT Acts Locally

19 August

Here’s Michele, Youth Fellow from the IYC2020 batch. This summer, Sara Maria (IYC2021) and I worked in Gothenburg for the project Destination Tynnered. Now we have a story to tell. It’s the story of how we can go from thinking about the world to thinking about the neighbourhood, and vice versa.

The tram 1 heading to Tynnered

Tynnered is the last stop of the Tram line 1 in Gothenburg. 17.000 people live here. They dwell in high-rise buildings, placed along broad tree-lined streets. The coast is so close you feel the breeze of the sea when it’s windy enough. Very few cars are around. The people seem to respect the quietness of the place, as they try their best to silence their steps when they venture outside.
Tynnered has historically been regarded as an unsafe neighbourhood. Its marginal location, close to more affluent areas like Önnered, has contributed to its reputation as haven for criminal gangs. Recent immigration flows have added racial tensions to the pot. The voices you hear from the windows speak Arabic or Somali, and oriental is the food in the supermarket, where the dates section is larger than the cheese’s.
We have heard contrasting views of Tynnered. For those coming from other areas of Gothenburg, the area is, in fact, dangerous as the media portray it. Those who live here however appreciate the quietness, feel safe letting their kids play outside, and enjoy the abundant greenery.

Destination Tynnered

Destination Tynnered was launched last year as a joint venture between Volvo Cars and several housing companies involved in the area. The ultimate goal is to remove Tynnered from the list of vulnerable neighbourhoods of the Gothenburg police. To do that, they aim at turning Tynnered from a dull residential area to a destination. This summer, a team of 6 Master’s students (from Chalmers and GU) and 10 high school students from various suburbs of Gothenburg were tasked with finding solutions to bring this plan to life. Sara Maria and I joined for the last 3 weeks of the camp. The values and methods of the IYTT fit perfectly with the task of Destination Tynnered, once scaled down to the local scope. Giving every citizen a sense of empowerment and agency over its environment is a challenge that the IYTT has been striving for since its foundation, and that is why Sara Maria and I were asked to join the team.

Left: work in the Hub; Right: Fika Pratt event with local children
Our contribution

We had an office. A newly renovated space in the shade of chestnut trees with portraits of the inhabitants printed on the walls. The Hub, as it’s known, looks so welcoming from the outside that everyday we had strangers, especially kids, walking up the stairs to peek at what was going on behind the faces on the wall. Quickly, our office became the streets of Tynnered. We set up tables and offered fika to strangers in exchange for conversations. Throughout the whole camp, the team interviewed around 100 people. Almost all of them were not born in Sweden. I had never witnessed such a breadth of stories and backgrounds.
As always, it was from the conversations with the younger ones that emerged the most powerful ideas on how to improve the neighbourhood. I feel like that as you grow older you tend to accept things as they are and lose your sense of agency. Youngsters of Tynnered denounced the lack of public meeting spaces. They openly pointed out the racial segregation in the use of the existing parks, BBQ spots or playgrounds. And they lamented the absence of a figure to refer to when they want to voice up complaints or suggestions.
Once we had gathered all the interviews, we started reflecting on possible solutions to those problems. Here’s just the tip of the iceberg, some ideas I’m proud of:

Open Schools

To address both the lack of events and the need for a more intense community feeling, we proposed that schools should be used as meeting spaces after school time. It is a waste to see so many resources, both human and infrastructural, being used only half of the day. Thus we invited local schools to collaborate with Chalmers University and Universeum to invite university students as workshop instructors for kids in the afternoon. More than that, we suggested formats of intercultural events where the whole community, parents included, can gather in the school premises and meet the teachers. This way, more trust towards the schooling system is built in immigrant families.

Participatory Artworks

BeforeIDie ( was launched as a community project in New Orleans in 2011. Since then, more than 5.000 communities worldwide have adopted this simple yet powerful participatory artwork. Among those, Malmö is the only Swedish city to have taken part in this initiative.

It consists of a large blackboard, with the prompt “Before I die I want to…”. Chalks are left available for passers-by to fill in the sentence. In a few days, you are able to collect all the dreams and aspirations of a community on a few square metres. It is an opportunity for self reflection as well as for connection with the other members of the neighbourhood. At the same time, it is a unique, participative artwork that could show a new face of Tynnered to people from other areas of Gothenburg, while creatively decorating an empty surface.

Youth Advisory Board

The most enthusiastic people we have talked to were children. By far. We thought that harnessing this innovative energy could be beneficial both for the community and the children themselves. That is why we proposed the formation of a Youth Advisory Board, whereby handpicked pupils gather monthly to reflect on possible areas of interventions from the authorities. This will allow the authorities to get in touch with a new perspective on the issues they face – the perspective of the kids. Moreover, this is a long-term investment in democracy, since these kids will be trained to think as active citizens and collaborate for the collective good.

Citizen’s Assemblies

A good way to increase engagement in politics among locals is to hold citizens’ assemblies on specific topics. Whenever the neighbourhood is presented with an open issue (e.g. the construction of new facilities, new policies on trash management, etc.) a randomised sample of citizens is invited to gather in a specific place and deliberate a decision, either by voting or by reaching consensus. The responsibility of summoning the random sample of citizens can be placed on the facilitator, or on the municipal authorities themselves. The decision is then submitted to the central authorities in Gothenburg in the form of an official letter, representing the will of the people. This suggestion was very much in line with the IYTT Policy Brief “Addressing Democratic Disenchantment Through Community Assemblies” ( and the IYTT Working Paper “Dynamics of instituting mini-publics for a more participatory democracy” (

At the end of the project, we had a public presentation in which we pitched these ideas (and many more) to various stakeholders. We did see some of them exchanging phone numbers at the end. It might be the start of a fruitful collaboration.
The 3 weeks were also a great opportunity for our personal development. I recall 2 moments that helped me grow and gave me insights I’ll carry with me everywhere like patches on my backpack.

The moment I realised the value of small-scale action

I had moments in which I felt the problems we were tackling were too small. In the IYTT, and in my career as a student, I have always thought of inequality, racism or gender as global challenges. And here I was, stuck talking about neighbourhood initiatives or events which would see 50 people participating at their peak. Yet, I started understanding the relevance of local action. It is at the scale of the neighbourhood that we can empower every citizen to feel responsible for their surroundings. Rarely will people feel responsible for how much their government spending is directed at children. But everyone can find satisfaction in building one slide in their local playground. The good thing is that these actions add up. Their ripple effect is unforeseeable.

Berlin Wall
The moment that made me feel really stupid

The team was strongly international. Most of the students had a migratory background from the Middle East. We were rehearsing before the final presentation and one of the students would keep reading a slide from right to left. And I just couldn’t get it. Like why. I was getting frustrated, because the animations went from left to right, and she read the other way round. Then I realised. Her mother tongue was Arabic. And I felt so ignorant and small-minded and sorry. I changed the animations. It was humbling, but it really showed me how hard and beautiful it is to collaborate across cultures. This is one example of many occasions throughout the 3 weeks where I was pushed to question my assumptions. It is an enchanting realisation to sink in, that the way you do things is only your way. There is so much to learn in admitting you’re wrong.

What’s next?

We bring back to the IYTT the realisation of the value of action at the local level. This is in line with one of the upcoming initiatives of the Think Tank, namely the handbook of democracy solutions to be shared with mayors in cities across Europe. On top of that, this summer initiative got us thinking. Could the IYTT set up similar endeavours in the various cities where Youth Fellows are living? We are starting to imagine IYTT summer camps, aimed at empowering students to think global but act local, bringing the ideas and values of IYTT to life in the forms of neighbourhood initiatives.

Michele Castrezzati

Youth Fellow