This case study was part of wider SEEYouth: Social Innovation through Participatory Art and Design with Youth at the Margins -project. It was planned and implemented with the SOS Children's Village in Espoo and an advisor on multicultural work and youth employment, Mikko Ylisuvanto.

The methodological frame of the project was built on an interdisciplinary approach in collaboration with a social work researcher, artist-researcher and an advisor on multicultural youth work, resulting in carefully planned and structured socially engaged and environmental arts-based workshop with seven young people (18-20 years old) of asylum-seeking backgrounds. The collaboration formed a continuation in 2020 and 2021, including two face-to-face workshop weekends and online workshops and virtual communication in between them.

The NGO collaborator’s commitment to the project’s aims and purpose was pivotal in defining spaces, structures and framework of the workshops; he provided critical insights towards the benefits and risks of youth’s participation, and his role in reaching the youth, communicating and translating the project to the “youth’s language” formed a cornerstone in gaining trust and legitimating the workshop activities from the youth’s perspective. In reflective negotiations with the NGO collaborator and the youth, participatory methods via socially engaged and environmental arts formed the basis for the workshop activities addressing themes that related to challenges and future prospects of the youth.



Participants: Seven 18-20 years old young people from asylum-seeking backgrounds, living in Southern Finland. 

Trainers: Social work researcher, advisor on multicultural youth work and youth employment from the NGO (continuing in 2021 collaboration as an entrepreneur) and artist-researcher. In 2021 participating also artist-researcher and research assistant.

Partner institutions, stakeholders: Sos-Children´s Village Espoo, Mikko Ylisuvanto


Backby Manor, Espoo, Finland (including also one face-to-face-hybrid meeting, online meetings and connection through WhatsApp)


Planning from February to May 2020 ; face-to-face workshops in June 2020 and May 2021 ; online workshops in November 2020 and February 2021; exhibition in November and December 2021.


Stereotyping public narratives on youth with asylum seeking backgrounds - division of “us” and “them”. Youth’s perspectives, expertise and creativity in developing solutions to challenges are also often disregarded. There are gaps between ideologies and implementation of youth empowerment and engagement.

To produce multiprofessional and interdisciplinary knowledge on arts-based encounters and dialogue with youth at margins. To co-create arts-based ways and solutions for tackling youth marginalisation and divisions. To develop an arts-based process building on youth’s agency and aiming at strengthening global connections/mirroring.


Encounters with the youth, using art-based methods, creative usage of materials, rich dialogue and reflections, gaining more understanding of the youth’s lives. Different data (audio/photographs/notes/art works) collected during the activities and meetings leading towards research articles and exhibitions.


Art-based methods combining environmental and community arts. Working both indoors and outdoors, using sense opening methods and observation. Strong emphasis on dialogue and reflection. One of the cornerstones of the working was the interdisciplinary approach and multi professional knowledge, discussions and reflection. Combining social work, multicultural youth work and arts-based approaches was a fruitful way of working.


Spaces and ways for the youth to strengthen their identities, belonging and agency. New methods for the youth to process and share their thoughts, emotions and wishes. Shared experience & connection for mutual learning. Continuity with clear beginning and ending of the process; creating a safe psycho-social space. Multiprofessional and interdisciplinary approaches for co-creating and implementing an arts-based project with youth. Nuanced and pluralistic representations of youth with asylum-seeking backgrounds; deconstructs stereotyping, monolithic narrative.

For additional information (project website)

Workshop activities
Collage from the first workshop weekend with the youth in 2020.