Planet Youth. Partner Calgary.

Planet Youth supports the well-being and resilience of local youth, empowering them to live their best life.

The well-being and resiliency of youth is fundamental to the success of our communities. If our local young people are thriving, we will see a ripple effect in the rest of society as people of all ages feel a sense of belonging, connection, and purpose.

But we know that over the past few years, young people across our city have been struggling. Rates of mental health concerns and substance use for local youth have been on the rise.

  • 70% of adults with a mental illness indicate their symptoms first emerged during childhood and adolescence.
  • In 2021, visits to Alberta Children’s Hospital for mental health concerns were 36% higher than in 2018.
  • Young people aged 15 to 24 are more likely to experience mental illness and/or substance use disorders than any other age group.
  • Relative to other Canadian provinces, Alberta youth have one of the highest rates of first contact with the emergency department for addiction and mental health issues.

By creating an environment where youth have the opportunity to reach their fullest potential, we can have an impact on upcoming generations in our city, ensuring that youth now and into the future are equipped to contribute to a thriving community.

To help lift up young people across our community, United Way has joined forces with local partners to launch Planet Youth.

See what we’ve been up to.


Planet Youth is a prevention model, proven to reduce substance use rates amongst young people and positively impact other areas of their lives. Planet Youth is not a program—it’s a new approach to identifying and establishing long-term strategies that promote positive changes to the environment in which youth grow up.

The Planet Youth model was developed in Iceland and is currently being adapted and implemented in countries around the world. When the model was created more than 20 years ago, Iceland’s youth substance use rates were the worst in Europe. Today, they are the best in the world.

The beauty of the Planet Youth model is that it can be modified to meet the specific needs of each community in which it is implemented. This means Planet Youth in Ireland will look different than Planet Youth in Argentina.

One thing that is consistent: The Planet Youth model relies on a collaborative effort from our entire community to be successful—local youth, parents, caregivers, teachers, schools, communities, agencies, governments, researchers, policymakers, and practitioners.

Through new ways of working together in a coordinated effort, we can leverage the strengths and resources of individuals, organizations, and sectors to achieve our vision of raising youth up, together.

Icelandic Prevention Model
Kirby Redwood

“We are excited about the Planet Youth model, not only because it has been used successfully around the world, but more importantly, it has been successful in creating positive spaces for Indigenous peoples around the world. We are using the Icelandic model as an impetus to listen to our own youth, and to help guide them so they can balance being Native in a Western world.”

– Kirby Redwood, CEO, Miskanawah, Planet Youth Working Group Partner

One heart

Get Involved

If you are interested in supporting this exciting Calgary youth initiative, please contact us.


The working vision of Planet Youth Calgary is to enhance the wellbeing and resilience of local youth, empowering them to live their best life. We will address rising substance use and mental health challenges facing youth by investing in a holistic approach to well-being. This will include building protective factors and reducing risk factors in the environments in which youth live and grow up.

We have begun by launching a five-year pilot, specifically designed for our local context, in four Calgary communities. Following the pilot program, our goal is for Planet Youth to be a long-term, multi-generational investment in a preventative approach.

Our guiding strategic framework outlines four main priorities for this work as we move forward, including People, Place, Power, and Purpose:

A group of people hold hands.

Connecting youth with people who care.

A graphic of homes.

Fostering youth belonging, learning, and growing in safe places.

A megaphone.

Unleashing the power of youth voices.

Two hearts in a hand.

Defining youth purpose through meaningful experiences.

“We have a great opportunity before us: to come together in a way that leverages our strengths, knowledge, expertise, and resources to drive toward a common vision, one that ensures youth in Calgary can be supported to live their best life!”

– Karen Young, President & CEO, United Way of Calgary and Area

Together with our partners, we will approach this work by:

  1. Using the Planet Youth model
  2. Fostering transformative ethical space between Indigenous and Western systems
  3. Ensuring youth voice is central to the initiative
  4. Integrating values-based partnerships; and
  5. Including upstream systems responses to enhance the wellbeing and resilience of youth.

“Planet Youth must create a space where everyone has a voice, no one is silent.”

-Local youth

Paralleling Indigenous and Western Ways

There is much that we can learn from Indigenous ways of knowing, being, and doing. United Way’s Indigenous strategy, Akak’stiman: Journey of Creative Planning to Achieve Goals signals our intention to be an ally, leader, and relative in reconciliation.

United Way recognizes our interconnected history in Canada, the complexities of reconciliation, and the genuine need for a parallel path forward toward a shared future. Incorporating Indigenous parallel processes and perspectives throughout the development of Planet Youth will help ensure we are honouring Indigenous ways, while taking important steps towards reconciliation. It will help inform who we are helping through Planet Youth, how we are working, and what we are doing.

Indigenous voices have been a key component in building the Planet Youth initiative and we have engaged with Indigenous youth and Elders for their guidance and knowledge.

The lessons we learn in implementing Planet Youth can also be shared globally with other communities undertaking this same process.


Designing interventions based on needs identified by local youth and working together in new ways will, over time, help contribute to decreased rates of substance use and mental health concerns for Calgary youth. It will contribute to greater well-being, sense of purpose, and academic success for our city’s next generation.

The positive impacts of the Planet Youth initiative will create a ripple effect, sparking other positive change as well. It will help young people feel a stronger sense of belonging, leadership, and citizenship through improved access to recreational opportunities. It will foster better learning environments in schools, enhancing the connection between students and resources available in the community. It will also help ease the strain on our healthcare system by preventing issues before they require costly intervention.

Having a coordinated and strong network of services and interventions to promote youth mental health will ultimately lead to better lives for local young people.

We look forward to having you join us in creating a lasting change and a brighter future for youth in our city. Because when youth thrive in our community, our city thrives too.


The issues that Calgary youth face are interconnected, so it is important we work together to address them. Planet Youth will bring together multiple stakeholders and sectors in new ways to transform the way we support youth.

We can’t do this work alone. The success of Planet Youth will depend upon everyone in our community coming together—from caretakers to teachers, communities to governments, researchers to policy makers, and more.

As the convenor of this initiative, United Way will take a lead role in coordinating additional key stakeholders to build a greater coalition of interested organizations to support youth.

Currently, organizations involved in the Working Committee include:

  • Alberta Health Services
  • Between Friends
  • Canadian Mental Health Association
  • Calgary Police Youth Foundation
  • Calgary Public Library
  • Centre for Sexuality
  • The City of Calgary
  • Miskanawah Community Services Association
  • Trellis
  • United Way of Calgary and Area
  • YMCA Calgary

United Way has a strong history of bringing together the right partners and is taking an intentional approach to building partnerships which will be critical to the success of the initiative.

Tanis Cochrane

“People and organizations bring different skills and expertise and strengths to the table. No one person, or agency, or business builds community by themselves.”

– Tanis Cochrane, Chief Strategy Officer, YMCA, Calgary Planet Youth Working Committee Partner


We are incredibly grateful for all the donors and corporations that stand united with us to pilot, launch, and scale this game-changing initiative that will positively impact Calgary youth and upcoming generations in our city.

A special acknowledgement goes to our Founding Investors for their transformational, multi-year commitments. Their investments are the catalyst, shaping the future of the city and creating a long lasting and multigenerational impact.

Founding Investors

Sharon Siebens
Hugh & Laureen Borgland
John & Sheilagh Langille
Alvin and Mona Libin Foundation
Mike & Sue Rose
Vera A. Ross
An Anonymous Donor

ARC Resources Ltd.
RBC Foundation
Tourmaline Oil Corp.

Supporting Investors

Brenneman Family Fund via Calgary Foundation
Michael & Heather Culbert & Family
Kanovsky Family Foundation
Michele & Bob Michaleski
Janet Soles & Rod Sobchishin
Viewpoint Foundation
Andrew & Nancy Wiswell
An Anonymous Donor

AltaGas Ltd.
Pembina Pipeline Corporation*
*on behalf of Bob Michaleski

Together, we are creating a better tomorrow for young Calgarians.

Two hearts.

Get Involved

If you are interested in supporting this exciting Calgary youth initiative, please contact us.

Elijah BeaverPlanet Youth