New app helping young people speak out to shape their local community

A new app has just been launched that puts the power to rate and help improve communities in the hands of young people.

Now, thanks to the new RPlace app, it only takes youngsters a few clicks to share what they like - and hate - about where they live, play and go with their friends and have their say on what needs to improve.

The free secure app, supported by Play Wales, has been developed by the HAPPEN and ACTIVE research projects based at Swansea University which both study ways of improving young people’s lives.

RPlace allows young people to 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, reviews can be added in six different categories:
• safety;
• active/play;
• green spaces;
• meet friends;
• pollution/clean; and,
• accessibility.

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 also aims to work with charities, organisations and businesses to help improve knowledge around young people’s uses of spaces. If you fall into these categories and want to gain better knowledge for funding or development of infrastructure, please drop us an e-mail and we can work together to help map the spaces you are interested.

RPlace has been designed and developed by Suad Ahmadieh Mena, a software engineer and Swansea University graduate.

Suad said: “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. 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.”

Lead researcher for RPlace Dr Michaela James 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.”

Abbie, age 15, said RPlace was a great way for young people to share what their feelings about their communities: “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 RPlace user Lucia said: “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.

Director of Health and Care Research Wales Professor Kieran Walsh added: “Research that is taking place through apps like this one is vital in ensuring young people are heard when it comes to their health and wellbeing needs. The RPlace app is a fantastic tool which will inform and improve services and spaces for children in Wales.”

For more information about RPlace, including how to use and how to download, visit the HAPPEN website

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