POSTED: September 19, 2017

Young Lives in Seven Cities—A scoping study for the CYCLES project

Nissen, S, Aoyagi, M, Burningham, K, Hasan, M M, Hayward, B, Jackson, T, Jha, V, Lattin, K, Mattar, H, Musiyiwa, L, Oliveira, M, Schudel, I, Venn, S and A Yoshida

CUSP Working Paper Series | No 6

CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 :: Linda Geßner/ (Derivative of an image by Chuttersnap/, licensed under CC.0)


How do young people see the world? What are their hopes and aspirations for the future? What does the ‘good life’ mean for them in an age of environmental and social limits?  And how will they navigate the challenges of prosperity and sustainability now facing the 21st Century? These are the questions that motivate the CYCLES* project which we are delighted to launch with this report.

The CYCLES study builds on comparative research into the lifestyles of young urban residents from around the world, including the ground-breaking work of the United Nations Environment Programme’s 2011 Global Survey of Sustainable Lifestyles1.  It focuses in particular on the lives of young urban citizens, aged between 12 and 24 years, living in very different contexts and situations.

This report provides an initial sketch of our first seven case study cities, drawing from in-depth audits compiled by our research teams in the seven locations: Christchurch, New Zealand; Delhi, India; Dhaka in Bangladesh; Grahamstown in South Africa; London, England; São Paulo, Brazil; and Yokohama in Japan. Each of these cities is different. But each faces issues that confront all urban communities across the globe: ensuring good health and nutrition; providing safe energy and efficient transport; offering good education and decent employment; facilitating the hopes and dreams of the next generation. 

Between the ages of 12 and 24, young people develop not just their bodies and their minds, but also their values as citizens in a fast-changing world. Footprints for energy use and habits of consumption are established. Aspirations and attitudes are formed. The desire for social agency may flourish or it may falter.

Our aim in this study is not just to understand these phenomena but to identify pragmatic ways to help young people across the world achieve their full potential—within the limits of a finite planet. Our hope with this report is to launch a vital conversation about young people’s prospects for the future. To understand those prospects is to understand the prospects for human development. To improve them is to improve our own lives. This report is the beginning of a journey. It is our invitation for others to participate with us in this vital conversation. We hope that you will join us!



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