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Implementing Healthy Cities for Adolescents in India

The Healthy Cities for Adolescents (HCA) Program is a global initiative funded by the Swiss philanthropic organisation Fondation Botnar. Phase 1 of the program was managed by the International Society for Urban Health (ISUH), based in New York. 

Phase 1 of this global program, which concluded in May 2022, comprised seven projects addressing the health and well-being of young people living in secondary cities. The projects were based in Senegal, Ghana, India, Vietnam, and Colombia. In India, the program was anchored by Ennovent and initiated through projects in smart cities in two states – Jaipur in Rajasthan and Bhubaneswar in Odisha. 

The India project kick-started in 2021; however, the team spent the initial 12 months on feasibility studies that included researching the country context of India, the socio-political environment, and the overall landscape to explore various entry points into the Indian cities selected for implementation and inform the country strategy for India operations. “While the overall country strategy aligns with the larger goals of Fondation Botnar, in India, along with adolescent health, we are focusing on gender equity, good governance and knowledge creation”, explains Joyati Das, Director, Healthy Cities for Adolescents Program.

While the goals and focus areas remained similar globally, the HCA program approach was implemented slightly differently in India, commencing with short-term demonstrator projects. The demonstrator projects have just been wrapped up in Jaipur and Bhubaneswar, while consultations were carried out to assess the ecosystem in the cities of Udaipur and Cuttack. The approach was designed to have implementing partners anchoring the projects, working closely with adolescent-focused grassroots organisations. “In India, we are implementing a consortium model where we build the consortium through network analysis and partnership development. The idea is to commence a co-design process with critical stakeholders during implementation through continued engagement”, says Joyati.

Ennovent acted as a management partner to bring local knowledge, foster partnerships at the local, state and national levels, and support network building. “Ennovent plays a pivotal role in the realisation of the consortium model – it requires the coordination of different players and ensuring everyone has an equitable voice in the partnership”, explains Joyati. In the research stage, Ennovent also conducted discussions with young people in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities in partnership with Yuvaa to understand their needs and priorities using a survey tool.

The Demonstrator Projects

Haqdarshak and World Resources Institute (WRI) implemented the demonstrator projects in Phase 1. Haqdarshak’s initiative in Jaipur and Bhubaneswar focused on training 200 young adults as Haqdarshaks (community leaders). The latter help citizens access their entitlements at their doorstep to address the information gap regarding available schemes and programmes. Haqdarshaks were also trained in life skills, further facilitating life-skills-based interactions with adolescents in their communities. This was expected to build adolescents’ leadership skills and better equip them to serve as leaders and influencers to other young people in their communities. Haqdarshak also assisted young people in liaising with local government departments and contributing to strengthening local governance. 

Image shows a group of young men and women, with one man looking through a rectangular paper frame while others look on

Adolescents conduct an audit to chart out adolescent-friendly and unfriendly elements in a public space in Gandhi Nagar, Jaipur. Image Courtesy: WRI India

WRI’s demonstrator project helped build adolescents’ understanding of safe and healthy public spaces that promote physical, social, mental and environmental conditions for the overall well-being of young people. 150 adolescents in the 10-19 age group were trained on the importance of public spaces in Jaipur and Bhubaneswar. The project thus sought to recognise and empower them as Public Space Ambassadors (PSAs) to become agents of change for public spaces in their communities. WRI also created a knowledge framework for public space assessment through active participation from adolescents and local stakeholders to strengthen the ecosystem that can eventually inform policy and actions for healthy public spaces.

An initial series of workshops was the first step toward building this consortium. The first phase also allowed the team to test the Evidence to Action (E2A) framework developed by Fondation Botnar in collaboration with the University of Melbourne. The framework outlines critical principles and strategic actions to achieve ‘cities fit for young people’. It also recommends domains of change to assess the outcomes of the projects. In India, the E2A framework was tested in partnership with learning partner Development Solutions. The framework was applied to the WRI project, and the results of this pilot are expected to inform the further application of the E2A framework in India and globally.

Our work with these projects and the stakeholder consultations indicate a clear need for an intersectional approach towards youth wellbeing, with organisations working in healthcare, education, sports, and other areas bringing together their complementary strengths. We create space by offering organisations embedded in these communities a platform to share their learnings while building consortia that improve access to knowledge and resources that can accelerate work towards making cities more adolescent-friendly. COVID-19 has also demonstrated the need to deploy locally appropriate technology to ensure that young people and their communities are not isolated from programs for their wellbeing. While all these processes are designed, implemented, and monitored, young people should be at the core of such programmes, driving decision-making with their lived experiences and not merely serving as respondents to sporadic requests for information.

The Future Plans

In 2022, as the HCA project has now moved to the implementation phase, Fondation Botnar promoted participation from grassroots organisations that may not have the resources to deliver at a national level. Their community reach is more in-depth, and their expertise in local-level policy, advocacy and campaign will be captured in this phase of the project.

The project is also working towards involving more youth-led organisations to equip them to influence city-level planning and include more young people in formal and informal dialoguing with city planners. Phase 2 of HCA is set to begin later this year, and proposals are currently being reviewed.

“For us, HCA Phase 1 has set up participatory processes for cocreation, co-design and knowledge building, which can be scaled up from 2022. Investments will be made to scale up systems that are innovative and digital-forward. Despite the difference in the model and implementation, the philosophy remains the same – this project is about bringing different voices and organisations together, promoting equitable partnerships”, adds Joyati.  

If you or your organisation is interested in learning more about HCA, please contact us at

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