Thanks to the likes of young global climate change activists, such as Greta Thunberg and Luisa Neubauer from Fridays for Future, UNFCCC Youth Focal Point Heeta Lakhini, and Ugandan activist Vanessa Nakate, the world now recognizes the importance of youth having a voice when it comes to climate action. So it’s fitting that one of the first sessions at Daring Cities 2020, entitled #Daring Youth… We Dare You To…, is a collaborative one that asks participating youth, students and early career professionals to create vision statements for the cities where they live.
“We’re hoping the ‘daring visions’ that participants create serve as a reference point for all of the urban leaders attending this forum and remind them of why they’re here,” says Timothy Shue, the sustainability and communications officer for ICLEI Oceania, who came up with the idea of staging the #DaringYouth session for this conference. “It’s the future of young people that we’re shaping right now, so it’s really important they’re part of the discussion of what we need to do,” he adds.
Participants in this session will be guided through a process of coming up with a “daring vision” for their respective cities. “This exercise of envisioning better futures, of envisioning cities that would be more just, more sustainable, more connected, more equitable, is not a piecemeal activity. It is something that is deepful meaningful, and can be transformative and empowering as well,” says Shue.
At last count, 75 youth from around the world will break out into smaller groups, accompanied by a facilitator who will work with them on their visions. The facilitators for these sessions hail from such far-reaching urban centres as Sydney, Jakarta, Calgary and Bonn, and with professional backgrounds ranging from sustainability officers, to urban planners, architects and PhD students.
As part of the cross-pollination process Shue envisions “hopefully if someone comes up with a particular vision of their city, then perhaps another will say… oh, that’s already happening where I live, let me send you some information about that. And if that happens, then we’ve created a unique new opportunity for people (who are geographically dispersed) to connect.”
The goal for the #DaringYouth session is to not only give youth a voice, but also serve as an incubator for future collaboration amongst individuals from different cities and countries that normally might not communicate with one another. And through this communication process, empower them to get their ideas on the radar of politicians at all levels of government.
“One of the most exciting things they (participants) can do after the conference is to send their ‘daring vision’ directly to the mayor or urban leaders of their city and ask… have you read this?” says Shue. And in doing so “it creates an opportunity for personal advocacy as well.”
Far from being a one-off exercise, Shue hopes that the collection of stories and visions that come out of this session evolve into a living document whereby “maybe we revisit and continue to discuss these ideas at the ICLEI World Congress next year in April. It could be a case where we say let’s review and refresh the ideas (from #DaringYouth) and then put it into our current context.”
He says there’s the potential for youth around the world to learn from the #DaringYouth exercise, even if they don’t participate in the sessions at this conference. “The wonderful thing is that anyone can create a vision statement about their own city… it’s something they can do on their own time.”
Whether it’s via the #DaringYouth session or in the future on their own, from Shue’s perspective, it’s mission accomplished: provide youth with a unique new way to get their message across to urban leaders.