Kitchener-Waterloo

Region seeks youth input to craft winning Smart Cities application

Waterloo region is looking for 25 youth to help it draft a winning pitch for the final phase of the Smart Cities Challenge.

Region named a finalist in June, giving it a shot at winning $50 million

Matthew Chandy said the region has been talking to youth throughout the process, but now they want to set up something more formal: a youth advisory group. (Smart Waterloo Region/Twitter)

Waterloo region is looking for 25 youth to help it draft a winning pitch for the final phase of the Smart Cities Challenge. 

In June, the region was named a finalist in the national competition set up by the federal government to get communities to develop ideas around how to use tech to improve lives. The region has a shot at winning the $50 million prize.

Matthew Chandy, project lead for Waterloo region, said the money would be used to improve the lives of children and youth with the help of data and technology.

"There's been this whole drive in our community over the last year and a half around tech for good," he told CBC News.

"We could look at how we can leverage our technology solutions, our knowledge, our tech base to overcome a social challenge." 

Improving lives of children, youth

Chandy said the region wants to improve four specific areas of well being for children and youth: mental health, literacy rates, early childhood development and sense of belonging. 

It plans to measure its progress by partnering with UNICEF Canada, which Chandy says is about to launch a national child and youth well being index.

We really want to be that community that everyone else looks to and strives to be when they talk about supporting their children and youth.- Matthew Chandy

The goal, according to Chandy, is for Waterloo region to be the first community in Canada to measure up to UNICEF's national index. 

"We want other communities to look to us to understand how they can support their children and youth based on strategies and approaches that we develop here in Waterloo region," he said. 

"We really want to be that community that everyone else looks to and strives to be when they talk about supporting their children and youth."

When the region asked youth how they wanted to participate and shape their community moving forward, Matthew Chandy said they came up with the idea of an advisory group. (Smart Waterloo Region/Twitter)

Looking for youth input

In order to do that — and have a shot at winning the $50 million prize — Chandy says the region's Phase 2 application needs a stamp of approval from local youth. 

"It's one thing to have adults sitting around the table and talking about different solutions for children and youth, but children and youth in our community actually need to be at the table co-designing and co-creating with us," he said. 

The region is asking youth between the age of 13 and 25 to participate in an advisory group that will meet three or four times before the Smart Cities application is due in March.

"We'd like to take the problem statements to youth and ... get their validation of those problem statements before we go to that step of building technology solutions for these problems," he said.
 
Youth interested in joining the advisory group can apply online until Oct. 31. The first meeting will be held on Nov. 7.

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