Young Cities: How Youth Can Be Positive Agents of Change

Author: Jasmeet Sahotay Coordinator, Young Cities

Continuing on from our previous article on the importance of engaging and involving youth in municipal decision-making, as well as the mission of the SCN’s Young Cities programme, we are pleased to provide an update on the projects and work that youth are undertaking in Kenya, Lebanon and Senegal. We hope this can provide inspiration for our members for ideas on how cities can work with and empower youth, the range of issues that can be addressed, as well as the benefits of collaboration.

This article will form part of a series on the topic of youth engagement and participation in city matters, and will document the challenges, successes, and progress in the development of the social media campaigns, from their inception and design through to their creation and impact, as well as provide tips and step by step guides for how cities can engage with and involve their youth in municipal decision-making. It will also lay the groundwork for a special report dedicated to the SCN’s work in Kenya, to be released in early 2020.


We’re pleased to announce that all the hard work put in by our teams in Mombasa over the last year has come to fruition. In 2018, our teams met at our Young Cities Youth Innovation Lab – developing campaigns that tackled issues from gang violence to the lack of youth participation in the civic and political space. As of November this year, a series of video campaigns that look at the broad spectrum of causes leading to the radicalisation and deaths of young people in Mombasa are well underway and will be shared once completed.


Despite the recent protests in Lebanon, one group from Saida has been doing work around their campaign called ‘The Identity of Hope’, which aims to train young refugees, migrants and others to express themselves through the mediums of poetry and short stories. We’re greatly looking forward to seeing the results of the trainings, which will be collated into a booklet and published very soon.


In Senegal our groups are getting creative with digital media. Rapper Rich-B and his team are currently developing a music video that discusses the problem of gender-based violence in the city. They’ll be launching the song at an awareness-raising event on 27 December. If you happen to be in Dakar, we’d highly recommend attending! Team YUMA – a group of filmmakers, who happen to be ex-convicts – are creating a documentary around the stigmatisation of conviction in their communities, blending their experiences with those of others who have been affected by the problem. Soon, team Réseau pour les Jeunes Actifs pour le Développement (REJAD)’s campaign that deals with cyber-bullying and harassment through a series of online posters will be ready to view, while team Youth of Grand Yoff’s report on youth-police relations is about to begin.


All of the campaigns are steadily underway, with team Samba Sports having recently completed their football tournament and trauma education sessions to help young boys understand the dangers of gangs and violence in the city and its surrounds. The BluePrint Initiative have completed their song ‘The Struggle is Beautiful’, due to be released in the coming weeks, about empowering despondent youth. Finally, the Derin Peace Network have completed their research into youth participation in the devolution process in Kwale.

These campaigns are all examples of how youth can be positive agents of change in their communities and cities. Young people are particularly aware of problems affecting them and, when adequately supported, can be remarkably innovative in their approach to developing solutions. The youth-led campaigns developed with the support of Young Cities are just a taste of how youth can tackle deeply complex problems with creativity, intelligence, wit and passion.

However, they often lack the access to tools, funding, resources and expertise they need to address these issues. Here, local governments and leaders are in a unique position to help support youth, and help shape them into the next generation’s leaders in our cities and communities.

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