In the over 750 favelas scattered across Rio de Janeiro, crime, violence, and the militarization of public security—coupled with entrenched socio-economic deprivation, chronic lack of social services, and a pervasive culture of marginalization—have long confined the majority of its 1.4 million residents to invisibility and intense social exclusion [17
]. As a result, favela youth face serious structural barriers, such as immersion in endemic poverty, barriers to educational advancement, limited work and income opportunities, and lack of cultural affirmation. Black youth, in particular, are more likely to be out of school and unemployed, and are disproportionately affected by lethal violence and police brutality [20
]. Rio de Janeiro’s military police force, which has been responsible for 8000 killings in the past decade alone, routinely resort to racial profiling and extreme violence against favela dwellers, especially those who are young and black [24
]. In this so-called “Marvelous City” (a popular sobriquet for Rio), the risk of male youths becoming victims of homicide is fourteen times higher than for other groups, and is three times higher for blacks overall [22
Within this context, since 2011 the Agency has conducted a nonformal education program that has led to some 200 capacity-building projects involving low-educated and low-income youth, aged 14–29, living in 32 favelas. The central aim of the Agency’s program is to enable youth to critically reflect on their immediate socio-economic circumstances, and thereupon assist them in conceiving and developing small scale projects that foster progressive changes in their communities. In so doing, through this reflective action-oriented educational process, the program is designed to enable young participants to become protagonists of community-based social change. The educational forums of the program are generally held on Saturdays—the day of the week when youth are least occupied with work or family responsibilities—and range over periods of between two and four months. The program’s methodological approach consists of a series of sequential pedagogical stages for groups of youth, each of which cumulatively aims to cultivate their interests, exercise their analytical and critical thinking skills, and—drawing from their lived experiences and cultural identities—enable them to create projects with a potential for social impact. Unlike conventional vocational training programs, the Agency does not offer formal credentials that might potentially facilitate the employability of youth who complete the program. Instead, it encourages young people to conceptually challenge the unequal social dynamics of the urban environments in which they live, and to envision these environments not as sites of chronic disorder, but as localities with potential for imaginative possibilities and solutions. By helping to develop young people’s artistic, technical, and entrepreneurial competencies, that in many cases have led to the development and implementation of projects that address social problems that the youth themselves have analyzed, the program has also help to expand youth access to social networks and opportunities for socio-economic mobility that otherwise would have been denied to them. As one Agency staff member commented:
The favela used to be seen as a place of absolute negation, where nothing could be done, where no value was recognized. The Agency seeks to invert this logic and show the favela youth that that space offers fundamental elements for their projects. And, being as they are from the favela, they can indeed become creators in life and in the world, recognizing the territory from under the lens of the opportunities and potentiality it offers.
2.1. The Stimulus Cycle
The compass stage: This first stage of the cycle consists of a visual endeavor, whereby youth are encouraged to develop their own ideas and depict them as directions of a compass on a large canvas. To the north, they are asked to describe an idea for a potential project they would be interested in seeing in their community, no matter how approximate or vague; to the south, either through writing or drawing, they are invited to reveal what led them to the idea, how it connects to their lived experiences, and what resources and abilities they consider would be needed to put their idea into practice; to the east, again through writing or drawing, they are encouraged articulate the forms of expression or activities necessary to ensure that the idea comes to fruition as a project; and to the west, they are asked to identify the potential locale of the project, and the people who will be affected by it.
The alphabet stage: In this second stage, youth are invited to further develop their ideas for the formulation of a project of their choice by writing words, each beginning with a letter in the alphabet (A to Z) that relates to their envisioned project. As far as possible, each word should describe a thought, an experience, or other external references such as people, objects, places, relationships, and personal aspirations that have inspired their artistic, recreational, and/or entrepreneurial aspirations and that may be used to further clarify how and in what form their project might be realized. Through this alphabetical word game, by referring to the spaces and experiences they are familiar with that hopefully can foster a clearer vision of their imagined projects, young people can begin to systematize their thoughts about themselves and the environments in which they are living.
The ideas fair: In this third pedagogical stage, young people are asked to discuss their initial project ideas with their peers and thereby identify and connect with other program participants who share similar interests, and might therefore be willing to collaborate on the further mutual development of their emerging project proposals. The name “fair” captures the essence of this stage—a dynamic exercise of public presentation and exchange of ideas with other youth. Through the articulation of their emerging project proposals, not only can youth elicit feedback from their peers, but in the search for partners to work with, they can learn the value of compromising and altering initial preferences when needed. Through the ideas fair, public peer presentations and dialogue are key steps towards the formation of group ties that are ultimately essential for the realization of proposed youth projects.
The mapping stage: In this fourth stage, having conceptualized a potential community-based project that they wish to develop, participants are encouraged to identify resources within their own communities that they can enlist for the further planning and realization of their projects. This reflective mapping exercise, which entails discussion with peers from their own as well as neighboring communities, helps to enable youth to attain not only information on the profiles, needs, and expectations of people who are in close proximity to them, but as well it heightens their awareness of inherent resources that may exist in their own neighborhoods, which they may hitherto have been unaware of and which can give further impetus to their project ideas.
The inventory stage: Building upon the mapping exercise, this fifth stage of the Agency nonformal education program encourages youth participants to survey and further identify, collect, and organize information about existing resources or experiences that may be relevant to the development of their project proposals. Through a creative process that can take the form of drawings, collages, pictures, artifacts, and testimonials, youth participants are stimulated to visualize community-based opportunities and partnerships with local actors such as community leaders, businesses and organizations that they might establish for the advancement of their project interests.
The presentation stage: This sixth pedagogical stage consists of brief oral presentations conducted by youth—sometimes individually, sometimes in groups—in which they demonstrate their acquired knowledge and present their project proposals to their peers using clear and convincing language. The aims of each presentation are to explain and justify the following: a) The project rationale, focusing on the needs that inspired the project idea and its potential community level contribution or impact; b) the proposed activities to be undertaken; and c) the abilities that project participants will need to possess or acquire. An important aspect of the presentation stage is that those who are presenting must work through key elements of their projects, and thereby prompt their audience peers to further reflect on and refine their own action proposals as they listen and ask questions.
The personification stage: This seventh stage aims to assist young people in assigning project roles and responsibilities for themselves. Through a process that combines elements of theatre, storytelling, and discussion of representative images, participants are encouraged to identify their principal project personas such as: The project pioneer, the implementer, the collaborator, the beneficiary, the evaluator, and the member of the public at large. Through this role-playing exercise, the personification stage encourages youth to organize and distribute tasks within their designated groups, with each member understanding his/her contribution and responsibilities, as well as the benefits that will result from the project. This stage likewise encourages youth to reflect on the different attitudes and behaviors of people who are associated with their proposed projects and beyond, as well as to recognize the need for flexibility when working with others.
“A day in the life of my project”: This eighth (last) pedagogical stage consists of a day-long event during which the participants offer previews of their projects-in-action. For this event, youth are asked to prepare a detailed overview of what their project will entail, who will be responsible for different aspects of project implementation, and the results that are to be expected. The central purpose of this activity is to enable young people to build their confidence and credibility by publicly presenting their project proposals and demonstrating the community benefits that will result. In doing so, they gain initial experience in engaging their potential target audience and fostering public interest in accepting and eventually becoming involved in each of their projects as beneficiaries and participants.
Following these eight pedagogical stages, youth participants are invited to an annual event in Rio involving all Agency participants from past and current program cycles to meet each other, share innovative ideas with their peers, and network with representatives of organizations and other individuals of interest from elsewhere in Brazil and abroad. Following this event the participants are asked to submit their project proposals to a competition for funding. In this “pre-incubator” phase, each individual or project team presents their project with a detailed business plan and a public marketing strategy to be assessed by a three-person jury. Selected jury members are themselves involved in different domains of civic life as cultural producers, policy-makers, entrepreneurs, civil servants, social activists, and journalists. Together, they decide which projects will be awarded funding, thus enabling the recipients to embark on the implementation of their projects. Other youth who are not awarded funding nonetheless receive recommendations from the jury as to how they can garner support for their projects through other means.
For those projects that have been approved and have received funding for initial implementation, the Agency continues its support through the creation of “maps of opportunity” and the facilitation of social networking with people and organizations, sometimes within the favelas where projects will be located, and sometimes elsewhere in the city that may yield scholarships, internships, and job placements. In addition, Agency support in the early execution stages of each project consists of close monitoring and supervision so as to ensure positive initial outcomes and the necessary foundations for project sustainability after the termination of Agency support.
2.2. Linking Theory and Practice: The Agency Program as Emancipatory Education
The exercise of linking theoretical dimensions of emancipatory education to the pedagogical concepts and practice of a nonformal education is a daunting one. This is true not only because relatively open-ended curricula in out-of-school settings can prove difficult to fully describe, but also due to issues involving the complexity, scope, and actual practicality of education that aims to be emancipatory. With such constraints in mind, in this section I will show how the theory and practice underlying emancipatory education are incorporated within the Agency’s nonformal education program. In so doing, it is important to note that, although I link elements of theory and practice from the perspective of this case study, the intention is not to impose a single analytical framework upon the Agency’s nonformal education program or to suggest that specific stages of the program can only be connected to theoretical concepts that I describe here. In fact, much like the comparable layers of purpose and meaning that critical pedagogy gives rise to, the stages of the Agency’s pedagogical approach are interchangeable. They can be examined as stand-alone activities, as well as interconnected stages of a comprehensive educational intervention. Consequently, rather than an explanatory summation of emancipatory teaching and learning, what follows is an analysis of how theoretical concepts—which can frequently seem abstract and hard to instrumentalize—may be applied in real-world educational settings as foundations for change.
2.2.1. Linkage to a Negotiated Curriculum
Power and culture play a central role in knowledge production inside schools and in society at large. The ability of individuals to express their culture is directly tied to the power they possess and are able to exercise within the prevailing social order. For children and adolescents, schooling is a key institution of social order. As many studies have shown, however, the overt, as well as hidden, curricula of mainstream schools generally serve as instruments to legitimize and advance the worldviews and cultural values of dominant societal groups that have the effect of marginalizing the ways of living and knowing of colonized or marginalized social groups [27
]. In this way, mainstream educational practices serve to reproduce the social and ideological discourses designed to maintain the subordination of marginalized and minority groups [2
In countering this, critical pedagogy relates to a form of negotiated curriculum founded on the needs, life situations, and experiences of all learners. As a form of cultural politics, the purpose of a negotiated curriculum is to critically examine the prevailing precepts and features of culture (in its everyday formal and informal practices) and to investigate how historical patterns of power have shaped individual subjectivities and collective identities [11
]. As part of this process, students are encouraged to “critically appropriate knowledge outside their immediate contexts in order to broaden their understanding of themselves, the world, and the possibilities for transforming the taken-for-granted assumptions about the way we live” [28
] (p. 77). From this perspective of learning, they are therefore challenged to seek solutions to the problematic issues they face and thereupon take steps towards transformative action that will enhance their social, political, and economic realities [29
This is very much aligned with the Agency’s pedagogical stages, which aim to enable youth to critically reflect on their proximate circumstances and the underlying structures that inhibit improvements to these circumstances. More significantly, through the processes of critical pedagogy—for example, in the mapping and inventory stages of the Agency program—participants are able to see beyond their individual selves and interests and connect their fears and hopes to the perspectives of other community members. By investigating the needs and expectations of favela residents in order to detect a suitable target population for their projects, they are led to critically examine the potential strengths and resources in their own neighborhoods that they might tap into, and through analysis and dialogue develop and articulate entrepreneurial ideas directed towards overcoming structural impediments.
The Agency stages also constitute a foundation upon which youth can recognize the significance of their own knowledge and lived experiences, thereby enabling them to take steps towards a rejection of the pervasive and thoroughly negative stereotypes of favela life. This, then, can lead to envisioning a sense of the constructive possibilities of their own agency. For example, Aline, whose project involved the production of a film featuring youth telling the life stories of local residents through music, explained that her educational experience with the Agency program had a profound impact on how she perceives her own neighborhood:
I didn’t feel like a resident of Batan. I used to hate the place where I live and didn’t have any kind of affection for it. I was ashamed, to be honest. As my project developed, I was able to create a bond with my community, and I started noticing that other residents felt the same way. I saw it in their eyes when they would watch our film and say things like: “Wow, I had no idea we had so much here.” So, we brought another perspective to a place that is often portrayed solely from the aspect of violence.
Both the mapping
stages are components of a negotiated curriculum, in the sense that they are rooted in an individualized educational approach that, although directed towards project creation, is contextualized in (and stems from) the lifeworld experiences of favela youth. These experiences, in turn, allow them to create content and proposals that are relevant to their realities and that can ideally lead to transformations (however incremental and small) in their own lives and in their communities. A key differentiating factor of the Agency’s nonformal education program that differentiates it from formal schooling is its focus on the needs and aspirations of the youth participants themselves. As Fernando, a favela funk artist who created a dance-and-music project to foster community reconciliation in rival neighborhoods, points out:
In school, they just force you to do things; it is a method for the masses. And that is what I like about the Agency. They get to know you before they teach you anything, and they prepare you to do whatever it is that you want to do… It is a more effective teaching method, I think… They also encourage you to do things instead of just teaching.
As students grow increasingly accustomed to the teaching methods they are being introduced to, they can begin to critically reflect on how different social issues close at hand are significant in their lives, and how they are manifested. This is the essence of a negotiated curriculum; it consists of context-relevant educational content that is applicable to—and draws directly from—the environments of young people in the favelas. This type of contextualized and person-centered educational approach is absent from mainstream school classrooms. As Elaine, who created a project that focused on enhancing local black culture, explained:
I understand the importance of formal schooling, but placing locks in the school gates so kids won’t try to leave is not the way to do things. So, I think Agency helped change our minds in this sense… I still think that everyone needs to go to school, but they should not be obligated to do and say what the teacher wants… I think there should be more attention placed on individuals themselves, and the Agency works with this relevant content.
2.2.2. Linkage to Problem-Posing Education
The banking model of education, one of Freire’s most widely recognized concepts, is a metaphor that speaks to the lack of critical practices in contemporary schools. As Freire argued, the banking model relegates students as being akin to ‘empty containers’ who must passively accept having teachers—regarded as the holders of knowledge—‘deposit’ predetermined information into them [5
]. Through a fixed method of receiving, memorizing, and repeating information, students are expected to acquire standardized knowledge that is deemed to be valuable by others, rather than engaging in the educational process as self-developing learners. Suppressing individual subjectivity, banking education inhibits students’ inherent ability to independently generate knowledge, solve problems, and reflect on practice—necessary steps to developing critical consciousness about the world around them [32
In direct contrast to this banking approach, Freire advocated a self-reflective learning process that cultivates knowledge based on people’s lived experiences and social history. Often framed as a problem-posing approach to education, it emphasizes the need for teachers and students to co-create knowledge through listening, dialogue, and action. As Freire observed, only in this way, on the basis of critical consciousness-raising, can individuals learn to envisage new situations and transform their lives [5
]. Through problem-posing activities, students can analyze the “whys”, “hows”, and “whos” that influence and shape their surroundings and day-to-day lives [5
]. The process involves: a) Identifying the topic to be analyzed; b) defining the problem; c) personalizing it; d) discussing its dimensions; and e) identifying ways to address it [34
This reflective problem-posing process is central to the Agency’s pedagogical approach. It is not concerned with the transmission of content per se, but rather with the development of young people as protagonists of change. Through its stimulus cycle the program promotes problem-posing education in three main ways. First, the different stages aim to expand the creative capacity of participants and help them to identify—and to think critically about—new aspects and possibilities in their own communities and everyday life experiences that they have hitherto not considered. Second, it promotes a non-authoritarian teaching approach based on mutual respect and learning, breaking with the traditional top-down relationship between teacher and students. In addition, participants are encouraged to engage actively and critically in all the stages, rather than simply consuming information passively. Third, the Agency recognizes participants as creative agents who have the capacity to generate new ideas. This is not to say that the program presumes to become a turning point in the trajectory of participants within a fixed time frame. Instead, the goal is to demonstrate to young people that they have a right to imagine and try out new possibilities, and new ways of interacting in their own social surroundings.
Specifically, this is very much the approach that is adopted in the compass stage of the Agency’s nonformal educational initiative. Through visual conceptualization of a project proposal in the form of a compass, participants present: a) An introduction of their overall idea, which relates to identification of the topic to be examined; b) a description of the motivation underlying the project idea, how it connects to the lived experiences of youth, what resources are needed, and what forms of expression will be employed (all encapsulated by the elements of “identifying and personalizing the problem”); and c) a description of the proposed project site and populations that will benefit from the project, which align with the problem-posing components of “creating a debate around the problem and identifying alternatives to solving it.”
2.2.3. Linkage to Dialogical Learning
A problem-posing educational approach that rejects a banking model of knowledge creation and encourages students to become ‘active investigators of society’ is inherently related to critical pedagogy’s concept of dialogical learning [36
]. Based on the notion that individuals are created by, and in turn help to create, the social universe they are inserted in, critical dialogue involves a series of dialectic activities (e.g. questioning, responding, sharing experiences and perspectives, adapting, suggesting alternatives, and so on) that allow students to deeply analyze the contradictions in the social structures they live under and to connect their lives with those around them [30
]. Such educational practices hold that students are active and conscious agents, capable of knowing and transforming their realities as they gain critical understanding of their surroundings [11
The critical educator plays a crucial role in dialogical learning, working collaboratively with students in a non-authoritarian way that enables them to reflect on and solve problems about the nature of their social realities. This entails dialogue with students which must be guided by respect for the ideas they bring to the learning space [29
]. In this dialogical process, while teachers help to unveil objective reality to students, it deliberately avoids transmitting ‘correct knowledge’ in a banking model approach. Rather, the act of engaging in critical dialogue constitutes the reflective basis of praxis and emancipation [40
] (p. 173). In effect, dialogue is “the encounter between men, mediated by the word, in order to mediate the world” [5
] (p. 88).
Working with students inside the classroom and in their communities, Freirean educators attempt to uncover the “ideas, words, conditions and habits that are central to their everyday life experiences” [11
] (p. 31). These generative themes—the familiar words, experiences, situations, and relationships that are central to people’s lives—are representative of the most important issues impacting students and their communities [11
]. Similar to the mapping and inventory exercises, the Agency’s alphabet
stage also serves the purpose of helping youth become critical examiners of their communities, building an “epistemological relationship to reality” as Freire would put it [41
] (p. 42). In constructing a list from A to Z that describes the knowledge, experiences, and references that have inspired their project ideas, participants in the Agency program actively learn to create their own generative themes.
The fact that the Agency arranges for participants to revisit and discuss these themes with other youth throughout the stimulus cycle exemplifies its emphasis on dialectic activities. The ideas fair
stages, for instance, are exercises that encourage participants to share perspectives and reflections, ask and answer questions, make suggestions, and learn to adapt. Notably, in the annual event referred to above, participants are able to engage with other young people from across the city, discussing a broad range of themes of common interest and sharing their ideas for innovation and change. As Viviane, who has established a community poetry initiative centered on current political issues impacting favela dwellers, has observed, the Agency’s nonformal educational program has helped young people to develop a critical awareness of troubling political and social issues, in a context where such inquiries are usually discouraged.
The most important thing is to help the youth to think for themselves. And to do that, we need to deconstruct in order to reconstruct. The opportunities are few, but still, we have to learn to be critical in choosing which ones to take. We need an education of ‘whys.’ The initiatives that are most present are embedded in a mediocre model of education… They are not discussed with the youth beforehand. We want to choose now. It isn’t about what you want to give me or what you think I need anymore.
Similar to problem-posing, the Agency’s emphasis on dialogical learning has key theoretical underpinnings. For example, its open-ended curriculum that is intended to be relevant to the lifeworld of participants and to recognize them as protagonists and creators relates to the principle of “respect for students’ language, voices, identities and values” in dialogic learning. Similarly, the Agency’s non-authoritative educational approach employed throughout the stimulus cycle exemplifies the “co-creation of knowledge between teacher and students.” Its alphabet exercise, which is meant to help students gain an understanding of their reality, is parallel to “the use of generative themes from the physical and social world.” The pedagogical centrality of discussion about problems that favela residents must face on a daily basis, which in turns leads to the formulation of project proposals aiming to address these problems, is directly related to Freire’s notion of “the use of dialogue and reflective practices that foment social action”.
2.2.4. Linkage to Praxis
In emancipatory education, the process of critical consciousness-raising (Freire’s notion of conscientização
), followed by actions for progressive social change, is what Freire termed as praxis
(or informed action). Essentially, praxis relates to the juxtaposition of critical reflection and action, with each dialectically enriching the other in pursuit of liberation [32
]. Merging theory and practice, the goal of praxis is to bridge experience, understanding, and social action, thus enabling individuals to interact democratically in pursuit of progressive social change [37
]. In Freire’s view, in order to be truly emancipatory, education must be entrenched in a combination of dialogue and praxis, each stimulating and sustaining the other continuously [40
]. For Freire, ideas and theory are useful primarily when adopted for purposeful action and societal transformation [38
By scaffolding training, critical reflection, mentorship, and action, the Agency’s nonformal education program is structured in order to guide participants through the creative process so they can bring forth their own proposals for change. Through knowledge creation, which emerges from the experiences and ideas of favela youth that are relevant to their struggles and those of their communities, the program seeks to bridge the gap between theoretical concepts and actual practices that serve a larger transformative purpose. This is very much the essence of praxis-oriented critical pedagogy. From the specific stages of the stimulus cycle to the broader processes of project proposal presentations and eventual project creation and implementation, each educational step introduced by the Agency is meant to be mutually complementary, providing young people with foundations for critical engagement, creative expression, and, ultimately, the making of social change.
By encouraging young participants to critically examine the social and political environment of Rio de Janeiro and to envision projects founded on the principle of social entrepreneurship, Agency educators play a key role in stimulating their protégés’ self-confidence and sense of autonomy. Nevertheless, it is the participants themselves who define what they will do, how they will do it, with whom to work, and what public to target. It is they who assume responsibility for putting their ideas into practice. With participants encouraged by “the possibility of choice”, backed by a strong support system of education and mentorship, this is the essence of the pedagogy of praxis. As an example, a few weeks into the stimulus cycle, after participants have identified specific problems within their communities, they are asked to fill out a questionnaire entitled “strategic planning”. This invites them to think seriously about potential projects that might address such problems and about how they might bring these projects to fruition. Commenting on this process, Raquel, a young health worker, explained that it was during this exercise that she had the idea to create a project providing emotional support and professional development for teen mothers in her community. Six years later (at the time of the interview), not only had her project benefited many young mothers, but it had evolved into an accredited NGO. As she explained:
When I started at the Agency I didn’t know what project I wanted to create; I only knew I wanted to help my community. Then, throughout the cycle, I started to build an idea. A few years back, I helped a friend of mine who got pregnant and went through some difficulties. Once the Agency started to ask me what I thought my community needed, I thought to myself ‘as it happened to my friend, I see a lot of girls in the community who get pregnant and have no support’. And that is how I started this involvement with pregnant teens and immersed myself in the project.
From strategies promoting favela art and culture, women’s empowerment, and youth conflict resolution, to projects responding to demands related to education, work, and transportation, Agency participants have made use of their knowledge of community needs and resources to advance development actions that are conducive to, and respectful of, favela contexts. Such conditionalities for project implementation would likely be difficult for actors from outside the favelas to fully grasp and assess. This approach to grassroots development is based on the conviction that no one is better positioned than favela dwellers themselves to identify what their communities need most. As Raquel pointed out in a book she has written about her experience at the Agency, “Many people bring ideas and actions to the favela, but those do not always reflect our needs” [43
] (p. 13).
Naturally, as the program attracts participants from dozens of different communities and from all walks of life, the ideas and motivations behind the projects young people create are as diverse as their life experiences and personal interests. And yet, despite varying in focus, objectives and target audience, the roughly 200 original projects that have been initiated by the Agency’s emancipatory educational approach all share characteristics of locally-generated innovation and the impetus for context-relevant transformation. Examples of such are: A project to expand motorcycle taxi options for young women, that is administered by young women in the favela of João XXIII; a traveling home theater that combines the showing of national films and post-film debates in the homes of community residents in Batan; revitalization of an illegal garbage site through a planting and gardening initiative for children; and a community newspaper, dedicated to the strengthening of Northeastern culture by highlighting positive resident narratives in the favela of Rocinha. These are four projects typifying the imaginative initiatives for social impact that have emerged from the Agency’s nonformal education program in Rio de Janeiro.
As for impact, despite being small-scale and running on limited funding, little over one-third of all projects created through and funded by the Agency are still active today, and one-quarter have been formalized as small businesses, increasing their relevance in their respective communities and helping build local capacity. In all, the extent to which these strategies have reached residents from different favelas (hundreds of people impacted by these projects), the diverse populations that have benefited (children, adult learners, job seekers, local artists, businesses, and so on), and the various institutions and organizations that have served as venues for these actions (from public schools and community centers to improvised auditoriums and residents’ own homes), taken together, illustrate the potential of young people’s ideas and actions, when focused on local challenges and opportunities, to help build stronger communities.