Madrid , Spain

Timing, Tempo and Beat: Youth and Community

Fundación Tomillo

November 25, 2010

Promoting youth engagement through shared decision-making

Many community-based programmes reach out to disadvantaged youth. However, the Tiempo Joven programme does what few others dare. Tiempo Joven involves young people directly in the planning, management and financial operations of its programmes.

The kids are in charge and they’re doing a great job.

Translated loosely as “Young Time”, the programme was launched in April 2003 by the Fundación Tomillo in the Orcasur neighbourhood of Madrid to address gang violence and isolation among young immigrants living in areas with few resources. Tiempo Joven offers neighbourhood youth an opportunity to create and participate in workshops that reflect their interests. This includes activities ranging from rap music to percussion, break-dancing, theatre and radio.

By involving youth at every level of the programme design, from implementation to the budget, the programme helps participants develop confidence, a sense of community investment, and transferable skills.

All this happens while engaging youth in their favourite activities, such as the performances of young rappers Taller de Hip-Hop in Rapsodas in Barrio (see video, below). No wonder that the success of the programme’s unique approach has now been replicated in four other districts around the city.

Coming Together for Change

Just over 13% of Madrid’s population is made up of immigrants, the second highest total percentage in the country, and approximately 14.7% are children or adolescents. Most live in crowded and dilapidated neighbourhoods in the south of Madrid.

The Orcasur neighbourhood where Tiempo Joven was first launched is the poorest district in Madrid and has some of the highest rates of unemployment, school failure and crime. Most of the immigrants in this area are from Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, the Dominican Republic and Morocco. Crowded housing and the lack of local resources creates a sense of overarching dislocation amongst these young people and makes them particularly vulnerable to gangs, (especially those that divide along cultural or racial lines).

To meet these challenges, Tiempo Joven uses innovative recruitment strategies and a unique participatory approach to bring youth from these conflicting groups together around a concrete, shared goal.

Since access to information is limited within this group and in these areas, for example, mobile workshops are set up throughout the community to reach and enroll young people in the programmes.

Once enrolled, participants are treated like council delegates and are invited to participate in the development of the programmes they hope to be involved with. At the heart of this model is the Council of Young Social Entrepreneurs, composed of representatives from all the workshops. Representatives are responsible for organising activities, calling meetings, resolving conflicts, making proposals and managing programme costs. The Council members also act as formal representatives for young people in the district.

This strategy has resulted in an unprecedented level of citizen engagement among neighbourhood youth and, along the way, public spaces have been reclaimed as community meeting spaces.


In the past seven years, more than 3,200 young people from over 16 different nationalities have taken part in the Tiempo Joven programme.

Today, these formerly vulnerable and at-risk young adults can share an experience of success and a sense of control over their lives and circumstances instead of remaining “victims” and passive beneficiaries of help at society’s margins.

Programme participants take with them the ability to organise themselves, to analyse projects and to resolve the conflicts they identify in their neighbourhoods. The outcomes of their work – from theatre performances, solidarity markets, intercultural cooking competitions all contribute to creating a community that is friendlier, more habitable and welcoming to cultural diversity.

Tiempo Joven’s success has been recognized by local private funding from the Iberdola Foundation and the Fundación Sara Maria as well support from all three levels of Spanish government: the Ministry of Education (the central government), the Department of Education (the regional government) and the General Directorate of Immigration (the municipal government of Madrid).

Tiempo Joven Inmigración y Ciudadanía project was recognised with an award at the 6th UN Habitat Good Urban Practices Competition in 2006.

Making it Work for You:

  • Where possible, find ways to involve your target group and audience in the planning process. Early consultation with stakeholders will mean greater commitment and participation.
  • Involving programme participants in budget processes is a tangible form of power sharing, encourages social investment and increases civic engagement
  • Engage youth around activities they love and then introduce them to the community issues they should care about
  • Share the success of your programme with other neighbourhoods and local stakeholders. Make youth participants your best ambassadors!
  • Use public spaces and local venues to promote cultural integration among young people of different nationalities and cultural backgrounds

For this Good Idea contact:

Irene Lantero, Communication Manager
C/ Campo Tejar 37 (Orcasitas)
Madrid, Spain,
Tel.: +34 91 561 16 04

Recent Good Ideas

Leamington, Canada
From Survival Jobs to Rich Harvest
Highline Mushrooms  

Brandon, Canada
Industry Leaders Connect to Recruit Newcomers
Maple Leaf Foods  

Halifax, Canada
Welcomed in Halifax
Halifax Regional Municipality  

Toronto, Canada
Eliminating Barriers for Displaced Individuals
WES Gateway Program  

Kuopio, Finland
Encouraging Cities to Bring Locals and Immigrants Together
City of Kuopio  

View all