The Center for the Living City, with support from the Ford Foundation, is advancing and expanding the pilot Observe! program for youth throughout the world. Observe! has expanded in the US, India, and Bangladesh.

One of the main goals of this program is to develop civically engaged voices of young women that lead to local and global action in the places they care about. The girls and young women will participate in a community-based patch program, learn about cities and develop skills that will amplify their voices as they engage in place-based, creative action. 

This program provides skills and tools that both inform action and support their developing voices. Women and girls are deeply affected by misogynistic behaviors and attitudes prevalent in societies around the globe. The impacts are often internalized, creating barriers that diminish and even silence their voices. Urgent problems facing communities, including the impacts of climate change, rapid urbanization, access to safe drinking water and sanitation, food deserts and other deficiencies are also opportunities for creative responses from the change-makers of the future. Inspired by the broad impacts of women like Malala Yousafzai, and recently, Wangari MaathaiJane Jacobs, girls and young women have both new role models and new narratives to help them navigate through inequalities and push for creative expression.

Girl Scouts of Utah troop #496 lead a group of girls on a Jane Jacobs Walk. Spring 2016 Salt Lake City, UT.

Girl Scouts of Utah troop #496 lead a group of girls on a Jane Jacobs Walk. Spring 2016 Salt Lake City, UT.

The 2017 Jane Jacobs Fellow, Kat Nix, worked with the Center for the Living City and is seeking to engage the Girl Scouts of the USA, the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) and other worldwide organizations to identify, create and disseminate resources to implement the Observe! patch globally.

This fellowship built upon a successful joint pilot project with the Girl Scout Troop 496 (Muslim Girl Scouts of Utah) during spring of 2016. Led by University of Utah student Naba Faizi, the project focused on Jacobs’ groundbreaking work about the importance of observation. Beginning with the reading of Glenna Lang’s book, Genius of Common Sense: Jane Jacobs and the Story of the Death and Life of Great American Citiesthe girls came to understand the importance of Jacobs’ voice in our evolving understanding of cities. Lang’s book both describes Jacobs’ young life in Scranton, Pa., where she was herself a Girl Scout, and opens a window on Jacobs’ bold voice as she worked to understand the ways cities work.

Once the girls and young women understood how Jacobs developed her powerful observational skills to create new knowledge about cities, the girls will created individual Jane Jacobs Walks that introduce one another to their unique communities. These elements include those which may cause concern or joy, inform a sense of history, address problems of housing, mobility, food justice, access to education and sanitation, or a host of other problems witnessed through their observational skills. The girls are invited to propose ways to preserve, celebrate, heal or transform an area they discover. In each case, their discoveries open pathways for creative action and a working vocabulary of the ecology of cities

Questions or Comments on Observe! Program can be directed to info@centerforthelivingcity.org