Inner Development for
Collective Wellbeing

The Movement

Centered Cities aims to create a future where cities and communities work together to support young people’s mental health and wellbeing.

Our world today faces no shortage of challenges – from climate change to poverty to the pandemic. Our ability to act and adapt depends on how well we support the mental health and wellbeing of emerging generations. Yet current interventions and systems fall drastically short of meeting young people’s needs. Even as access to traditional care is rising, mental distress and social isolation are also rising. Suicide is the fourth-leading cause of death among 15-29-year-olds (WHO). And more often than not, energy is spent addressing the symptoms rather than the root issues. We need more than a new approach – we need to revolutionize wellbeing.

Nairobi youth

Centered Cities is a global movement that fosters inner development for collective wellbeing. By taking a more holistic approach, including aspects such as meaning, hopefulness, belonging, and relationship to nature, we can transform mental health and wellbeing for young people, as well as broader systems and society. 

Delivering on this mission requires a movement. Centered Cities is driven by the collective creativity, wisdom, and passion of partners collaborating across generational, disciplinary, sectoral, cultural, and other boundaries.

Centered Cities Framework

To be “centered” is to find peace within the chaos that might surround us.

The Centered Cities philosophy serves as a roadmap that communities can use to improve mental health and wellbeing for all. Between 2018 and 2023, youth leaders, researchers, social entrepreneurs, and system leaders across multiple countries have been collaborating to develop a unifying framework for global action that is rooted in local cultures and their unique contexts. By leveraging city-level analysis and “on-the-ground” work, and by having youth at the center of transformation and linking them to systems that need to change, the movement aims to drive outcomes in four areas: the inner, social, and environmental dimensions of young people’s life journeys, as well as underlying systems.

Inner Change

Cultivating purpose and

Social Change

Fostering connection and

Environmental Change

Developing supportive and
 equitable environments

Systems Change

Redefining mental health
 and wellbeing

In order to achieve outcomes in these areas,
five paradigm shifts are crucial:

Centered Cities is starting with a focus on enacting the paradigm shifts across six domains.

The Centered Cities Framework helps diverse actors in cities come together and develop a shared vision and goals. While action in a single domain can have a significant impact, action across multiple domains creates the multiplying effects needed for lasting change. More cities collaborating globally will further accelerate change.

Call to Action

We are calling creative and collaborative leaders in cities and communities around the world to join us.

Join the Movement

Every city is an ecosystem of individuals bonded by a shared space, culture, or community. The Centered Cities movement is no different. Achieving holistic change requires unbounded collaboration between change makers from every corner of a city’s ecosystem.

We are driving collective action locally in cities and communities around the world, while also forming a global community to exchange best practices, stories, and learnings. This approach enables us to both accelerate on-the-ground work and build a global network of knowledge to benefit cities worldwide. Helping each other, we help our communities take critical steps toward societal transformation.

Add your city to the growing global movement to transform wellbeing. Work with us to adopt and co-create the Centered Cities framework in your city. Join the movement today!

Actions to get started include:

  • Directly support young people’s inner development in your area of influence.
  • Start integrating the five paradigm shifts into your everyday work.
  • Mobilize your city or multiple cities in your country to join us.
  • Share learnings from your work to help co-create the next iteration of the Centered Cities Framework

Pathfinder Cities

Initial pathfinder cities collaborating to build the movement.

The following cities are early co-creators of the Centered Cities movement:



Seattle is supporting innovative solutions driven by youth, community organizations, and system leaders. These solutions seek to promote well-being and generate best practices for creating spaces and programs that foster inner development, belonging, hope and connection.



Nairobi is growing youth leadership and intergenerational partnerships to develop new community-based approaches and shift policies. It has supported the development of the national strategy for youth mental health as a co-creation process between youth and policymakers.



Chennai is implementing city-wide programs cultivating gratitude, kindness, and hopefulness among young people in schools, colleges and communities. It has supported collaborations between mental health experts and youth-facing organizations to mainstream core concepts of wellbeing into daily practices.



Bogotá is supporting youth-led campaigns to change societal narratives around mental health and wellbeing. It has created a partnership between the Secretary of Health of Bogotaá and youth leaders networks to bring changes in how policies and practices are being developed.



Sacramento is supporting and elevating the work of youth-driven community-based organizations serving opportunity youth.


Young people do not want to be left behind in the mental health conversations as they understand their realities better. Let us continue supporting and listening to them for us to achieve mental health friendly cities.

Yvonne Ochieng, Co-Founder, Nzumari Africa, Youth Leader, Nairobi

Young people have an unprecedented social and environmental awareness that has the potential to transform our society towards being more mental health friendly and sustainable. It begins and ends with Love.

Lian Zeitz, Global Youth Advocate, Co-Founder, Climate Mental Health Network

This is a very strategic investment. Young people are a key population. If we keep this population healthy, it is the future of our country and the investment in mental health will support outcomes across all aspects of life.

Simon Njuguna Kahonge, Director of Mental Health, MOH Kenya

The urgent priority now is to listen and be led by those who are experts in their own experience.

Kate Cornford, OECD

A mental health friendly city is a place where I see a lot of meaningful engagement of citizens with their environment, and also greater action on altruism and volunteering.

Prabha S. Chandra, Professor of Psychiatry, NIMHANS, Bangalore

Connecting with kindred spirits, like minds, like hearts on a common agenda. That is hopeful.

Jacqui Dyer, Black Thrive, London

We need better mental health services, for treatment and promotion, but most importantly we need a massive shift in focus towards prevention! Prevention starts at the age of adolescence and it is imperative that our communities support young people in order for them to grow into thriving adults.

Chantelle Booysen, Global Mental Health Advocate, South Africa

This alliance provides us with an opportunity to learn about the experiences of large cities in the world that are taking joint actions, between different sectors, in order to develop strategies and spaces that are friendly to communities.

Luis Gonzalo Morales Sánchez, Former Secretary of Health, Bogota

Picturing Centered Cities

The collective power of rising for mental health.

Join the Movement

This is a key moment for more partners to help shape and grow the movement leading up to the first annual Centered Cities Summit in late-2024.

We are actively recruiting the next group of pathfinder cities to join the current ones, as well as innovators doing transformative work related to any of the six priority domains or five paradigm shifts. Between now and the first Summit, the group of pathfinder cities and innovators will continue to drive progress in their local communities while also working together to co-create the next iteration of the Centered Cities Framework to expand to many more cities globally.

For general inquiries, please drop us a line at:

We want to hear from anyone already doing this work, or who is interested in joining to build the movement.

The Inspiration

The work of Centered Cities has been informed by a diverse portfolio of global initiatives and collaborations spanning the past 6+ years. These initiatives were possible through collaborating, learning, and co-creating with a range of partners and stakeholders from around the world.

We acknowledge and appreciate the following organizations for their contributions to promote mental health and wellbeing in their communities and globally. Their work has inspired the emerging vision of The Centered Cities movement.

We also acknowledge the rich insights and collaborative work of the 70+ social innovators across 20+ countries that have informed the movement. We are particularly grateful for the partnership with the Youth Leaders Networks in the pathfinder cities, whose insights and passion for intergenerational movement building have been foundational.

We are grateful for the following funders whose support has enabled innovative and field shaping work to take place over the past 6+ years. Their partnership has advanced progress in global mental health and shaped a vision of possibility behind this movement.

Centered Cities is hosted by the citiesRISE platform in partnership with Salzburg Global Seminar and RIST.