Young Cities

Young Cities fosters collaboration between young people and local governments to address the most pressing issues in their communities.

Combining the Strong Cities Network’s capacity building with YouthCAN’s empowerment of young activists, Young Cities is the first project of its kind to bring together young people and policy makers to address local-level issues on a global scale.

While young people are uniquely placed to effect change, they are frequently excluded from local decision-making processes and frustrated by limited opportunities for cooperation. Launched in 2018, Young Cities works in partnership with young people and local governments to enhance youth-led, shared solutions to community challenges such as hate, polarisation, extremism and violence.

  • In partnership with city leaders, Young Cities supports and amplifies youth-led efforts through training workshops, seed funding and ongoing mentorship, giving young people the tools to develop and implement initiatives that respond to the needs of their communities. Youth activists are connected with key partners amongst local government and civil society that can support their goals, supporting the build-out of local networks and cooperation between youth and other local actors.
  • Young Cities also works with local government leaders to develop effective policy and programmes that are responsive to the needs of their young citizens. In addition to fostering youth-municipal cooperation, we support local government stakeholders with primary research and global insights to form the basis for future city-level programming.

By working simultaneously with both groups – youth and local government – Young Cities fosters a shared understanding of local youth issues, facilitates new opportunities for cooperation, and ultimately enhances both groups’ capacity to tackle community-level challenges of hate and polarisation.

With the support from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Young Cities has operated in six cities in Kenya, Lebanon and Senegal since 2018, and launched in North Macedonia in October 2020.

What have we achieved?
  • Fostered youth-municipal collaboration and dedicated initiatives in six cities across Kenya, Lebanon and Senegal.
  • Trained over 230 young people, supporting and engaging diverse youth actors ranging from ex-convicts in the most disadvantaged areas of Dakar, Senegal, to members of local youth councils in Mombasa, Kenya.
  • Launched more than 25 change-making initiatives, engaging over 1,000 youth offline and reaching over 1 million people online. Initiatives have tackled diverse issues such as gang and violent extremist recruitment, discrimination, stereotyping refugees, fractured youth-police relations, low levels of youth civic engagement, disinformation, trauma and violence. Some of our youth groups have received nationwide media coverage for their innovative work.
  • Trained over 50 municipal leaders and provided research and policy advice to support local programming and youth participatory governance models.

A Young Cities workshop in Mombasa, Kenya, February, 2020

The Young Cities team mobilises to assist victims of the Beirut blasts, August, 2020

A Young Cities workshop in Cair, North Macedonia, October,
2020

Latest Young Cities Publications

Click here for more related ISD Publications

ISD’s Young Cities team

Moustafa Ayad
Moustafa Ayad

Executive Director for Africa, the Middle East and Asia (AMEA)

Kelsey Bjornsgaard
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Kelsey Bjornsgaard

Senior Manager, Campaigns & Capacity Building

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Kelsey Bjornsgaard
Kelsey Bjornsgaard

Senior Manager, Campaigns & Capacity Building

Kelsey Bjornsgaard is Senior Manager for Campaigns and Capacity Building at ISD. Her work focuses on counter-narrative development and delivery as well as youth engagement and education. Kelsey is responsible for running the Youth Civil Activism Network (YouthCAN) and organising ISD’s Youth Innovation Labs. Kelsey is developing new strategies for enhancing peer-to-peer messaging and works closely with young activists internationally to develop innovative youth-led initiatives to prevent and counter violent extremism. Kelsey also works closely with the Strong Cities Network to amplify youth voices amongst government and policy-makers at a city level. Kelsey previously managed marketing and social media strategy for an independent US-based IT company. She holds a Masters in International Conflict Studies from King’s College London and a Bachelors in European Studies from the University of Oklahoma.
Anisa Harrasy
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Anisa Harrasy

Manager, Technology, Communications & Education

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Anisa Harrasy
Anisa Harrasy

Manager, Technology, Communications & Education

Anisa Harrasy is a Manager at ISD, where she works across ISD’s youth empowerment projects, including the Youth Civil Activism Network (YouthCAN) and Young Cities. Through these projects, Anisa delivers capacity-building workshops, oversees youth-led campaigns and initiatives and facilitates dialogue between youth and policymakers. Anisa also helps lead ISD’s strategic development in Sub Saharan Africa and specializes in promoting peace in East Africa specifically. Anisa has conducted significant research on the influence and effect of non-state actors in global affairs and politics. Anisa holds an MA in International Security from the University of Sussex and a BA in International relations with Arabic. She is bilingual Swahili and English, with basic Arabic proficiency.
Jasmeet Sahotay
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Jasmeet Sahotay

Coordinator, Technology, Communications & Education

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Jasmeet Sahotay
Jasmeet Sahotay

Coordinator, Technology, Communications & Education

Jasmeet Sahotay is a Coordinator working jointly on YouthCAN and Young Cities projects, including supporting the delivery of the Youth Innovation Labs, managing the YouthCAN communication strategy, and developing new project activities and strategies. Jasmeet was previously a programme coordinator at PATRIR, an internationally recognised peacebuilding think tank which is based in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. There he developed and managed a series of projects focussed on countering violent extremism, hate speech and polarisation. He also has extensive experience in training and implementing campaigns centred around youth empowerment. He holds a Masters in International Law, Security and Terrorism from the University of Nottingham, and a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy & Politics from the University of Leeds.