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Doing social sustainability: the utopian imagination of youth on the margins

graffitied caravanHawke Research Institute for Sustainable Societies
ARC Linkage Project 2006–2008

Project summary

The project aimed to find out how young people on the margins of society imagine the future and what hope means to them. The premise of the project was that the utopian imagination of marginalised young people can contribute to the development of two key themes for social sustainability: hope and the future. The project conducted research in alternative education schools in South Australia in late 2006 and early 2007. The schools cater for males and females that may be ‘at risk’, unable to cope in mainstream education, and have problems with violence, substance abuse or with the juvenile justice system. The young people were aged between 14 and 17. The researchers talked with students in class, encouraged them to draw, interviewed them and gave them a camera to take some photographs of places, people and things that they associate with hopefulness and ‘the future’.

The results of these activities and interviews were the basis for an exhibition at the Migration Museum, South Australia. The exhibition, entitled Hope, was part of the 2008 Adelaide Festival of Arts.

The final outcome of the project was the book Hope: the everyday and imaginary worlds of young people on the margins by Simon Robb, Patrick O'Leary, Alison Mackinnon and Peter Bishop (Wakefield Press, Adelaide, 2010).

visit the exhibition
Hope video

Hope Digital Story

Project researcher, Simon Robb, asks how some of the research questions apply to his own life. (Adobe Flash video, 9 MB)

Key researchers

youth's photo of friends' legs

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