We share a vision of making cities more youthful, globally. To do this, we work to connect young people – as drivers of this change – to information, networks, and the tools they need, to create the cities we all need to thrive.
Youthful Cities asked young people around the world to help define the word, “youthful”. We received an amazing set of descriptors – connected, dynamic, open, curious, inventive, and playful. These words became the values that we operate on. For us, they amplify the power of young people and advocate on their behalf as vital components of workplaces, organizations, and cities. These values support us on a daily basis in building cities that are stronger, brighter, more just, and… more youthful!
Young people are the most connected generation in history. Cities are at their best when they’re built from communities—and communities are now being built by youth in new and innovative ways.
The world is changing: we’re seeing cities become more diverse, more innovative, and more unique than ever before. We believe that openness to change defines any healthy city.
Young people have grown up in a society that’s shifting at an exponential rate, and it’s only uphill from here. We have what it takes to be the most progressive generation in history, and cities should follow our lead.
What would the world look like through someone else’s eyes? How are our experiences unique? What built the systems we live in today? These are all questions that define our future, and we believe we need to keep asking them.
Young people are shifting what it means to be successful. They’re starting businesses, leaving the beaten path, and inventing a new kind of future for themselves. How will youth invent the future of cities?
Perhaps our favorite thing about youthfulness is the fact that we care about having fun. Building a better future should be an exercise in joy, and we believe in bringing play and excitement into every aspect of city life.
When I started Youthful Cities, I wanted to amplify the value youth offered cities. That needed a recognizable platform to garner attention and credibility. The original YouthfulCities index was just that. By ranking cities globally on youth-designed measures, we captivated the global media and started a dialogue that centered their voices about what mattered to them, and to cities. It was a global first.
The global index made clear the issues that cities were grappling with. To respond, we brought youth together in labs across the world to dive into these issues and see what was possible in addressing them — our first labs launched in Toronto, London, Johannesburg, and Bogota.
In 2015, we hosted our first summit in Toronto with youth from 43 cities in attendance. Over the course of 5 days, young people explored the city and connected with each other to better understand the issues their cities faced, and their dreams for transformation, turning conversations into concrete actions for change. This triad, moving from insights to dialogue and then into action and invention is now the basis of Youthful Cities programming and continues to bring us around the world.
In 2018, having worked far and wide, we decided to refine our programming by focusing primarily on Canadian cities. Better indexes, deeper summits, and more connected labs.
And then came 2020. The doubling of COVID and a global uprising calling for racial justice asked us to pause and to consider the impact of this moment on young people. In Canada, like much of the world, it was devastating. Surging unemployment. Social isolation. Cities, which most youth call home, shut down and cut off. We saw an opportunity to take action and respond quickly building off what we had done since 2012 while giving young people jobs and allowing them to generate insights for how their cities could bounce back after COVID. With that, we launched Pivot 2020 in collaboration with Morris J. Wosk Center for Dialogue at Simon Fraser University and the Canadian Partners for Youth Prosperity.
From this, we’re launching the Pivot Hub, which captures the insights of young people from 27 cities across Canada about where their cities are at. We hope this spurs necessary and youth-led dialogue and action required to help cities come back youthful, just, and brighter for all post-COVID.
— Robert Barnard, Executive Director