How to make London the best place to grow up

Some weeks ago, I wrote about the Changing London platform: Two Londoners, David Robinson and Will Horwitz, set up a site to showcase, debate and develop bold, ambitious ideas for London’s next Mayor from London’s citizens and friends.

Over the European winter of 2013/14, almost 150 blog posts were submitted packed with ideas for the city. Now, they have started pulling them together into a series of six discussion papers.

Their goal is to launch a paper for a month, in order to inform and influence the debate about the mayoralty and to help lift the ambitions of the next mayor.

The first one is ‘The Best Place in the World to Grow Up’, and you can download it here. They explain:

This paper draws on the ideas (…) to propose one possible vision for London’s next Mayor: a city re-oriented around our children, guaranteeing the next generation a set of rights for which they could hold us to account. A great place to grow up. The ideas are – we hope – thought-provoking and in some cases radical but they are tentative and there is far more to say.”

Children having fun, singing in the park for passerbys. Photo: U.S. Embassy London -

Children having fun, singing in the park for passerbys. Photo: U.S. Embassy London –

Summing up: What if the Mayor, its businesses, public services, charities and citizens determined to make London the greatest place on Earth to raise a child? It is part of its content: a fun, friendly community, the first step into a career, a decent income and good home and the right to be heard.

Why bother? Well, they hope politicians will pick ideas – you can contribute. After all, the London mayor has the UK’s largest directly elected mandate. Electors should support candidates with a vision and a programme that matches the scale of the opportunity; fair, deliverable and ambitiously bold. So be it!

School children visiting the British Museum – Photo: Jorge Royan -

School children visiting the British Museum – Photo: Jorge Royan –


Be the change you want to see in the world

“Be the change you want to see in the world” is a sentence credited to Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948), and it came to my mind as soon as I read about the Changing London campaign.

David Robinson, a community worker and a father of three, and Will Horwitz, a policy researcher for a community charity, both living in east London, opened up the blog with a real fair and objective goal: bring ideas that could shape London for decades to come.

They claim the London mayor has the UK’s largest directly elected mandate (four years), and if politicians don’t pick ideas discussed on the blog, they will persuade them to.

All Londoners are extremely much invited to join in. And, yes, you can disagree, according to their own words: “Disagree with our suggestions by all means but don’t sit still. Having the debate and sparking new thinking is the purpose of the project”.

To contribute, one can send ideas in short sentences through the blog, write a full post on it, comment other people’s posts, communicate via Twitter or collect ideas in the real world. In this case, they explain the conversation must take place on streets and in communities, bringing the online discussion to the off-line world, something truly praiseworthy.

Briefly scanning through the blog, it is possible to find suggestions as public transport tickets to be timed, “so we can switch modes of transport within that time without spending more”, or cancer awareness to be improved, since “it is not taught in education, and this is a worrying issue”.

As the ideas started to emerge, they created some themes:

  • Becoming the world’s premier city for children
  • Becoming the world’s friendliest city
  • A fairer London – tackling inequality and poverty
  • Better Housing – solving London’s housing crisis
  • Beginning a new kind of politics
  • Learning from other cities

That’s an admirable effort! And it should be followed by many other cities around the world. What about a ‘Changing New York’, ‘Changing Tokyo’ or ‘Changing Sao Paulo’ campaign?

Check out pictures on their Flickr page!


London mayoral election

The mayor role was created in 2000, when the first election took place, and Kevin Livingstone was elected. Four years later, he was chosen again.

In 2008, it was Boris Johnson’s turn to become the mayor, and he repeated the feat in 2012. His current salary is £143,911 per year.

The next election will take place on May 5, 2016.