IGP Stories

Sueños Habaneros (Havanan Dreams)

Prosperity Index America

Dr Saffron Woodcraft

25 January 2022

“To me, the word prosperity means harmony”

Adriano Emilio Zayas, Havana, Cuba

What does it mean to live a good life and prosper? How do ideas about what constitutes prosperity change from place to place and evolve between generations? How are world events from climate change to COVID-19 changing how we feel about the possibilities for people and the planet to flourish?

The question of how to live a good life has occupied philosophers for centuries. In the 20th century, the idea of prosperity as national and individual wealth, driven by economic growth that would trickle down and improve quality of life, dominated political decision-making in much of the world.

Yet for more than two-thirds of the world’s urban population, income inequality has increased since 1980 (UN Habitat, World Cities Report 2020). Around 2.9 billion people now live in cities where income inequality is more severe than a generation ago. Today’s young people are facing a growing range of inequalities - affordable and safe housing, food and fuel poverty, climate risks and human rights are challenges to their future prosperity and life chances.

Growing inequalities and pressing global challenges, from mass displacement to the effects of climate change, are prompting citizens and governments to question what prosperity means and to pay attention to the diverse ways that people understand wellbeing, flourishing, and quality of life for humans and the natural world. How should we imagine and pursue prosperity as individuals, communities and nations? What are our responsibilities to future generations?

Here at the Institute for Global Prosperity (IGP), our central focus since inception is to re-imagine and re-define prosperity that is fit for the 21st century. Our work spans places across the globe including the UK, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Lebanon, where the IGP are designing citizen-led prosperity indices in partnership with citizen scientists and local communities.

What prosperity means to young people is a strong focus for the IGP, as we seek to understand aspirations and pathways to prosperity for adolescents and young adults who are facing unprecedented challenges compared to previous generations. For example, our Euston Young Voices project in Camden (London) in 2020, was led by young people aged 16 to 25 who were trained to work as citizen social scientists in their neighbourhoods. They carried out research to explore what prosperity means and how their opportunities and aspirations are impacted by urban regeneration. Euston Young Voices is part of the Good Life Euston project, an 18-month collaboration between the IGP, Lendlease, Camden Council and Camden Giving, exploring what supports prosperity for local communities and incorporating the voices of local residents in regeneration planning.

The IGP has also worked with young people below the age of 25 including young design thinkers, researchers and youth workers in east London as a response to the complex issues facing young people including mental health, employment and crime, as well as, helping them achieve their aspirations against the backdrop of exacerbated inequalities and the Covid-19 pandemic. The team of young people addressed the following questions: What does it take for young people in east London to live prosperous lives?. How can local businesses & organisations, both individually & collaboratively, facilitate and support young people’s prosperity? The project was overseen by youth-led design agency The Plug, Hackney Quest and Hannah Sender from the Institute for Global Prosperity at UCL while being funded by UCL, the London Legacy Development Corporation and the Lottery Fund.

This film Sueños Habaneros (Havanan Dreams), made during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, asks what prosperity means to four young people in Havana, Cuba. The film is part of a project exploring the hopes and aspirations, challenges, and priorities of young people in Havana and London. Through film, dialogues and writing, the project examines how ‘a good life’ is imagined, practiced, and experienced through everyday practices and future possibilities, in the context of young people who have grown up in very different political, social and economic conditions.

The film has been produced by Karla R. Albert and Jesús Labaut at the Universidad de la Habana. The film was first shown at the trans-making ‘Europa Enterprise’ exhibition in Paris at the Cité Internationale des Arts.

This project is a collaboration between students and staff at the Facultad de Comunicación, Universidad de la Habana (Faculty of Communication, University of Havana) Journalism Department and the Institute for Global Prosperity at University College London. It has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement n°734855.


Image Credit:
Dustan Woodhouse on Unsplash

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