Lessons learned from local vacant land management organizations for engaging youth in greening

Rauk, L., Rupp, L., Hohl, B. C., Kondo, M. C., Ornelas, L., Carter, P. M., & Zimmerman, M. A.


Youth living in areas with high concentrations of vacant properties may be at particular risk for poor health outcomes given the associations between deteriorated vacant properties, poor mental health, and community violence. Vacant lot greening has emerged as a key strategy to mitigate the harms of deteriorated properties. Youth engagement in greening has documented benefits for youth, yet few organizations responsible for managing vacant properties currently engage youth. Further, few researchers have examined the best practices that organizations can employ to effectively engage youth in greening programs. The purpose of this study was to understand how high functioning vacant land management organizations with robust youth engagement capabilities engage youth in their greening work. Based on in-depth interviews with staff from vacant land management organizations, we explored three research questions: (1) what are their identified best practices for youth engagement?; (2) what are the major challenges that impede their youth engagement work?; (3) what solutions are these organizations employing to address these challenges? Findings from this study emphasize the important themes of engaging youth in vacant lot greening in areas of planning, leadership, and decision-making. Youth engagement in vacant lot greening may be a key mechanism for preventing violence through cultivating youth empowerment and development.

Keywords: greening; vacant lots; violence prevention; youth engagement.