ADE: Mississippi

Empowering Youth Self-Empowerment

Community-Based Hands-On Engagement Space

Persistent poverty in the southern United States has contributed to an array of challenges for young people aged 14 to 24. Inadequate schools, limited economic opportunities, and long-standing racial tensions all contribute to negative cycles of poverty, disenfranchisement, and hopelessness.

This ADE project explores ways to catalyze a cycle of improvement within the Clarksdale, Mississippi community, where roughly 8,000 out of 17,000 total residents live below the poverty line. Unemployment is estimated at 21% in the African American community and over 50% for youth seeking employment. There are people in Clarksdale who are working actively to transform this situation.

The creation of a space were young adults in Clarksdale can engage in creative, hands-on activities is one idea that community members believe will help create ladders of opportunity for young people before they lose hope. The space is being co-created and designed with community young adults, leaders, local business owners and non-profit organizations. This is an opportunity to help a community create an institution -- something like a makerspace -- from the ground up. 

Work on this venture includes:

  • Gaining a deeper qualitative understanding of user needs.
  • Developing business models that contribute to the financial viability of the project. 
  • Co-designing the space's physical layout and activities that will run there. 
  • Developing technical training and community engagement strategies and resources.
  • Maintaining and developing relationships within the community.