Dream Youth Centre

by Dario Palermo

A space created by young people for young people

This section presents how young people imagine their dream youth centre, in terms of spaces, interaction and equipment.


We created a structured interview in order to find out the thoughts of young people about informal and open youth work activities and opinions on what would be their ideal youth centre and professionals working in it. What would they like to find when they step into a Youth Centre?


A space to welcome for all those who want to enter the youth centre, to ask or find information, to get to know the space. It is the first contact, where the Host will be most present.


Games and leisure
A space where the youngsters can gather together to connect with each other, have fun and relax. The space should also contain board and card games and it would allow young people to socialize.


Food workshops
This area contains a vegetables garden, an outdoor space for activities, a climbing wall, workout machines, a food area with a pizza oven to make pizza and a grill area, a shelter and some bike racks. It should be big enough to host all youth centre youngsters.


A space where young people can perform live music and that can host a big group of people. In this room it is possible to host music-related events, concerts, cinema events, workshops, discussions, seminars and performative events.


A fully equipped room where youngsters can experiment with different instruments through the universal language of music. A fully equipped recording studio to give them the opportunity to record their own music, learn how to play an instrument or discover a new passion.


Digital activities
A space where youngsters can have free access to books, films and music. It is an adaptable space with chairs, table and sofa that can be used for studying, research and as a cinema. This room serves as well as a fully equipped media room


a spacious multifunctional space where youngsters can play different kinds of sports. A quiet space can also be provided, with wooden floor and mirrors, where young people can do yoga, meditation, dance, exercises and  physical activities. 


Carpentry workshops
A space where young people can develop their practical building/ makers repairing skills. In this space they will have free supervised access to all the gardening tools, drilling machines, wood and other materials, screws, nails, etc.


A meeting space where people can get together and can cook, where youngsters can learn how to work in a bar, a space that will be used during the events but also on a daily basis. The kitchen also hosts cooking workshops.


A room where youngsters can have free access to different kinds of materials to let them express their creative ideas as they want. They will have free access to different tools and materials to learn different techniques.


Internet Connection
The youth centre has also to be equipped with free wi-fi and internet access points that youngsters can use, some laptops/computers, an appropriate office for youth workers and (at least) a storage area.

Click to view the dream youth centre

inside outside

Open youth work essentials

This section describes the essential and basic features of a youth centre from the perspective of the young people and the youth workers. Despite the great variety of spaces, activities and vocations, it is possible to orient oneself and try to describe this heterogeneity by identifying recurrences, elements and features which can be found in all the spaces. We have classified these features according to five key words, which seem to us to be recurrent and that represent the main characteristics of a “dream youth centre”. It’s important to keep in mind that the five key words that emerged are not exhaustive of all the inputs, topics and instances that youth centres represent.


Using keywords, this section presents some results made by youth workers who followed the voice of young people and the opinions they shared through the surveys and interviews.

A youth centre must be adapted according to the principles of sustainability and energy efficiency. The attention is focused on renewable energies, actions to reduce the environmental impact, the promotion of sustainable mobility, green education and better waste management. The activities should be sustainable too,reducing the use of plastic, preferring local organic products, etc.
The capacity of the space to be adaptable is a characteristic of openness, which allows the participation of different target groups, the continuous nourishment of ideas, the empowerment of the young people who use those spaces as their own and of the community (space has shared ownership). Technical solutions of how the space is designed can help (e.g. retractable walls).
The space will have to be innovative. The educational process through non-formal activities is already innovative in itself. Thanks to this approach, children and young people will have the opportunity to experiment with a new method of learning. In the youth centre, innovation corresponds to the ability to question oneself and not to set limits, and in this case, to daydream, to develop own ideas and projects.
Welcoming, well cared for, attractive and, above all, accessible spaces. The accessibility can be economic, organisational and spatial. These spaces are accessible in their socially open dimension, that allows everyone to feel at home, where everyone can “stay” and where everyone can “do” by participating in the activities or becoming the promoters of projects. A place where everyone is welcome without any discrimination or judgment or barriers.
A space that combines different uses, responding to multiple needs, ensuring the openness of the spaces, accommodating different target groups. A space that is not fragmented, by working on visual communication, by planning a shared program of activities, to have an overview of what is going on inside the YC and to avoid the sense of exclusion in not having the perception of the space.


This section presents the most interesting results of the questionnaires which were carried out by each organisation together with the young people involved. We have designed a structured interview, to avoid answers with only a “yes”, “no” or very short ones. In this way the youngsters developed their answers and justified them. All the interviews were carried out in the local languages and then translated in English by the youth workers. 

We asked for the participation of 10 youngsters (for each Youth Centre involved) who visit the Youth Centre with a certain frequency. We asked for the interviews to be done individually and for the interviewer to be a youth worker or a trusted person from the same sphere, so the youngsters could express freely and at the same time with no peer pressure.

We asked for the participation of 10 youngsters (for each Youth Centre involved) who visit the Youth Centre with a certain frequency. We asked for the interviews to be done individually and for the interviewer to be a youth worker or a trusted person from the same sphere, so the youngsters could express freely but at the same time with no peer pressure.

Open activity in imaginary YC

In the Youth Center imagined by young people there are many diversified activities: in fact there were mentioned activities related to graffiti, jam sessions, video and photography workshops, gardening, theater, and many more. 

What emerges as really important is the possibility for young people to manage their own time. It is certainly important for them to have an enthusiastic and solid staff in the Youth Centre that can guide them in their activities. But at the same time this leadership role should be permeable to the needs and desires of the young people. In fact, it is a matter of accompanying and/or supporting young people in the activities that can be proposed or that they can create by themselves. 

There are several types of activities proposed by the young people: activities proposed by youngsters for youngsters; activities proposed by experts that allow youngsters to develop their own projects; activities proposed by youth workers and youngsters together (everyone is included in the creative process); activities proposed by youth workers, in which they have a leading role. The youth center is a space of possibilities.

You enter the centre. You look right and left. What do you see?

But how do young people imagine the physical space of a Youth Centre? It is inviting, already through its external appearance: we can find spray graffiti, spray cans, stickers, posters. Generally, the emerging characteristic is the permeability, multifunctionality, adaptability that a Youth Centre should have. So they often mention large rooms and open spaces, not too furnished, in order to allow space for young people to continuously modify the space, according to their needs. A character of ‘unfinished’. More and more levels are mentioned: who can imagine a Youth Centre of 2 or 7 floors, connected by stairs, and each room can host different activities and functions. What is never missing is a reception or welcome hall, chill out or relaxing rooms with large sofas, bean bags and pillows, a coffee/tea area, a dedicated area for board games, books, video games, exhibitions, musical instruments. The Youth Centre decorations are made of plants and handmade objects, because “they are not perfect”. It is important to have a infoboard, to be always informed about the activities going on in the Youth Centre. Even if it is not related to the characteristics of the space, what emerges is the desire to have a relaxed environment, with “friendly smiling people that are not in a hurry, looking very relaxed and happy”.

You talk to some of the staff in a language that you both understand. What are they telling you? How are they talking to you? How do you feel when talking to them?

Concerning the communication skills that young people would like to find in the staff of a Youth Centre, the desire that emerges is to feel welcomed, not forced, guided to discover the spaces and opportunities of a centre (“I feel welcomed but not forced”), in terms of activities, and to be introduced in existing youth groups. 

Many are happy to find someone within the space who is involved in the same activities they are passionate about. That means having the possibility to talk about graffiti, music, and so on. Others express the need to find youth workers who can encourage them to explore new activities, who can be open to listening. Others, on the contrary, only need someone who can give them basic information and then manage themselves completely within the centre. 

A conversation with a member of the staff should be: relaxed, friendly, nice, calm, welcoming, open, controlled, but also energetic, easy going, with a positive mood and respectful.

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