Collective Imaginaries for the World after Corona: Children and Youth's Imaginaries

By Derya Yüksek

Derya Yüksek is a doctoral researcher at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel in Brussels, Belgium. We have been corresponding about her planned project investigating COVID-19's impact on children and youth, and their images of the future after COVID. I have long said that you "can't get where you want to go if you don't have an image of where that is," and thus have been a long-time advocate of visioning exercises such as the one she has planned. So we very much support and encourage this effort. We offered to share the idea on our blog, in the hopes that others would be interested in corresponding with or collaborating with Dr.Yüksek.

Recent developments brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic continue to shiver the world. With thousands of people having lost their lives and even more hospitalized, some still in serious condition, the remaining billions continue to face the threat of the virus with the absence of a treatment, surrounded by widespread fear and uncertainties. The measures taken to combat the pandemic introduced various, previously unimaginable, changes and challenges in the lives of people, bringing along lockdown of countries, closure of businesses, and extended social isolation, creating and adding up to economic, social and psychological burdens for many.

This new situation, on one hand, brought to the fore many problems that were previously non-existing or less visible to public eye, and intensified the existing ones. On the other hand, it provided a time for reflection, encouraging people to think and act in new, innovative ways to handle and cope with this situation, focusing on interdependencies, solidarity and care for one another. All together, these experiences make it possible to imagine better new ways of living and relating -- and a better new world- -by tapping into the creative potentials of this period of uncertainty.

Children and youth have been one of the vulnerable social groups in this new environment, with the pandemic and lockdown situation largely altering their family, study and other life routines, while abruptly bringing in new ones. Not only has their young age made it more challenging for them to understand the pandemic and adjust to these new conditions, but the specifics of the pandemic also led to a portrayal of children and youth as potentially dangerous virus-carriers, resulting in more restrictive measures imposed on them. The political debate has hardly focused on their needs, apart from protective action and school performance.

Given this background, the project Collective Imaginaries for the World after Corona: Children and Youth Imaginaries aims to explore, document and share the lockdown experiences of school youth, at the ages between 12-18, based on their evaluations of the changes they have gone through in this period. In doing so, the focus will be on two main questions;

1.  What kind of an awareness this new and challenging setting have risen in children and youth, in relation to themselves, their social environment and the world, both in positive and negative terms; and

2.  Given these new understandings, what kind of a future world do they imagine, with a focus on the changes and courses of action that they want to see in the world after corona.

Responses will be received in the form of a text, audio, video, or an artwork (i.e. drawing, design, song) that address the aforementioned questions. The collected materials will then be combined into a multimedia output, which is to be distributed both online-via partner community media organizations and networks- and offline- through screenings at schools, youth centers and other potential sites, via collaborating organizations.

Taking into consideration that lockdown measures, despite some similar widespread effects, have affected different economic, social, and cultural groups differently, the project will be aimed at diverse groups of school youth; clustered across different locations (cities and villages), economic status (public and private schools), ethnic/racial backgrounds, cultural backgrounds (immigrants / refugees), and other disadvantaged groups (i.e. children with disabilities) -in order to bring to light differences and similarities between their lockdown experiences, and enable a diversity of views.

To reach out these children and youngsters, collaborations will be made with school teachers, children and youth organizations, refugee organizations and other civil society organizations. To facilitate responses and extend the project’s reach, a series of online workshops will be organized with students of different age groups, with the assistance of collaborators in forming the workshop groups.

By pooling and sharing these lockdown experiences, the project aims to provide children and youth a means for reflection on, and expression of their turbulences and traumas, as well as hopes and visions. Screenings of the final multimedia output further aims to encourage exchanges and discussions between children and youth around the issues raised, and the proposed courses of action, enabling them to learn about, evaluate, and discuss the differences and similarities between their lockdown experiences, their problems, priorities, and their visions for the future.

Some practicalities

  • Announcements for participation in the project will start in June 2020, with the assistance received from project collaborators, and collection of materials will be scheduled for mid-to-end summer (deadline(s) to be agreed with the collaborators).
  • Responses will be received in the form of a text (max. 1000 words), audio (1 minute), video (1 minute) or an artwork (max. 1000 words for text-based materials and 1 min. for any multimedia submissions).
  • Online workshops will be scheduled for the period of July-September 2020, and where possible, designed as a summer activity integrated in the programme of schools and civil society organizations. Each workshop is planned to host 8 to 10 participants. The workshop language will be English. The ideas shared, and discussions made during these workshops will be summarized in the conclusion part, which will then be shared online.
  • Each participant will be provided a brief questionnaire (not more than 5 questions) as a means to receive some basic profile information, and to guide younger children in their responses.
  • Each participant will be provided and asked to fill out a consent form to be read and signed by him/her and one of his/her parents, giving permission to the use, distribution and analysis of the submitted materials for the purposes of the project. 

About the researcher/project organizer

Derya Yüksek is a doctoral researcher at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB). Her theoretical and research focus is on the study of media and participation, participatory communication, alternative and community media, and conflict transformation. Yüksek’s PhD project, carried out in the ethno-politically divided island of Cyprus, examined the conflict transformation potentials of community media production processes, designed as a participatory contact zone bringing together Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot teenagers to collectively produce community media content in a series of community media production workshops. With a specialization in project management and EU policies, she was involved as a manager and consultant in various international cooperation projects in the field of culture, education and media across the Euro-Mediterranean, prior to joining the VUB.

For questions, comments, and joining the project as a collaborator, please contact: Derya Yüksek.