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Local Youth as Urban Development Actors – The Establishment of a Centre for Youth and Socioculture in Görlitz

What impact can place-based local actions and strategies have on a fair and equitable distribution of resources within a locality? This study aims to contribute to this discussion by exploring the activities of Second Attempt e.V. (hereinafter Second Attempt), a non-profit association for the promotion of youth and socioculture in the German town Görlitz. Second Attempt is an interesting case for the potential of a local association by and for young people, which actively engages in local public affairs and seeks out to involve young people in constructive forms of place making and democratic engagement.

One important achievement of Second Attempt has been to take over the mandate for the establishment of a Centre for Youth and Socioculture as well as the neighbourhood management in the neighbourhood Inner City West. We argue that the association has a specific potential for creating impact in the locality by promoting localised resources and involving vulnerable population groups into urban development. Second Attempt employs staff, engages volunteers, secures funds, carries out regeneration programmes and has become highly professional. They actively lobby for the interests of young people in urban development, and fill a perceived gap with regards to the participation and empowerment of young people in public affairs.

Second Attempt tackles perceived injustices on various spatial levels. The first form of injustice takes place at a state-wide and national level, as Görlitz is regarded as disadvantaged in contrast to other German cities. Furthermore, an injustice was registered in the missing attention for youth issues by the municipality. The action aims to change both these aspects by providing perspectives for the youth and promoting the sociocultural scene in Görlitz. The third dimension is on the local level amongst the neighbourhoods of the town. In this case, a socially disadvantaged neighbourhood shall be revitalised.

In pursuing their activities, the action has benefitted from the backing of the municipality as well as regional, national, and EU funding. However, apart from financial aid, the ESF or other EU programmes do not have a direct programmatic impact on the action. Instead, the action would not have developed to its current state, if Second Attempt had not strategically taken up chances and opportunities and at the same time consequently following their own vision and agenda. A most important driver behind the achievements of Second Attempt is thus the reflexivity and strategic capacity of the associations’ main stakeholders.

At the same time, research has raised questions with regards to the role Second Attempt has taken on in local development. If public affairs such as urban development, youth participation and local democracy become common affairs which are dealt with in co-operation between town government and autonomous local initiatives, how are issues of accountability or legitimacy best solved? How does an organisation achieve a balance between its formal role as an urban development actor, complying with funding criteria, and pursuing its original vision and non-hierarchical mode of leadership? These questions still remain unsolved and provide the basis for interesting further discussions.

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