Imagine Nashville’s Youth-Informed Research Process Reveals Young People’s Concerns and Visions for a More Youth-Friendly City

April 30, 2024

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Nashville, Tenn. — [April 30, 2024) — The results are in, and more than 2,000 young Nashvillians have shared their concerns and visions about Nashville’s future in the Imagine Nashville youth findings released today.

“When we set out to engage our city around the values and priorities that unite us, we knew one thing – we absolutely had to include the voices of the young people who will inherit the Nashville of the future, in some cases very soon,” said Imagine Nashville Co-Chair Renata Soto. “After all, decades from now, the ultimate proof of our success or failure will be if today’s young people have stayed or returned to the city to raise their families and pursue their own dreams.”

“Nashville is constantly changing, and in order to make it a truly better place for everyone we have to get the perspectives of everyone, including youth. The opinions and ideas of youth haven’t always been brought to light, but that needs to change because youth offer a unique and extremely important outlook that no one else can,” said Nashville Youth Design Team member and high school freshman Addison Harper said. “Recognizing and acknowledging what everyone has to say is key if we want to change Nashville for the better.”

Using the interactive Dream City Workshop and a survey designed specifically for Imagine Nashville, the Civic Design Center’s Nashville Youth Design Team surveyed 1,181 youth from across the city and engaged more than 2,000 young people. Workshop participants were evenly split by gender and represented a racially and ethnically diverse group of youth across age groups 14-18 (32%), 11-13 (62%) and under 11 (7%).

“The Dream City workshop serves as a platform for amplifying youth voices and cultivating a sense of ownership among Nashville’s young residents. Young people have perspectives and creativity that will add tremendous value to our city. It was inspiring to see their ingenuity come to life in the results,” said Civic Design Center Education Director Melody Gibson.

Designed much like the community survey for adults, the youth version asked questions about belonging, growth, safety, likes and dislikes, ideal neighborhoods, and big ideas.

Highlights of the findings include:

  • The Nashville Youth Design Team wrote priority statements summing up the qualitative data and themes included the need for more youth-centered and accessible spaces, youth-friendly transportation, and affordability.
  • While a clear majority of all adults and youth surveyed by Imagine Nashville indicated a strong sense of belonging, the research did reveal some significant differences in that sense of belonging when studied through the lens of race, ethnicity, and other factors. For instance, while 60% of youth surveyed said they agree or strongly agree they belong here (adults came in at 72%), that number dips to 46% for youth identifying as Two or More Races/Ethnicities, 47% for Middle Eastern or North African youth, and 48% for Black youth. Conversely, that number jumps to 72% for White youth.
  • Almost all youth surveyed appear to agree that the best things about living here are “good restaurants, shopping and entertainment, and good education.” Conversely, they cite how expensive it is to live in Nashville and traffic as the most frustrating parts about living here. Overall, youth surveyed anticipate they will like living here less in 5 years, with only 36% saying they believe the continued growth of the city will make their quality of life better. The latter finding was strongest among ages 14-18.
  • Compared to how safe they feel at school (average = 7.6) and in their neighborhood (average = 7.70), young people surveyed feel the least safe moving around the city (walking, biking, taking the bus, riding in the car; average = 6.6). White and private school survey participants felt safer at school, in their neighborhood, and while moving around the city than participants from all other racial and ethnic identities and those who attend public or charter schools, respectively.
  • Participants <11 years old, White, or attending private school were more likely than their counterparts to say that their current neighborhood reflects their ideal neighborhood. Regardless of where they live, though, the great majority of youth surveyed believe that hospitals, affordable housing, grocery stores, and schools are “absolutely essential” ingredients to an ideal neighborhood.
  • When it comes to Big Ideas for the future of Nashville, more youth chose “Strong Neighborhoods” than the other choices of “Learning,” “Music & Arts,” “Inclusiveness,” and “Connectedness.” “Strong neighborhoods” refers to neighborhoods that have unique identities and plenty of jobs, housing, and resources so people can live, work, and play in the same neighborhood. Ages 14-18, however, placed “Learning” above all else, as did Asian, Hispanic, and White participants.

“Imagine Nashville underscores our commitment to inclusive and forward-thinking city planning, and prominently recognizes that our youth are not just the future but also active participants in shaping the present,” says Civic Design Center CEO Gary Gaston.

Youth voices and opinions are being included in Phase II of the Imagine Nashville citywide visioning process, and the values and priorities expressed in the research findings will be reflected in the ultimate set of recommendations that is finalized this summer. The full research report and Key Research Highlights are available at

Media Contacts

Laura Braam, The Strategy Group / Imagine Nashville, (615) 512-8892,
Veronica Foster, Civic Design Center, (773) 820-1233,

About Imagine Nashville

Imagine Nashville is a citywide initiative guided by the belief that we as a community must share our dreams and ideas to shape our future. The yearlong effort began in the summer of 2023 and is slated to finish by summer of 2024. The initiative is co-chaired by the Rev. John Faison Sr., Dr. Alex Jahangir and Renata Soto alongside a Steering Committee that includes a diverse group of neighborhood, civic, business and nonprofit leaders. The work comprises two phases. The first phase included citywide attitudinal research that reached into every corner of the county to find shared values and priorities. The second phase seeks to use the research findings to bring forth a set of clear, specific, actionable recommendations that guides the city forward and keeps us all accountable for real results that Nashvillians can see and feel in their daily lives. Online at

About the Nashville Youth Design Team’s Dream City Workshop

The Dream City workshop represents an innovative approach to capturing young people’s input in an engaging and educational manner. Led by youth, for youth, this workshop empowers participants to envision and construct their ideal “Dream City,” transcending conventional boundaries and embracing boundless creativity. From flying cars to chocolate rivers, participants are encouraged to dream big and imagine the possibilities for an optimal youth-centered environment. During the workshop, participants not only conceptualize and build their Dream City but also engage in dialogue and reflection about the current state of Nashville and their aspirations for its future. Following the creative session, participants complete a survey, providing further insights into their perspectives on the city’s present and future. This integration of experiential learning and reflective inquiry ensures that participants’ voices are both heard and thoughtfully considered in the city’s planning processes.

About Civic Design Center

The mission of the Civic Design Center is to advocate for civic design visions and actionable change in communities to improve quality of life for all. Over 20 years ago, the work began with a large-scale community engagement project that culminated in a comprehensive vision for the city: The Plan of Nashville. As Nashville grows in influence, we will continue to lead change so that our city may help set an example for design equity around the world. We take action towards this goal through youth-led research, tactical urbanism interventions, civic design education, and thought leadership. For more information on Civic Design Center and its programs, please visit

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