International Youth Day
||49 Practical Activities and Methods for Human
Rights Education > Our futures
The test of our progress is not whether we
add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether
we provide enough for those who have little.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
General human rights
|| Level 2
|| 15 - 20
||In this activity participants draw, contemplate and discuss
their hopes and concerns for the future of their generation.
Among the issues addressed are:
- Environmental issues affecting future generations
- Young people and the family
- Community life
- The right to an opinion and access to information
- The right to be heard on all matters concerning the
best interests of the child
- The right to a decent standard of living
- To develop knowledge about community life, rights and
- To promote skills to discuss openly, to work in a team
and to have vision
- To see the world as a developing and open-ended opportunity
to which every young person can make a positive or negative
- Paper for drafts
- Large sheets of paper for the final design
- Paints, pens and markers
- Materials for a collage, coloured paper, magazines,
twigs, rice, beans, dead leaves, shells, etc
- Pictures or photographs of how the neighbourhood/town
looked ten or twenty years ago (optional)
- Introduce the concept of change over time. Ask participants
to think back to when they were younger and what their homes
and the local streets looked like, and how they have changed.
Have any of the rooms in the training centre been redecorated,
or do they have any new furniture? Are there any new buildings
in the neighbourhood? Ask people to think about why these things
have changed and who made the decisions about what should be
renewed and how it should be done.
- Ask people to brainstorm the changes they would have made
if they had been consulted.
- Now make the links with making decisions that affect other
people and human rights. Do people think that human rights make
a useful framework for decision making? Will human rights be
more or less important for decision-makers in the future? Why?
- Tell the group that the opportunity is now! This is the moment
for them to take the chance to start thinking about - and influencing
- the futures they may inhabit.
- Ask people to get into groups of three to four.
- Hand out the paper and pens and ask them to draft or sketch
ideas for their ideal neighbourhood/town of the future. They
have a free hand. The limits are their own imaginations.
- When each group has agreed a draft plan, they should transfer
it onto a large sheet of paper and complete it with paint and
- When the work is done, ask each group in turn to present
their plan and to say where they got their ideas and how they
developed them. Allow time for short questions and answers after
each presentation, but leave general discussion for the debriefing.
Debriefing and evaluation
Start with a review of how people worked together in their groups
and how they made their decisions and carried out the work.
Did everyone feel able to participate and to contribute to
the work? How did the different small groups make the best use
of the individual talents of their members?
How did it feel to receive feedback about their plans?
How did it feel to give feedback about their plans?
Would they be prepared to compromise some of their ideals if
they now had to design a
single class or group plan that met the needs and aspirations
of everyone in the class or group?
Did people enjoy the feeling of being "architects of their
Do they believe their ideals could ever come true? Why? Why
Do they believe adults would be ready to discuss their plans?
Why? Why not?
What was the biggest surprise in any of the plans?
What would be their rights as citizens in the future?
What would be their duties as citizens in the future?
What steps can young people take now to have influence in the
democratic processes which shape their lives and their futures?
Tips for facilitators
The title of this activity is "Our futures". The intention
of using the plural is to emphasise that the future is not pre-determined
but, rather, that it is what we make it. Therefore, there are
many possible futures and the challenge for young people is to
build a future which reflects their ideals and aspirations.
To reinforce the concept of change, you may like to show old
pictures of how the local area looked ten or twenty years ago.
You can also ask them to think of global changes. For instance,
they should think about the fact that thirty years ago the Internet
was the stuff of science fiction, but that in a few years time
there will be connections to the web in every school and library
in the world.
If the participants are not sure about what the future town
may be like you could prompt them by asking:
- Who will live here? People born here, or newcomers? What
ages will they be? Will they live in families?
- What will their daily lives be like? Where will they shop
for food? How will they travel around?
- What sort of welfare services, such as hospitals, dentists,
etc. will they need?
- What will their schools be like?
- What will their social lives be like? What will they do for
- Will they have pets?
- What work will people do?
- What new technological developments might there be?
- What about the environment? The natural surroundings?
An alternative method could be to use the idea of "futures
wheels". Get people to work in small groups. Each group takes
one issue, (for instance, education, the family, the community,
employment or health) and draws the futures wheel for that topic.
For example, an environment wheel would have a hub of the most
important things and then other concentric circles around it.
"Spokes" divide the wheel up into sections, in which
people can write points such as: no smoke, electromobiles, lots
of trees, clean rivers and humane farming.
Suggestions for follow-up
Find out more about the planning processes
for local development and how to influence them. Get involved
with decision-making in the school, club or association by attending
council meetings, or even standing for election. There are other
activities that can be useful to explore futures options. For
instance "Path to Equality-land" looks at how to achieve
gender equality, and "The impact of the Internet" looks
at future scenarios for new technologies.
While we dream about our futures, we can make a start at building
a more just society. If the group would like to look at the issue
of bullying and explore ways to develop empathy and respect for
everyone, then they could do the activity "Do
we have alternatives?.
Unfortunately our futures are not entirely in our own hands.
Social, economic, political or environmental forces may force
us to leave our homes, to become refugees. You may like to explore
the challenges and problems which force people unwillingly to
move away from family and friends to live in another country.
Look at the activity, "The
refugee" in the all different all equal education pack.
"The world turned upside
down", C/23 in Alien 93 is another thought-provoking
Ideas for action
Take the plan to the local council and see if you can involve
them. Your plan could be used in the town/village plan.