Surrey - youth-at-risk engagement lab

After the City of Surrey published its Crime Reduction Strategy, municipal and community leaders saw an opportunity to engage youth at risk in expanding the strategy’s impact. They invited me to work with local universities, police, City staff and youth to design an agile and effective new way to support youth at risk in Canada’s fastest-growing city.

Over six weeks, my colleague and I used story, theatre, games and narrative analysis to guide the group through a shared emotional journey, as we explored the challenges and opportunities for local Surrey youth. By enabling them to tap into past experiences, we were collectively able to identify specific strategies that had helped them work through difficulties to become successful in life.

This breakthrough inspired a flood of new ideas for initiatives. Ultimately, the youth themselves built on their findings to create an innovative program for Community Outreach Led By Youth: C.O.L.B.Y. They realized that nobody knew how the system worked better than youth who'd been in it. By empowering them to become outreach ambassadors to other youth at risk, they could help kids get the right help when and where they need it. The program became the catalyst for several related youth initiatives and inspired additional investment in youth by the City.