Our Sustainable Development Goals and Young Londoners work

 What are the priorities and concerns of young Londoners? What would a future informed by the views of young Londoners and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals look like? Over the last year we have begun to answer these questions and the first phase of this work is now complete, resulting in a groundbreaking piece of research summarised in our latest report:

Young Londoners' priorities for a sustainable city.


The LSDC's latest report


The United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals are a universal action plan for “transforming our world”. The United Kingdom is one of the 193 countries that has signed up to them. The 17 SDGs – or Global Goals – aim to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all: both for today’s and future generations. Meeting them will require action by everyone: governments, businesses and citizens.

Much of what the SDGs are trying to achieve is highly relevant to cities and their young residents. 

Almost half of humanity – 3.5 billion people – lives in cities today, and close to 70 per cent is expected to do so by 2050. Solutions to some of the greatest challenges facing our and future generations – including climate change, inequality, ensuring decent jobs and homes, good health and education – must therefore be found in cities. 

And when we consider the young residents of cities, they are not just beneficiaries of positive action on the SDGs. They are also powerful agents of change that can help define the kind of future they want and ways to get there, and hold leaders to account on their commitments.

What we did

The LSDC commissioned Royal Holloway, University of London and Bite the Ballot to explore the big issues of concern to today's young Londoners. They worked closely with the Peer Outreach Workers ( a group of 16-25 year olds who engage with other young Londoners to help inform the Mayors policies) at City Hall. To engage with our audience we took the following approach:

  • In depth interviews with 30 young people to identify common themes
  • An evening event with 100 participants to explore these themes further in round-table focus group discussions
  • An online survey of over 2000 young Londoners believed to be the largest of its kind
  • A panel question time debate for young people during London Climate Action Week

This work allowed the project team to explore the views of young Londoners as defined by age, gender, ethnicity and socio-economic status. The resulting report provides a unique insight into the challenges and priorities of young people in the context on the UN goals. It allowed the Commission to consider the intergenerational impact of decisions made previously and now, on the younger generations. The following quote provided by a female participant in this research sums up our rationale:

"We're getting the hit because this country has an ageing population, and it seems that the older generation are the ones that are making most of the policies, even though they are going to be the ones that are least affected for the least time"

Some of the key findings of this research are:

  • From mental health, crime and education to air pollution and affordable housing, young people lack sufficient opportunities to engage with political officials and influence policy
  • 23.4% of young Londoners reported that mental and physical health was their top social concern
  • 32.2% of those surveyed reported that housing affordability was their top economic concern
  • 19% of those surveyed reported that recycling and waste reduction was the most important environmental issue

The report is targeted at London's decision makers but is also highly relevant for national government. Through this unique research we are calling on policy makers to consider how best to address the findings of the research.


Next steps

The GLA and other London based organisations already deliver a wide range of policies and initiatives across the breadth of issues raised by young Londoners. This research has now added a significant body of evidence on the concerns of young Londoners and has provided insights to help that work be delivered more effectively and support further integration between different policy areas.

The research will feed into a wider project to map London's Quality of Life Indicators against the SDG's embedding them in strategies and decision making to drive further improvement in delivering sustainability across London.

We will continue to engage with a broad range of stakeholders to agree which are the most relevant SDG's to prioritise for London and how to collaborate effectively towards implementing them. Young people are a key stakeholder group as part of this engagement exercise. The SDG mapping project, incorporating the voices of young Londoners as well as wider stakeholder groups will report back in 2020.

In this way, current research forms part of an ongoing programme to further develop practices that will help policy makers to better engage young people in our democracy and help to deliver a sustainable London fit for future generations.

How to get involved

If you are interested in getting involved in this work or hearing more about it, please get in touch.

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