New app helps young people shape their communities

An innovative new app is giving young people the power to rate their communities and put forward ideas to improve them.

Young people can, with just a few clicks of the app RPlace, share what they like and dislike about where they live, play and go with their friends and, crucially, have their say on what needs to improve.

Play Wales is supporting the app, which has been developed by the HAPPEN and ACTIVE research projects at Swansea University, both of which carry out studies on ways to improve young people’s lives.

RPlace enables its young users to really get involved in mapping of their community by letting them rate, recommend, upload photos and add locations of places they want to see change happen in. Once they have downloaded the app to their smartphone, reviews can be added in six different categories: safety; active/play; green spaces; meet friends; pollution/cleanliness and accessibility.

‘Allows young people to put forward ideas’

The researchers then share these reviews and data with the local councils, police and charities, bodies with power to act and enhance communities, making them safer and better spaces for young people to play and hang out in.

RPlace is also designed to work with charities, organisations and businesses to help improve knowledge around how young people use spaces. young people’s uses of spaces. Its principal designer and developer is Suad Ahmadieh Mena, a software engineer and Swansea University graduate.

“I designed it to be a user-friendly fun app that allows young people to express their views on a familiar, easy to use digital platform,” said Suad. “It is a perfect way for young people to communicate their views in a way that suits them and share information on the places that are important and relevant to them.”

Dr Michaela James, lead researcher for RPlace, added: “Our previous research showed that young people do want to be active in their local communities, but they feel there is a lack of facilities or that they cost too much. They also tell us there is too much traffic, rubbish and that sometimes they don’t feel safe.

“We wanted to give them a voice to change their local communities and overcome these barriers. RPlace can help empower young people and advocate for their wants and needs. The data gathered will be shared with decision-makers across Wales to help improve an area’s safety and show just what young people value and what they would like changed.”

‘Really useful for solving problems’

Young users have already been giving a clear thumbs-up the app. Abbie, 15, said: “The app is really useful for solving problems by identifying where people use drugs and alcohol in the area. It also helps highlight good parts about the area and those that need work and what can be done.”

Fellow user Lucia added: “It is really fun to use. I would use it to highlight issues round climate change and for pointing out areas that should be left alone.” and Ali added “It’s a great app for young people to get their voice heard and improve local facilities.”.

RPlace is available to download for free on Android and Apple.

The HAPPEN Network and ACTIVE are part of the National Centre for Population Health and Wellbeing Research funded by the Welsh Government through Health and Care Research Wales.

Owen Evans, CEO of Children in Wales, the national umbrella body for organisations and individuals who work with children, young people and their families, said: “The RPlace app is an excellent idea, empowering young people and capturing their views and voice in an innovative way. We are interested in seeing how it develops and look forward to promoting awareness of this useful app.”

Visit the HAPPEN website for more information.

Author: Simon Weedy

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