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Winston Churchill Fellowship: Marc Cairns

Bonevet, Kosovo © Marc Cairns

© Marc Cairns

Bonevet, Kosovo
Gay Pride, Albania © Marc Cairns

© Marc Cairns

Gay Pride, Albania
Up Shift, Kosovo © Marc Cairns

© Marc Cairns

Up Shift, Kosovo
Youth Advocate Programme, Azerbaijan © Marc Cairns

© Marc Cairns

Youth Advocate Programme, Azerbaijan

14 November 2017
by Marc Cairns

Marc Cairns is the Managing Director at Pidgin Perfect, an award winning creative consultancy working internationally on a wide range of projects which bring people and place together.

In the summer of 2016 Marc completed his Winston Churchill Fellowship and undertook an intensive four-week research trip across Albania, Serbia, Kosovo, Turkey and Azerbaijan. Marc's research focused on ways of working to build more resilient communities through youth engagement initiatives which promote active citizenship and participation in decision-making. The trip was enabled by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust in partnership with the British Council.

Empowering Young People to Become Active Citizens

 By visiting countries with youthful populations, high levels of youth unemployment and where the impact of significant recent social and political upheaval is being felt, I was able to engage with world-leading projects that are influencing intergovernmental processes and policy making around placemaking.

Focusing upon the inclusion of young people in design thinking and decision making, these projects visited placed particular importance upon the use of new and disruptive technologies to open up the way in which important decisions are being made, and the way that young people are getting involved with the world around them.

During my travels I visited voluntary-run hacker spaces, contemporary art galleries, open schools, aid funded innovation labs and co-working maker spaces, and met with ambassadors, United Nations coordinators, architects, artists, and, of course, young people.

One highlight was meeting with the team at Bonevet (Gjakova, Kosovo), a non-profit community centre dedicated to re-energizing the spirits of young people through the opportunity to meet, network and build within a maker space equipped to encourage hands-on learning through robotics, 3D printing, programming, and electronics.

The opportunity to visit countries which are at a critical turning point in their development timeline and directly meet with those people who are crucially building authentic public participation programmes has proven to be an invaluable experience for me and my practice. The conversations and insights I gained have helped the team at Pidgin Perfect to further advance our ways of working and develop new models for creative youth engagement programmes for our wide range of clients and commissions.

Since returning to the UK, I have used my findings to influence best practice guidelines across the planning and regeneration sector in the UK. Through Pidgin Perfect, I developed the opportunity to deliver a pilot project in collaboration with Young Scot, funded by the Scottish Government through a Grant Award. This project, titled ‘Shaping Our Spaces’, explored the involvement of young people within the Scottish planning process and invited a group of young people from across the country to respond directly to proposed changes in policy through interventionist activity carried out within the community of Sighthill - the largest regeneration project in the UK outside of London.

Additionally, I have continued to develop upon the international connections established during the trip presenting an exhibition of work by Pidgin Perfect at the 2017 Kosovo Architecture Festival as well as a forthcoming project to take place in Istanbul in late 2018.

Marc's full Fellowship report can be read on the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust website