Maria Gabriela Gonzalez Rausell and Alejandra Gomez BolivarSeveral students, faculty, and an alumna from Pratt Institute’s Urban Placemaking and Management program in the School of Architecture appeared on a panel titled “The Social Inclusion of Cities” at the United Nations 2018 Winter Youth Assembly in New York City on February 16. 

The Youth Assembly is a biannual conference that engages youth in the global movement for inclusive and sustainable development. It brings together more than 1,200 young leaders to encourage dialogue and partnerships among youth, civil society, and the private sector, and aims to enhance both the ability and knowledge of delegates to become effective catalysts for change in their communities. 

The Pratt-affiliated panelists were Dr. Setha Low, Visiting Assistant Professor in Pratt’s Graduate Center for Planning and Environment and Director of the Public Space Research Group at CUNY; Elka Gotfryd, M.S. Urban Placemaking and Management '18, Senior Project Associate at the Project for Public Spaces; and Maria Gabriela Gonzalez Rausell, M.S. Urban Placemaking and Management '17, and Alejandra Gomez Bolivar, M.S. Urban Placemaking and Management '18, co-founders of EPIC Placemaking. Also on the panel were Dr. Gregory Donovan, Professor at Fordham University, and Sahar Moazami, UN Program Officer at OutRight Action International.

The panelists addressed an audience of more than 400 delegates representing more than 120 countries around the world, including high school students, university students, and young professionals engaged in social entrepreneurship, philanthropy, and civil society.

With Dr. Low serving as moderator, the group discussed ways to foster social inclusion in urban environments, covering topics including LGBTQ communities, equity and economy in urban development, smart cities, and placemaking as a social inclusion tool in developing countries.

Gonzalez Rausell shared her reasons for applying to be a panelist at the conference. “We want to inspire others to start looking closely at the cities and neighborhoods they live in, to learn about them from their neighbors, friends, and leaders; and to think about where they can start to make a change. That's what placemaking is about,” she explained.

Gonzalez Rausell and Gomez Bolivar participated as delegates at the United Nations (UN) Youth Assembly’s summer session last year. The experience inspired them to share what they have learned from the Urban Placemaking program at Pratt and their experiences in their home countries of Venezuela and Colombia by creating EPIC Placemaking, a partnership with the goal of designing places that diminish social barriers, using placemaking as its main inclusive tool. EPIC will now be working on the research of two study cases in the co-founders’ home countries and plans to participate in upcoming urban discussions in the United States. 

Learn more about the 2018 Winter Youth Assembly and its focus on the theme of “Innovation and Collaboration for a Sustainable World,” which is in line with the 11th goal of “Sustainable Cities and Communities” of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals that the UN envisions to implement to transform the world. View the Opening Ceremony and related content on UN Web TV, which livestreamed the event.

Image: (L-R) Maria Gabriela Gonzalez Rausell and Alejandra Gomez Bolivar