Resilient by Design Youth Challenge

Y-PLAN Resilient by Design header
"Many of the [young people] experience… these challenges in our communities firsthand, and they bring such great insights and knowledge to how we need to address some of these bigger climate challenges that we have before us." / Allison Brooks, Executive Director, Bay Area Regional Collaborative

Over 800 Bay Area students, ages 8 to 18, brought big ideas and unbounded energy to the Bay Area’s first-ever Y-PLAN Resilient by Design Youth Challenge. The Youth Challenge was a unique opportunity to engage over 1000 young people, community members, civic leaders, parents, and local schools in reimagining and redesigning communities most vulnerable to climate change and sea level rise. The Youth Challenge also prepared elementary and high school teachers to engage students in these issues in partnership with local leaders and RbD Design Teams.

The young participants demonstrated the important role they play in their communities’ efforts to effectively respond to inevitable challenges like rising seas, flooding, earthquakes and man-made disasters while confronting daily stresses like food insecurity and homelessness. In all, students from 32 schools in low income communities of color in Oakland, San Rafael, San Francisco, Richmond, and East Palo Alto were involved in planning for a climate resilient future for themselves and their communities.

During the Youth Challenge, Y-PLAN student scholars pushed the envelope within the field of climate resilience, arguing that their lived experience and existing resilience within their communities must be an essential starting point for adapting to climate change.

  • In Richmond, 3 high schools addressed issues ranging from sea level rise to accessing healthy food, affordable housing, and open space, highlighting the intersecting needs of residents in the city.
  • In San Rafael, elementary students tackled flooding, developing models and plans for their community to adapt to sea level rise. They presented their work and interviewed attendees at the Flood Fair, a Resilient by Design Bionic Team community event.
  • In East Palo Alto, high school students grappled with the relationship between rising sea levels and housing costs and the closure of their school, developing proposals that fostered community resilience and centered cultural identities.
  • In Oakland and San Francisco, as in other cities, students considered issues from food insecurity and floating houses to bus routes and school quality in proposing recommendations for equitable community resilience in the face of rising sea levels.

The Youth Challenge culminated in a regional summit at UC Berkeley where over 100 student representatives shared their proposals for a resilient Bay Area with their peers around the region and an equal number of regional civic leaders. Proposals included floating homes; electric buses rerouted to reach all communities; educational boardwalks installed above newly appearing marshes; exercise bikes powering a gym; and a college-bound culture with food, housing and educational opportunities available to everyone. In each case, Y-PLAN student scholars described how their lived experience contributed to the development of their final proposals, highlighting the important relationship between lived experience and professional practice when planning a resilient and inclusive region for and with young people.

brightness_7 Impact By the Numbers
Resilient by Design: 1 Year
people800+ students
school13 schools
account_balance100+ civic partners
supervisor_account25+ educators
developer_board15 city-school projects
RbD students poster
RbD student
"It’s important to realize and understand where you are, and that you’re not the first person to be there. There’s people, creatures, living organisms that have been there before you. And to move in and just start taking over land, it’s doing to them what you feel is unjustly being done to you." / Y-PLAN Student Scholar, East Palo Alto