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June 16-18 | 2021

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  /  CityChanger   /  Building momentum: Next-generation of urban leaders in the wings

Building momentum: Next-generation of urban leaders in the wings

47 ambitious CityChangers joined the Young Leaders Programme at UFGC19. It’s time for you to meet them! Let’s start with Samantha Suppiah who sees herself as a global citizen whose responsibility it is to do as much as she can to reduce negative human impact on our planet. Born in Singapore, she moved to Europe 12 years ago and has been living and working in the UK and Sweden ever since.

Soaking up lessons for home

Thanks to her job as a sustainability specialist at White Arkitekter in Stockholm, she is lucky enough to be doing what she loves: contributing to a range of strategic sustainability projects all across the UK and Sweden. Samantha is working in net positive, biophilic and informed urban design, co-creating urban spaces with community health in mind and implementing holistically sustainable measures for the common good.

But actually, her overall ambition is to leave a lasting legacy of positive impact on urban communities in Southeast Asia. This goal is really close to her heart as she still has an excellent connection to her home region. Samantha is aiming to go back home and to apply the lessons she has learned in Europe. A lot of work still has to be done in sustainable urban design there, and she is about to gaining the necessary knowledge, skills, and influence to make change happen.

Oslo was only the beginning… 

Samantha was part of the first edition of the Young Leaders Programme at UFGC19 in Oslo.  The programme is about connecting like-minded people under 30 from all around the world, and inspiring these changemakers to work together and create fruitful collaborations. 47 young people with ambitious goals for our future cities had the unique chance to take part in exclusive workshops and intimate fireside chats with some of the world’s coolest urban leaders like Gil Penalosa or Fabian Dattner


Samantha originally applied for it “to become more involved in the urban community, to meet new people and get more active.” One key takeaway for her was that the programme “brought me the perspective to find out where I fit in” because when you see the range of young people who are all eagerly striving towards a similar goal you suddenly realise that you are not alone, and also what’s the particular benefit that you can add to the group.


The coolest outcome? – This diverse group of enthusiastic people from all around the world got infected by the “CityChangers virus”. Just a few weeks after the event, they installed ways to communicate, share knowledge on specific topics and exchange thoughts about their newest common challenges and possible solutions. As we speak, they are creating a network to share their ideas for better cities. Be prepared to hear a lot more from the Future Urban Leaders Network soon!


What can we expect?

“We are very excited about the launch of our network! We will definitely contribute to the UFGC20 and be involved within the conference programme itself. We would also like to work together with the city of Lisbon and its citizens and engage them in the conference and in sustainable activities. So stay tuned and watch out the UFGC channels for more details about our network to come soon!”

Good leadership desperately wanted!

Asked about her most memorable moment from the UFGC19, Samantha instantly thought about the following situation: “It’s the last 5 minutes of one leadership workshop. I’m sure we are many to remember this moment. The speaker showed us two slides with graphs: one read ‘How leadership is today‘, the second ‘What leadership needs to be‘. This was like an epiphany!” Working with young people is so rewarding as you see them striving for their personal goals, finding new perspectives and creative solutions.


Very often, it’s the inner motivation that separates good leaders from bad ones. What is it that drives a young person like Samantha to continue her efforts as a changemaker in sustainable urban development? “It’s definitely not the money!“ Samantha replies with a heartfelt laugh. She actually takes this topic very seriously. Indeed, in the face of world issues that sometimes can drag us down, she admits that keeping a good mental health is what pushes her to work twice as hard.


Asked for her personal urban hero/heroine, Samantha got an unexpected answer for us, yet full of wisdom:

“I do admire some people, but I don’t think it’s appropriate to put someone on a pedestal. Change and improvement do not result from one single person, but rather come from our cooperation with others.”



I really believe in… the power of authenticity, transparency and collaboration in creating our urban future.

Successful cities… positively impact its citizens, its visitors, and nature.

I am excited about the future because… I hope to witness the dawn of an empathetic, responsible and collaborative global human society.

More information:

Next young leaders story to be released soon.

Call for applications to the Young Leaders Programme at UFGC20 opens in December.

Samantha Suppiah 

Sustainability Specialist, White Arkitekter | Stockholm | Sweden

Check out our Young Leaders Gallery: www.urban-future.org/youngleaders

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