Why CityHive? | The power & potential for youth to transform cities

Guest blogger Tesicca Truong (@TesiccaT on Twitter) is the co-founder of CityHive, a recent recipient of RADIUS and Embark‘s SFU Student Social Innovation Seed Fund. The 2016-17 cycle of the Seed Fund is currently open, with the next deadline coming up on Feb. 6th – apply now

When I was young, my neighbourhood underwent major redevelopment. High-rises, condos, parks, and playgrounds started to replace the home I knew. Everything changed so quickly, and there was little that the residents of our neighbourhood could do about it. Though I love Joyce-Collingwood, it was the process – how exclusive it was to the residents in the community – that bothered me. As a kid, I was powerless to stop it.
Though I am older now, that sense of intergenerational injustice in the planning and design of our spaces has stuck with me.
Why don’t young people have a say in the important planning decisions that affect their lives and cities? What possibilities are being missed every day because young people are excluded from the conversation? What harm is done? What message are we communicating to the next generation when we silence their voices?
It was these same questions that led me to come together with a group of youth when I was 15 years old, and organize a city-wide forum called Plan-It Earth (pun very much intended). The event brought together youth from across the City of Vancouver to learn about issues of urban sustainability. More importantly, youth were asked to design their ideal city, and present those ideas in the form of Co-Design drawings to planners and city decision makers. This was the critical piece. My peers were becoming more informed, but, they were also being given the opportunity to act on their newfound knowledge.
The forum was by no means a perfect solution, but it represented the first of my many iterations to address this sense of deep-rooted injustice. The Plan-It Earth forums grew to become the Vancouver School Board Sustainability Conference, currently in its fifth year.
I continued experimenting, first by co-creating an environmental education program for elementary school students, designed and taught collaboratively by the Suzuki Elders, SFU Change Lab students and high school students. Next, with an inspiring team at Metro Vancouver Youth 4 Action, I worked to connect youth with place-based, hands-on learning experiences, and empowered them to create sustainability projects for their schools and communities. With a kick-ass team at MODUS Planning, Design and Engagement, I helped support the community in collaboratively creating their Maple Ridge Youth Strategy.
What I have realized over my time working in youth engagement is that there is a need for overarching organizations that can act as bridge builders between decision-makers and youth. Cities are facing massive, unprecedented challenges. Climate change adaptation, renewable energy targets, rapidly growing populations, failing transportation systems, the list goes on… Youth have the passion, the energy, the education, and the creativity, to help solve the problems in their cities. Unfortunately, they often lack the experience or the connections to do so.
Enter CityHive, our new youth-led organization ready to engage our peers in city shaping. Veronika Bylicki, one of my friends from the early Plan-It Earth conferences is now my co-founder. Together, we are determined to transform the ways in which youth are involved in city building.
We have just launched our CityHive website, thanks to the hard work of our designer, friend, and former SFU Change Lab student, Michelle Chen. Check it out at: www.cityhive.ca
We are also developing an exciting project with our partners, to be launched soon, so stay tuned for our next blog post!
In the meantime, if you have an idea, comments, or if you’d like to collaborate with us, feel free to shoot me an email at tesicca@cityhive.ca.
This work is the product of many amazing programs that empower organizations and individuals, like myself. I have to thank Next Up, IMPACT! Sustainability, Vision Next Young Leaders, SFU Change Lab, TREK, and PSYL for their generous support, mentorship and inspiration through a network of change leaders. I would especially like to acknowledge the SFU Student Social Innovation Seed Fund and the Institute for Canadian Citizenship for the trust and financial support that they have endowed us with to do our work.