Although the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child established children's right to participate in a broad range of areas, CEEDS is interested in the unique benefits of involving young people as active participants in, and shapers of, their surroundings—or as community placemakers. For low-income and minority youth, their surroundings likely evidence a host of adverse social and spatial conditions, yet youth around the world have demonstrated a boundless capacity to engage transformative community placemaking.

CEEDS posits that participation in placemaking is simultaneously an empowering social process that advances individual development and a mechanism that results in tangible community development. Accordingly, our methodology seeks to create circumstances that (1) increase the participation of youth in their communities and (2) produce positive results for both youth and communities. In particular, we are interested in increasing opportunities for low-income and minority youth to participate in, and improve, their surroundings, while taking on leadership roles.

A growing body of research suggests that such opportunities are most successful when activities are culturally and age appropriate, are broadly intergenerational, have strong institutional support, include adults who are experienced in facilitating youth participation, and ensure that youth have concrete feedback on the outcomes of their efforts. When well conceived, participation in placemaking can enhance young people's cognitive and social skills, heighten their mastery over the spatial world, and increase their sense of caring for the Earth and its ecosystems.

CEEDS advances its agenda of youth participation in placemaking through an interrelated agenda of research, teaching, and service. We conduct research in K-12 and community settings to document the benefits (and drawbacks) of participation for youth and communities. We prepare university students, design professionals, and K-12 teachers to facilitate youth participation by assuming roles as mentors and partners. We volunteer in K-12 schools and community settings to help bring youth into the community development process. And we publish the outcomes of our efforts in the popular and scholarly press.