The Future is Now: Supporting Children and Youth as Changemakers for Sustainable Cities


  • Vanessa Vargas Ashoka


children and youth, changemaking, adultcentrism, children's citizenship, public spaces, citizen participation, Lima, Peru, cities, sustainable development


This article advocates recognizing and catalyzing children’s participation in advancing sustainable development. This is not only because young people’s actions for improving their communities are rarely taken seriously, but also because their status as minors makes their participation different from that of adults. The analysis is based on the experience of ANIA – a Peru-based civil society organization – and the Metropolitan Municipality of Lima in implementing institutional changes to engage children and youth as changemakers. This is to help them build a sustainable city, as well as to support their contributions and making them visible. This case demonstrates that participatory processes need to be adapted to target audiences. For young people, this means changing the mindset of public servants to overcome their bias and be open to diverse views. This includes designing processes that enable them to express their views in unique ways, while allowing adults to translate responses into policy implications, as well as defining clear pathways for action. Considering that which is accessible to children is likely accessible to everyone else, the article ultimately proposes that young people’s participation and quality of life can be used as a powerful indicator of sustainable development.

Author Biography

Vanessa Vargas, Ashoka

Vanessa Vargas leads the Youth Years program at Ashoka Andean Region. A sociologist by training, Vanessa is co-founder and Executive Director of Women Empowerment Laboratory (WELab) and an Ubuntu Leaders Academy trainer in Latin America. She currently resides in Bogotá, Colombia.




How to Cite

Vargas, V. (2021). The Future is Now: Supporting Children and Youth as Changemakers for Sustainable Cities. Social Innovations Journal, 10. Retrieved from