Creating space for transformative conversations

Robert Barnard appointed first Toronto-based Fellow with SFU’s Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue

April 16, 2020

The SFU Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue is pleased to welcome Robert Barnard, co-founder of Youthful Cities, as the Centre’s first Toronto-based Fellow.

Robert operates from a profound belief that urban youth are the innovators of the future and that rather than being seen as a liability, youth are actively shaping cities for the better.

“We are excited that Robert will focus his fellowship on profiling youth voices in urban development, especially in addressing the response and economic recovery from COVID-19,” says Shauna Sylvester, Executive Director of the SFU Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue. “His YouthfulCities model uses credible urban data, gathered by youth, to stimulate dialogue and action to enhance the social and economic vitality of our cities.”

Dialogue Fellows partner with the Centre to lead initiatives that address issues of fundamental significance to our communities. Their appointment reflects distinguished achievements in such diverse fields as climate solutions; diversity and innovation; urban sustainability; health, peace and security; and arts and conflict resolution.

In 2012, Robert co-founded YouthfulCities to amplify the power of urban youth globally, making cities better in the process. Using his three decades of experience in youth engagement and innovation, YouthfulCities focuses on the critical nexus of youth (15-29 years) and cities. After all, half the population of the world is under 30 years old and half live in cities.

YouthfulCities creates unique urban knowledge and launches new initiatives through four main programs.

  • YouthfulCities Index - now in 75 cities globally - ranks cities from a youth perspective using 121 key urban indicators.
  • YouthfulCities Survey -with over 30,000 responses globally - gathers youth opinion about their cities’ performance.
  • YouthfulCities 30Lab works with 30 young urban innovators under 30 in each city to design new ideas to propel cities forward towards a youthful future.
  • YouthfulCities Summits - Bringing youth together to think more deeply about the big issues facing cities.

Robert began his entrepreneurial career at age 19 with the launch of his own beachwear clothing line called Osprey Reef which attained Canada-wide distribution. At age 23 Robert founded Generation 2000, a Canadian NGO committed to informing and inspiring youth to take action. The high school program reached 1200 high schools and over 750,000 students in Canada between 1991-1995. And then in 1994, he co-founded Decode - a global innovation and insight firm focused on connecting with younger generations. For almost two decades Robert has led a passionate team of decoders to discover and develop what’s next.

Along the way, Robert has spoken to audiences around the world about younger generations, co-authored of the best-selling book on Generation X - Chips and Pop: decoding the Nexus Generation, served on many NGO Boards of Directors such as Street Kids International, been a bank teller, tennis instructor and pizza delivery guy and is a recipient of Canada’s Top 40 Under 40 Award.