Empowering Youth in Urban Planning: The Young Gamechangers Initiative

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20 September 2023, Nairobi. – In the bustling streets of urban centers worldwide, young people are not just passive observers but active participants in shaping the future of their cities. The digital age has brought forth new opportunities for youth engagement in urban governance, and initiatives like the Young Gamechangers Initiative are leading the charge in empowering the next generation to play a significant role in urban planning processes.

Youth and Urbanization

As the world becomes increasingly urbanized, the importance of addressing the needs and voices of young people in urban planning cannot be overstated. Urban environments can have both positive and negative impacts on youth mental health. While cities offer opportunities for socialization and cultural experiences, they also present challenges such as pollution, noise, and limited access to green spaces. Recognizing these complexities, initiatives like the Young Gamechangers seek to leverage the power of youth engagement to create cities that prioritize the health and wellbeing of all residents.

Placemaking Activities during Afrcities Summit 2022 (credit: UN-HABITAT Urban Mobility)
Placemaking Activities during Afrcities Summit 2022 (credit: UN-HABITAT Urban Mobility)

The Role of Technology

Digital technologies play a crucial role in bridging the gap between young people and urban planning processes. The partnership between UN-Habitat and Mojang, the creators of Minecraft, exemplifies how digital tools can empower youth to participate in the design of urban spaces. By harnessing the creativity of young people through platforms like Minecraft, cities can tap into a wealth of innovative ideas and perspectives that might otherwise go unheard.

Breaking Barriers to Participation

Despite the enthusiasm and potential of young people, barriers to meaningful participation in urban planning still exist. Ageism, biases, and a lack of skills or knowledge can prevent youth from being viewed as valuable contributors. The Young Gamechangers Initiative aims to address these barriers by providing young people with the necessary digital skills and opportunities to engage in governance processes effectively. By creating inclusive spaces where all voices are heard and valued, cities can harness the full potential of their youth populations.

Minecraft workshop with residents from Khan Younis, Palestine © UN-Habitat
Minecraft workshop with residents from Khan Younis, Palestine © UN-Habitat

The Young Gamechangers Initiative

Launched at the eleventh session of the World Urban Forum, the Young Gamechangers Initiative is a multi-partner effort to advance the health and wellbeing of young people in growing cities. Led by UN-Habitat in collaboration with the World Health Organization and the Block by Block Foundation, the initiative focuses on strengthening governance frameworks, empowering young people with voice and agency, and promoting inclusive public spaces that prioritize the health and wellbeing of youth.

Piloting Change

Three intermediary cities – Armenia (Columbia), Jatni (India), and Bargny (Senegal) – have been selected to pilot the Young Gamechangers Initiative. Over the course of three years, these cities will work closely with UN-Habitat and other partners to enhance youth ecosystems and address pressing challenges related to urban health and wellbeing. Through a combination of technical advice, trainings, and collaborative efforts, the initiative aims to create vibrant, inclusive spaces that improve the quality of life for all residents.

Towards a More Inclusive Future

The Young Gamechangers Initiative represents a step towards a more inclusive and participatory approach to urban planning. By empowering young people to take an active role in shaping their cities, we can build more resilient, sustainable, and equitable urban environments for generations to come. As the initiative unfolds, its successes and learnings will serve as a model for cities around the world, inspiring new approaches to youth engagement and urban governance.

In conclusion, the inclusion of youth in urban planning is not just a matter of social justice; it is essential for building thriving, resilient cities that meet the needs of all residents. Through collaborative efforts like the Young Gamechangers Initiative, we can harness the creativity, energy, and innovation of young people to create cities that truly belong to everyone.

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