the global team

Robert Barnard
Robert has spent more than 15 years decoding younger generations and creating new ventures to engage them. Since 1994 as a founder and now CEO of DECODE,Robert has led a passionate team of decoders to discover new insights and develop innovative strategies for this critical audience. He has worked internationally for governments, NGOs and companies across many sectors. Robert is now the driving force behind Decode Ventures – social ventures that have younger generation focus.YouthfulCities is the latest venture to be launched, helping youth build better cities to live work and play in. Robert is the co-author of the best-selling book on Generation X, Chips and Pop: decoding the Nexus Generation and recipient of Canada’s Top 40 under 40 Award. He is an internationally recognized speaker about generational issues and engagement. Email

Sonja Miokovic
Born in Kuwait to a mother of German-Polish decent and a Serbian father, Sonja often feels that she was born into a cross-cultural experiment. Reared with a mouth full of languages and surrounded by diverse cultures and customs, she learned to be open-minded, tolerant and flexible. Her portfolio holds multiple works in communication, community development and project management in varying capacities. For example, collaborating with a group of informal traders in South Africa, ideating inclusive approaches to urban development through tourism in preparation for FIFA 2010; Rallying national awareness with UNICEF to create child-friendly cities across Serbia; Documenting through film/photography the importance of early childhood education among Roma communities in the Balkans; Investigating the barriers to youth unemployment in Kenya; Comparing the importance of urban agriculture in global cities; and conducting social research on the motivations of local and international NGOs operating in India. Though her experience is far reaching, Sonja is a firm believer in volunteerism, active citizenship and participation on the local level. She sits on the Board of Directors for Green Thumb Growing Kids a charity committed to the creation of school food gardens; and chairs the Communications and Fundraising Committee of the West Toronto Keys to Inclusion, an organization which supports the social inclusion of young adults with varying abilities seek meaningful employment. Four languages and forty-two countries later, Sonja has joined YouthfulCities as a way to connect globally on a initiative that improves things locally. Email

YC Bio PhotoAmy Peebles
Amy is a Community Planner who specializes in community development through the arts. After completing a degree in Urban and Regional Planning, Amy took her passion for community building and started to utilize her skills and experiences to bring art to the public realm through installation, interactive experience and public space animation.  She has worked with organizations such as  Manifesto Community Projects, Hermann & Audrey Community and the Department of Unusual Certainties in a variety of roles spanning from marketing and sponsorship to strategic planning. Amy believes strongly in the role of collaborative thinking and practice and is constantly on the hunt for innovative ways to acquire and utilize resources that will creatively solve the issue at hand and leave a lasting legacy for the communities she works with. Email

matt's pic for bioMatthew Cosgrove
Born in Ottawa and raised in the capital city’s suburban periphery, Matthew showed an early interest in the ways urban, suburban and rural landscapes reflect the lives of the people populated within. As a child, his frequent hour-long car trips from the city to his grandparents’ farm in Perth, Ontario seemed like whimsical escapes into a place governed by foreign customs. As a teenager he often took aimless rides on city busses to see unknown parts of his city. This interest in the urban form led him to an understanding of the many examples of difference that make our cities exciting and intriguing places to grow and explore. Studying in Ottawa, he completed undergraduate and graduate degrees in human geography. He has since collaborated with journalists and a documentary filmmaker on the film From Homeless to Home, as well as completed a post-graduate certificate in Learning Disability Studies. Matthew brings to the Youthful Cities team a youthful attitude as well as excitement for research design, collection and analysis. Email

Aisha Sheikh
Aisha is a creative magnet defined by global intersecting cultures of Kenya, Yemen, Canada and England. Believing strongly that design requires rationale and critical thought, she is involved with work that is interdisciplinary and socially just. Aisha pursued her Bachelors of Communications & Design at OCAD University. She gained work experience at environmental graphic design firms of Canada and the UK, working on wayfinding and branding before she completing a Masters of Architecture (Urban Design focus) at Mcgill University. Nowadays, Aisha is fostering her interest in development by pushing her communications and research skills into the NGO sector and spends her day playing at the intersections of architecture, urbanism and communication design. Aisha has lived in many countries and has also consulted on projects around the world. She is currently based out of Jordan working with Youthful Cities from an interest in community planning with a global perspective. Email

Paul's photoPaul Purewal
Paul is 23 and is completing his Urban and Regional Planning degree at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada. He has lived in 3 major cities in the world. He grew up in Vancouver, Canada and then moved to London, England to explore. He now resides in Toronto, Canada and is pursuing his education. He loves to travel and eat amazing food of any kind and is a self-proclaimed “foodie.” Paul firmly believes that everyone should experience everything once.

Screen shot 2013-07-08 at 1.51.25 PMGabriella Penev
Gabriella Penev is a self-professed history nerd, food enthusiast, and keen traveler, having been to 10 countries and counting. A Global Studies graduate from Ryerson University with a passion for experiential learning and community development projects, Gabriella tries to combine her fascination of cultural history with a hands-on approach to understanding the world around her. With experience in grant writing, fundraising, co-leading an international development initiative, and coding a scholarly publication of periodicals, she wears many different hats that equip her with a dynamic range of skills, allowing her to dabble in a number of exciting projects. Gabriella’s do-it-yourself attitude and sharp eye for the ‘bigger picture’ motivates others in a team setting, while stimulating a critical analysis of the operational framework. She believes that collaborative dialogue and the creative application of socially-minded ideas have the power to inspire youth to get involved in creating positive change in their surroundings. Understanding how to engage youth has been a key factor in several of her pursuits, and her internship at Youthful Cities promises to continue her interest in activating youth-engagement. She hopes to pursue a Master’s degree in 20th century International Relations in the near future.

IMG_1220Molly Leathem
Molly is currently living in Toronto, and has just graduated from the Arts and Contemporary Studies program at Ryerson University, specializing in History. She hopes to continue her studies at graduate school and eventually work in cultural heritage protection. Youth interest is essential to the preservation of cultural property and she hopes to engage young people with the history of their cities. Molly became involved with Youthful Cities believing that by getting more young people engaged in civic life, cities will thrive and become more vibrant and fun places to live, work, and play.


Untitled1Nonjabulo Zondi
After spending the last 2 years in Paris and receiving her Masters in Urban Affairs and governance from Sciences Po (Master governing the Large Metropolis), Nonjabulo has returned to Johannesburg to pursue her career in urban affairs and related fields of urban design. She has travelled most of Europe, and spent six months in New York completing an internship with the UNDP’s Bureau for Development Policy within the governance division, planning and coordinating the Global Thematic Consultation on Governance and the Post 2015 development Agenda 2013. She has gained international exposure to various innovative urban projects, their management and implementation processes, urban policy, and different cultures of design and governance through her wide-ranging, yet inter-related working experience within an architecture firm in South Africa, coordinated the MultipliCITY conference in London as well as through the Urbego youth platform of the IFHP international housing forum which she is a member of. Nonjabulo enjoys travelling and hopes to explore Africa more, and is passionate about the development of cities in a sustainable, accessible and innovating manner. She is also interested in empowering young people and young professional like herself to enter policy making discussions through the support and creation of youth platforms.

EdelaineEdelaine Osoteo
Edelaine is about to enter her final year at Ryerson University, where she is enrolled in Arts and Contemporary Studies. If all goes as planned she will exit her post secondary career with a major in Culture Studies and a Human Resources minor. As a youth living and working in a city, she’s terrified to leave the comforts of the classroom to enter into the “real world”. However, she’s excited at the prospect of taking the wisdom she’s gained in her years of studying to leave her mark on this world. What better way to do that than by interning at Youthful Cities!


Screen Shot 2013-07-08 at 2.04.06 PMBrian Park
A recent graduate from Western University, Brian has international experiences in project management and marketing research, working in European automobile and Asian consumer product industries. Specializing in marketing, he a encompasses strategic and innovative mindset. Brian hopes to utilize his skills, knowledge, and experiences to analyze and improve the way youths live, work, and play in different cities. On his days off, he enjoys participating in sports and developing his musicality.



432248_10100298963796254_636357568_n (1)Holly Dagnan
Holly graduated from the University of Tennessee (Knoxville) in 2007 with a degree in political science and a minor in geography. Subsequently, she landed a teaching position in South Korea, where she resided for the following two years. She has done extensive traveling around the world, attending FIFA 2010 matches in South Africa and completing a 4-month film project throughout Latin America. Her passion for travel and the joy she receives in meeting different people from all different walks of life moved her to purse a master’s degree in global studies at the University of Freiburg in Germany. Having found a place for her assorted skill set in the landscape of sociology, research methodology, and gender/youth empowerment, she is thrilled to contribute to the success of such a timely, vibrant, and progressive organization as YouthfulCities. Always having a heart to build bridges between cultures, Holly feels that YouthfulCities provides a tangible opportunity to do just that. With a suitable background in politics, community development, and socio-political activism, such as her early employment for the Tennessee Legislature and her active contribution to Resolve Uganda and the Knoxville Jazz for Justice project, Holly proves to be an effective member of the YC team in New York, New York. She is fun, clever, perpetually youthful, and ready to wor

Screen Shot 2013-07-08 at 2.02.07 PMLina Cardona
Lina is native from Bogota Colombia, but she has lived in New York City for the past thirteen years. She received a Bachelor degree of Arts from CUNY (City University of New York) in Cultural Anthropology and Film production. Her passion is researching and documenting social issues while utilizing new media that informs, gives voice and empowers. Therefore, she truly believes in the positive role of media in influencing and promoting lasting social change. In the spring 2009, Lina got involved with a small documentary production company working on documentary about Sexual violence in Colombia’s armed conflict. In the summer of 2010 she was awarded a small grant from Oxfam Spain to produce a short video for a world-wide campaign about sexual violence against women called Take my Body out of War. She is a very active member of the Latin American community of New York for cultural, educational and social purposes. She is dedicated to the development and empowerment of young immigrants in New York City. In 2010, she was part of a community project launched by the Office of the Mayor, which aimed at improving the life of fellow New Yorkers through English conversation classes. Lina wishes to continue to work on becoming a great ‘social’ entrepreneur who acts as the changing agent of society while seizing opportunities others miss, improving systems, inventing new approaches, and creating solutions to change society for the better.

Alice_bioPicAlice Junqueira – Sao Paulo, Brazil 
Alice loves to travel and discover new places and cultures. Brazil, her motherland, is her inspiration, an infinite source of knowledge, culture and landscapes, as she likes to stress. Also, a place filled with challenges and learning, and her connection to the world. Her personal interests have always led her professional endeavors. So, traditional manifestations, music, art, dance, cinema and literature, steered her to start her career working with cultural projects. After planning and coordinating national and international exhibitions, festivals, shows and performs, she decided to change track and started working with sustainable development as she ended up discovering the amazing beneficences of social participation. She’s a true believer of everything that starts with co – co-peration, co-llaboration, co-existence! She holds a Bachelor degree in Social Communication and is about to finish her post graduation in Culture and Globalization. She’s also done an exchange in Madrid, Spain, and studied Systems Thinking at Schumacher College in Totnes, United Kingdom. Collaborating with the development and institutional structuring of NGOs and social movements is one of her passions. The ones she’s currently involved are Engajamundo, Brazilian youth engagement with UN negotiations; Inspired Generation, international youth empowerment and Escola de Governo, active citizenship and political teaching. For the past two years she’s been engaged in youth movements and initiatives such as the organization of the UN Youth Conference for Rio + 20 and the current collaborative processes led by civil society to help constructing the Post 2015 global agenda. To immerse more and more in the exciting and challenging world of youth she joined YouthfulCities to be São Paulo’s, Brazil, Urban Decoder.

 diegoDiego Padilla – Lima, Peru 
Aged 23, Diego is a passionate young entrepreneur. Born in Lima, has always been involved in the youth-led movement around the city. Realizing how important is young involvement in social issues just before finishing school, it all started to change when getting in contact with the opportunities and difficulties youth faces nearby. Diego has been a National Delegate in the 21st Ship for World Youth Program (Japan, Vanuatu, Tonga, New Zealand), the 5th World Youth Congress (Turkey), the LearnLiveLove Project (Venezuela) and the 6th Americas Summit (Colombia), and has also participated as delegate and/or organizer in different Peruvian events (Political Essay National Contest, Young Environmental Volunteers National Summit, 2nd National Youth Congress, and so on). Majoring in Biology, focusing in Ecology, he’s now a truly believer that youth actions can improve the way we live in our world by fitting our activities into a well integrated nature-human system, aiming to satisfy social needs as a priority, using multidisciplinary approach, scientific research, resilience and complex system as axes of general work. Currently, he’s leading the non-profit organization Proyecto Lomas  (based in Lima) that aims to achieve the conservation of a Peruvian endemic urban ecosystem by involving local communities, connecting them throughout management tools based on social and ecological criteria. His project has already been awarded as one of the best eco-initiatives in the Americas in 2012 by the Young Americas Business Trust (OAS – PepsiCo). Liking photography, indoor sports, meeting new people and dreaming, he’s now part of the YouthfulCities Family setting it up in Lima!

DanielaDaniela Gutiérrez – Bogota, Colombia
Daniela is an environmental engineering student who is conscious that the term environment includes ecologic, economic and social dimensions, and also, that to accomplish sustainability there must be searched equilibrium between these dimensions by taking the accurate decisions through technical tools. As well, thinks that human being is part of the nature and that is why humans must be aware of the way it has developed not only culturally but economically, this is why there must be a sensitizing concerning preservation, conservation and rational use of natural resources. She is Bogotá’s theme coordinator of Environmental National Youth Network (Red Nacional de Jóvenes de Ambiente), under this coordination it is supported and promoted the youth participation in different environmental areas, with the objective of formulating and implementing projects according to the environmental topics that result interesting to young people. Currently, she is part of the team of Bogota’s Urban Decoders and is willing to decode the youthfulness of the city, in order to have indicators that will help raising the awareness of the limitations and to potentiating the city advantages. She highly believes that young people can turn around the bad decisions that have been made in the world, by thinking globally but acting locally, with lots of effort and conviction.

ReginaRegina Portilla – Mexico City, Mexico
A restless story-hunter and a firm believer in the power of multicultural knowledge, Regina left her home in Mexico City to study Journalism in Spain. During her time in Madrid she worked for private companies and volunteered for a variety of environmental and social NGOs. From research, reporting, marketing to organizing campaigns, she developed different capacities to cover their diverse necessities. She discovered her passion for protecting human rights and vulnerable groups while doing an internship for UNHCR-Madrid and organizing a mayor campaign-trip to the Refugee-camps in Western Sahara. Her desire to better livelihoods through alternative solutions led her to study a Masters in Peace and Security Studies in Hamburg, where she specialized in civil and migrant organizations active in development and humanitarian work. After having studied and worked in six different cities, her last job in Quito reignited her love for Latin America and she returned to her birth city. Regina joined Youthful Cities as an Urban Decoder not only to provide information, but also in the hopes of motivating young people to take action and become part of the transformations that can better their futures.

FrancisFrancis Anyaegbu – Lagos, Nigeria 
Francis is a Development Consultant with extensive experience in creating; managing and facilitating youth led projects.  He is Founder and Director of a youth led organization-Youth Pioneers for Development and currently seats on the board of a number of non-profit organizations. Francis has been privileged to have brought his wealth of experience to bear in different capacities with a number of local and International organizations including the British Council, World Bank Institute, Action Aid Nigeria, and UN-HABITAT amongst others. With an academic background in Environmental Biology, and couple of professional certification in development work, Francis is a development trainer with vast facilitation competencies. Based on all of the experiences he has garnered over the years and even in his role as the inaugural Chief whip of the Nigerian National Childrens’ Parliament, Francis has been privileged to have shared best practices and delivered presentations in a number of international meetings on six continents till date. He was a nominee for the Best Use of Advocacy at one of Nigeria’s prestigious Awards- The Future Awards 2011 and a winner of the 2009 Annual Nigerian Youth Leadership Awards by Leap Africa, International Youth Foundation and Nokia. Francis was recently selected as a 2012 New Leader of Tomorrow by the Swiss based Crans Montana Forum and currently serves as Africa’s Representative on the UN-HABITAT Youth Advisory Board.

janeJane G.A Lumumba – Nairobi, Kenya
Jane holds a BA (Honors) in Sociology from the University of Toronto, a MSc. (Honors) in Urban Management and Development with a specialization in Urban Finance and a Diploma in Infrastructure and Energy Management from the Erasmus University Rotterdam. The model she created on trade complementarity in the EAC and her thesis on Territorial Competitiveness: Exploring City Competitiveness and Complementarity in East Africa have made her an invaluable member of the Transitional Authority under the Kenyan Government. She serves as a technical assistant, assessing the fiscal implications for both national and sub-national governments, policy development and implementation in response to devolved government functions under the new devolution framework in Kenya. In addition, she has produced detailed county profiles for all 47 counties for the Transitional Authority. These profiles will facilitate the propagation of existing and future county functions and streamline competency assignments across the different counties. Jane is currently pursuing her PhD in Urban and Regional Planning specializing in economic geography at the University of Nairobi while awaiting publication of her paper on city competitiveness and complementarity in the EAC region.

LiliLiliana Mayer – Buenos Aires, Argentina
Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, into a German- Jewish family. Like most of Argentineans, Lili –as everyone calls her- was born in a cross cultural atmosphere, surrounded by different traditions, languages and cultures. Once finished her secondary school, she entered University of Buenos Aires to start her studies in sociology, university she never left. After her undergraduate degree, she became a postgraduate research scholar, going on with her studies, first within the Master in Social Sciences Research and later on, with her Ph. D. for both instances, her research and dissertations versed on youth issues: first, on the relation between youth and politics, and then regarding secondary schooling youth inclusion. Her Ph. D work led her to Berlin, for a research stay, where besides researching and working there, she reencountered herself with her roots.  Besides her scholastic work, Lili leaded many NGO projects regarding youth and education, and is an Associate Professor at University. Lili is convinced that a prior are of study and work are youth people, in order to get more equalitarian societies, and for that, NGOs, government and enterprises should combine efforts.

Screen Shot 2013-04-24 at 10.46.28 PMEugene Sosing – Manila, Philippines
Eugene is a development worker whose passion is in youth development with sustainable approach. He worked previously as researcher of World Wildlife Fund for Nature for a climate change mitigation project. He provided technical inputs on research and assessment to equipped relevant stakeholders a more practical basis to craft adaptation policies and actions to reduce and eliminate preventable losses brought about by the recent climate changes. The Cabinet Office of Japan selected him as the Facilitator of Ship for South East Asian Youth Program, a cultural and educational exchange program where he supervised youth leaders from South East Asian countries and Japan. Mr. Sosing volunteers as a Youth Advisor of Philippine Junior Jaycees, a nationwide youth leadership training and community development organization. He serves as consultant to the national board officials in developing training modules and inter-chapter endeavors. As a volunteer advocate, he was involved as a coordinator of an NGO where he provided technical support to more than 300 international volunteers in implementing community development projects at their respective placement. Eug, as he fondly called, considers the service to humanity as the best work of life.

Screen Shot 2013-04-25 at 1.06.58 PMSelimcan Azizoglu – Istanbul, Turkey 
Mostly known as ‘ jack of all trades’ among his friends and colleagues, Selimcan, tries to find the golden mean between his emotional side and his straight rationality. He received his B.S and M.S. in Chemical & Biological Engineering at Koc University. He is now exploring Sociology of M.A at Istanbul Sehir University, as a research assistant in Center for Urban Studies, Istanbul. In addition to being a Cancer (just having it as an astrological sign), he studies Sociology of Cancer (yes, this is the illness one), mainly focusing on socio-spatial analysis of cancer incidences. He is the founder of Sehir Volunteer Society. Also today he professionally (quite emotionally!) works for Doctors Worldwide as the project manager of various medical aid programs in Africa and Arabian Peninsula. He loves children and having three of them is among his future dreams (as Prime Minister Erdoğan, strongly suggested!). Trusting on his critical observations rather than the books, he loves to experience (and google) different academic fields (areas) such as sociology of sports, social complexity, neuroscience, body-mind-society relations, and urban data analysis. He is interested in football to the extent that he studies it both theoretically and practically. He used to focus on socio-historical shifts of Istanbul stadiums from modern to post-modern era. What’s more, he is a fan of Besiktas J.K, one of the oldest football clubs of Istanbul, Turkey. To sum up, he has joined “Youthful Cities” project, strongly believing that Istanbul has an extremely exciting potential waiting to be discovered by the youth of the world.

2012-11-27 02.01.58Jeremy Tran – Shanghai, China 
Born in Vietnam to a Chinese family and brought up in the U.S., Jeremy believes that advocating cross-cultural awareness is part of his life calling. He enjoys interlacing various disciplines into his way of working to deliver well-rounded results. He is an intransigent advocate for inclusive community development. In Portland, Oregon – a Steering Committee Member at World Affairs Council of Oregon, a Community Organizer at Center for Intercultural Organizing, Visioning Committee Member at City of Beaverton, Oregon. In Costa Rica, he worked with Municipality of San Jose to organize Arts for the City project and Community Cleaning Day. Along with holding a series of community leadership positions, he also has possessed experience in coordinating programs at UNESCO – Vietnam and developed part of an agency-wide initiative at Mercy Corps. During his studies at University College London, he conducted in-depth research on London, Mekelle – Ethiopia, and Ho Chi Minh City – Vietnam, exploring ways to improve their urban development strategies. He believes the YouthfulCities Initiative is opportune to enabling Shanghai to become a better city.