Seen and Heard: The YouthfulCities Canadian Launch

Laura Haché


“Youth are here to move around ideas, our elders are here to mentor us” -Che Kothari, Executive Director of Manifesto

On January 22, young social entrepreneurs and community leaders battled the polar vortex to congregate at the Great Hall for the official launch of the YouthfulCities Index.  The YouthfulCities Index is a new global comparison stacking the world’s global cities against each other to find out where the world’s youth like to work and play. Its inaugural report named Toronto the “youthful city of the year” in 2014.

YouthfulCities started as a global initiative to rank the world’s top cities from a youthful perspective using their new index, which ranks 25 of the world’s biggest cities based on 80 unique indicators. YouthfulCities was launched in 2012 by Decode, a global market research firm.  The goal of the index is to engage youth in the process to help build better cities.

Fuelling this project, says founder Robert Barnard, is the fact that a full 50% of the world’s population are both under 30, and live in urban areas. Both are trends that are expected to grow. Barnard opened the event stating “youth are a potential competitive advantage for mega-cities because they give more than they take. But youth are also mobile and have a choice of where to live. Where are the best cities to live, work and play? Which cities really want to get ahead?”

The city came together to celebrate Toronto as it took top place, and scored the highest in the diversity sub-index.  The event celebrated our city’s success, but more importantly fostered a dialogue about how to use this data to improve the urban environment.  While Toronto came out on top  it only narrowly beat out other notable contenders. Areas in which Toronto did not perform well included critical measures like citizen safety, civic participation, and mental health.

Rather than speak in-depth about the facts and figures in the YouthfulCities index the event featured prominent Toronto youth activists and NGOs to discuss their work which aims to enhance the urban environment for youth. Lekan Olawoye, the executive director of the For Youth Initiative and a candidate for municipal election in Ward 12 presented on his organization’s focus on youth engagement and mentorship in the Jane and Finch area and introduced his talk stating “you can know the what, but if you don’t the why you’re not moved.” The event served as an opportunity to give youth a voice to assert their place in city-building and to challenge the negative stereotypes attached to the word “youth.”

More About the Index:

The cities are ranked in the index by taking the averages of eight sub indices: environmental sustainability, food & nightlife, music & film, fashion & art, public spaces & gaming, diversity, civic participation, and economic status.  Each sub-index is measured by weighted indicators. For example: the overall diversity score is the average of the following five indicators: languages available to vote in, diversity of restaurant options, openness to LGBT, openness to immigrants, and diversity of practicing religions.

While admittedly not a comprehensive sample, in choosing these sub-indices the project has involved over 1,600 youth participants from around the world.  In March 2013, YouthfulCities launched their first Urban Youth Survey in all 25 cities to test the importance of these categories for youth.

Laura Haché is a 2015 Master of Public Policy Candidate at the School of Public Policy and Governance. She holds a B.A. in Arts and Contemporary Studies from Ryerson University and has worked on many collaborative projects in the non-profit sector, most recently with Jane’s Walk. Laura is passionate about social policy, community engagement, and encouraging civic literacy.

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