Written by: Zur Oren, Susanna Hausmann, Hassan Mshinda, and Barbara Bulc
In cities, we expect to find the best of culture, healthcare, and education, but many cities are struggling to meet young people’s needs. Today, over 4 billion people live in urban areas globally, which represent more than half of the world’s population. By 2050, seven out of ten young people are expected to live in cities. Growing cities, especially those within emerging economies, hold significant promise for development – not just in terms of economic growth, but also for the development of social, political, environmental, and cultural systems that prioritise the wellbeing of citizens.
At Fondation Botnar, we envision a world where young people’s dignity and rights are respected and where they can meaningfully contribute to sustainable development in their communities and beyond. In this blog, we want to share with you our vision for the new initiative OurCity, and the journey so far in co-creating cities where young people can thrive.
Two years ago, we started an ambitious learning journey. We imagined what our dream city could look like: an inclusive urban space where young people’s voices are heard in all public discussions and decisions and a place where solutions are developed by local startups and enterprises led by talented young people. We envisioned empowered young people growing up in the city, leading social action, thriving, and collaboratively shaping their own futures as well as the futures of other citizens around them. Throughout this learning journey, we have sought out emerging cities and partners whom we could learn from and collaborate with. These partnerships have been at the core of our journey. In Tanga, Tanzania, and Cluj-Napoca, Romania, we found our first partners with a similar vision. Both cities have significant potential for thriving and inclusive futures, with inspiring young people, collaborative partners and supporting city leadership. Cluj-Napoca and Tanga have become the first cities where we are co-creating OurCity initiative together with the municipality, and diverse public, private and civic stakeholders, including young people.
“In this process, we see young people as equal partners and not as beneficiaries – we believe in a collaborative relationship that involves diverse voices at every stage, in line with the National Framework for the Improvement of Health and Wellbeing of Young People in Tanzania.”
– Hassan Mshinda, OurTanga co-creator and Fondation Botnar Representative in Tanzania
Tanga and Cluj-Napoca are rapidly growing cities, and the challenges they face require collaborative and long-term relationships. There are no quick fixes. Therefore, Fondation Botnar has committed to a 10-year journey with partners in these two cities and they are just the beginning of OurCity, as we plan to continue this journey with around 6-7 cities across the world.
We have dreams, but we also have determination. We seek to be a real partner that is committed to this journey for a long time, celebrating successes and learning from failures, together. The role of frontier technologies such as AI and other digital tools are at the forefront of our strategy in these cities; despite the challenges young people face, digital technologies offer an almost unlimited potential for them to solve these challenges themselves.
“Cluj-Napoca can become a living example of how to co-design and accelerate social innovation systems with and for young people, and inspire other cities around the world.”
Long-term commitments have enabled us to develop a more profound understanding of these two cities and our partners. We understand that the only way to achieve our vision is to enable our partners to envision their future city. Our role is then to support the process of making their dreams a reality.
We feel honoured to be part of the journey of these cities and privileged to work with an array of so many talented people and organisations. Through our long-term commitment, we aspire to join with them in calling Cluj-Napoca and Tanga our cities, too. This initiative is called “OurCity” to reflect the leadership the first cities have demonstrated in shaping their cities and contribute to the improved wellbeing of young people. Local ownership is integral, and we are proud to be part of their journey toward becoming places where all young people can thrive.
To find out more, you can read about the initiative here and watch our animation below. Join us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to build a movement and discuss how we can together build a better future for children and young people globally.