Youth Design Leadership Takes Shape

What is the role of design and urban planning in community safety?  How can improvements to our streets, buildings and parks contribute to more peaceful and vibrant communities?  How can young people from the neighborhood inform the community design process and learn new architecture and design skills along the way?

To answer these questions, Chicago Mobile Makers, Studio Gang and the Goldin Institute have joined forces to launch the Youth Design Leadership (YDL) project to design a new hands on 6-month program to students aged 13-18 who have a connection to Garfield Park. This program was made possible by the generous support of the Polk Bros. Foundation.

Applications are now being accepted through April 25th! If you are a teen interested in learning the tools of design and contributing to the future of Garfield Park, please visit

Chicago Mobile Makers workshop participants learn design through practical application.


YDL will connect with larger initiatives happening across Chicago through the Our City, Our Safety program, a comprehensive strategy to reduce violence and narrow the “safety gap” for communities most impacted by violence. At the request of the Mayor’s Office for Violence Prevention, Studio Gang and the Goldin Institute have volunteered to work with community leaders in East and West Garfield Park on a pilot project to promote neighborhood safety by using the tools of design to help reclaim, connect and improve public spaces. 

Chicago Mobile Makers converted a UPS truck to a mobile design center for community workshops.


This cohort of Youth Design Leaders will participate in community-led planning and design projects focused on creating safe space, promoting community wellbeing, and increasing access to opportunity. This program will help participants establish a foundation to communicate, advocate, and make an impact through design.

The Youth Design Leadership program will introduce young participants to the fundamentals of design and an exploration of community safety by combining hands-on educational workshops, participation in community conversations as investigators and immersive practical experience gained by working alongside the Studio Gang and Goldin Institute teams.

Chicago Mobile Makers hosts a wide range of workshops to engage teens in design and planning across the city.


The challenges and opportunities identified by the youth design leaders in this innovative program will inform how design and improvements in community spaces can uplift and support the good work that is already happening in Garfield Park and offer concrete design ideas for the City to coordinate investment at a block-by-block scale.

As noted in the recent John Jay report on Reducing Community Violence, improvements to the physical environment that are “structural, scalable and sustainable have been shown to reduce violence” in ways that are viable, cost effective and durable.

The Youth Design Leaders program builds on a concept Studio Gang originally developed as way to meaningfully involve local young people in its design work across the country. This YDL opportunity was inspired by conversations with individuals from the following organizations:


Watch for updates in the weeks ahead to follow along with the Youth Design Leaders as they learn new skills and put these ideas into practice through hands on opportunity to make Garfield Park a safer and more vibrant community.


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