How Amsterdam’s Alpha Generation is reinventing the city’s future

• The Alpha Generation – or the younger generation – inherits the pressing global challenges that will decide the future of cities.

• Sustainability is a priority for young people in urban development.

• Amsterdam creates tailor-made programs to involve young people very early on in urban decision-making.

Much has been written about how millennials changed the cityscape by making cities healthier, more intelligent and more habitable. But how Generation Alpha, the tech-savvy millennials, shape urban dynamics?

Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet and symbolizes a new beginning. However, the younger generation will not be able to build a utopian city from scratch. Rather, it inherits many pressing global challenges – rapid population growth, expanding cities, global environmental degradation and, more recently, the pandemic.

While the Alphas are, both literally and figuratively, in their infancy, in Amsterdam, these emerging citizens are already rethinking the city’s future. sustainability at the top of their agenda and helping to build a more inclusive, resilient and ecologically conscious city.

Alpha city made of dreams

People often forget that cities are not only built with buildings, steel and concrete, but primarily by the dreams, ideas and actions of citizens. Cities are vibrant places where people live, work and play, and they function as hubs of innovation, heritage, culture and economic growth. Citizens are transforming and impact the physical appearance and social and economic makeup of the cityscape. In turn, cities shape the way city dwellers evolve in their experiences, beliefs and behaviors, and pave the way for individual and collective society, especially the next generation.

Young instructor, 45% of young people see pollution as a problem

Image: Central Bureau of Statistics

The power of curiosity

Children are curious creatures and keep asking questions to better understand the world around them. Like all city dwellers, they have rights, opinions and needs – they want safe streets; protected sidewalks, access to green and public spaces, healthy environment and Safety and security. While the voice and power of youth are often ignored, the city of Amsterdam believes that the only way to achieve social, economic and environmental balance is to involve all city dwellers, including young people, collaborate and co-create their ideal city.

The Netherlands takes children’s curiosity seriously and tackles it real life issues raised by children thanks to the college courses provided by the Youth University Museum. This educational program, facilitated by various Dutch museums, think tanks and universities, engages children in problem-solving activities, promotes creative thinking and cultivates change agents. By providing knowledge and giving voice to young citizens, cities are building critical, participatory and resilient next generations in an engaging and playful setting.

Play in town

If you ask a child anywhere in the world what their favorite activity is, chances are they’ll tell you that playing is by far the most important part of their daily dose of. joy. The game is crucial for the development of a city and provides knowledge, inspiration and concrete tools that stimulate childhood cognitive and social development. Child-friendly audience and green spaces improve social cohesion, livability, liveliness and safety of public and urban spaces.

Amsterdam counts more 1,300 playgrounds and playable spaces, and is one of the the greenest cities in Europe. In recent years, green spaces have played an important role in shaping the future of the city and have acquired various other functions. In Amsterdam, urban agriculture is booming. Every year, more than 7,000 primary school students participate in community garden and sustainable agriculture programs. Classes familiarize young people with nutritional knowledge, build awareness, understanding and respect for the natural environment, and provide hands-on experience in planting, growing and harvesting vegetables, fruits and herbs.

Small hands, great minds

The age-old question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” always attracts fascinating responses. Dreams and aspirations show how children see the adult world around them and also provide clues to future prospects. The Alpha generation will be the most educated generation, most technologically savvy generation and, in the world, the richest generation of all time. Despite all this, the majority of urban Alphas already identify that saving the planet will be the central mission of their career.

Questions from the Amsterdam City Donut, a tool designed to help its citizens design a better future

Questions from the Amsterdam City Donut, a tool designed to help its citizens design a better future

Image: The Amsterdam City Donut

In April 2020, Amsterdam launched the Amsterdam city donut, a vision for “A prosperous, regenerative and inclusive city for all citizens, while respecting planetary borders”. Elementary schools in Amsterdam have played a leading role in anchoring the principles of the circular economy in the “Circular and education“manifesto. The education system is essential for developing knowledge, skills, values, behaviors and mentality change, and for empowering the next generation to take appropriate action to adopt a more sustainable way of life for a healthier, fairer and more inclusive society and for the sustainability of a circular city.

Cities are responsible for 75% of global greenhouse gas emissions and are home to more than half of the world’s population, a number that will increase to two-thirds by 2050. By becoming greener, cities could contribute to more half of the emission reductions needed to keep global warming below 2 ° C, which would be in line with the Paris agreement.

To achieve zero net urban emissions by 2050, the World Economic Forum is joining forces with other stakeholders to lead various initiatives to promote sustainable urban development. Here are a few :

To learn more about our initiatives to promote zero carbon cities and see how you can participate in our efforts to facilitate urban transformation, contact us here.

While Amsterdam’s Alphas are still on their trail to shape the world, their little hands and big creative minds are already painting a vision of their ideal city. There is a Dutch saying: “What is learned at a young age is applied when we are old. How countries, cities and communities choose to uplift, engage and actively involve their young people will determine the outcome of our common future. It is only by involving young people that we will be able to re-imagine and redesign our cities, our countries and our world of today through the prism of tomorrow.

About Clara Barnard

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