News December 1, 2022

Sixty leaders, twenty cities, one focus: How to make better streets for kids

GDCI’s Streets for Kids program launched in 2018, and in early 2020 we published the Designing Streets for Kids design guide. The guide includes dozens of recommendations for how to make streets better for children of all ages. Every single one of them, however, needs a local champion to make them possible.

It takes dedicated leadership to make streets safe, attractive and convenient for kids and their caregivers. Earlier this year we brought together some of the most energetic leaders working on these projects from around the world. GDCI’s first-ever Streets for Kids Leadership Accelerator welcomed 60 professionals from 20 cities around the world, all working at the intersection of children’s wellbeing and transportation. This competitively selected group came together for twelve online sessions over a six months period for an intensive course in street design best practices. Perhaps most importantly, this was a unique opportunity for them to share ideas, questions, and strategies with each other. Here’s a look back at what went into this program.

A competitive field

Dozens of cities applied for the Streets for Kids Leadership Accelerator, and the overwhelming majority of applications were extremely strong. This was already a good sign to our team that cities around the world are interested and are actively pursuing the implementation of Streets for Kids principles — something which was not the case just a few years ago.

Many of the teams who applied included diverse disciplines. In addition to transportation planners and designers, many teams included people working in social services and education, who deal with children’s health and safety comprehensively. Some teams also included elected leaders, such as the Mayors of Thrissur and Lusaka, and together participants brought diverse perspectives on children’s needs as well as their context within communities.

As part of the application process, we required a short video to help us better understand each team and their context. People got really creative, like the team from Melbourne, Australia:

From a pool of extremely well-qualified applications, we eventually welcomed the teams from Abuja, Nigeria; Bogotá, Colombia; Bologna, Italy; Cerrillos, Santiago De Chile, Chile; Cuenca, Ecuador; İstanbul, Turkey; Kisumu City, Kenya; Leon, Mexico; Lima, Peru; Los Angeles, United States; Lusaka, Zambia; Melbourne, Australia; Prishtina, Kosovo; Quito, Ecuador; Recife, Brazil; Solo, Indonesia; Tbilisi, Georgia; Thrissur, India; Tirana, Albania; and Tyre, Lebanon as our Streets for Kids Leadership Accelerator participants.

The selected teams came from all over the world, including six continents, a range of jurisdiction size and population, and a wide variety of progress in child-friendly projects. Some cities were far along in these projects, and some were still close to the beginning.

A robust curriculum

Participants came together for the first time on May 25, 2022 for our opening session. From there we met every two weeks for six months. During that time we tackled an ambitious curriculum that explored capacity building, hands-on activities, and discussions about implementation. Each month focused on a different component of designing streets for kids:

International leaders on child-friendly street design joined us for these sessions to share their expertise and guidance, discussing topics around sustainable mobility, play and risk, youth engagement and air quality, to name a few. We were also reminded about the importance of actively including youth in street design processes without tokenization, and remembering that “children” applies to teenagers and youth as well as small kids.

The second session each month was a chance for participants to share their projects, connect with their peers and apply the content they heard in hands-on activities. In these sessions we intentionally created a more open format that fostered discussion, curiosity, and connection.

Teams sharing their suggestions for redesigning safer and more attractive intersections as part of an interactive activity in the Designing for Cyclists, Pedestrians, and Public Transit peer-to-peer session.
Some of the projects Leadership Accelerator participants shared throughout the program.

One real highlight from these sessions was hearing leaders from multiple disciplines share diverse perspectives on the same issue. A transportation engineer and social worker might deal with the same problem, but understand it in different ways and it was incredible to see those conversations in real time. This type of partnership, in fact, is what makes streets for kids projects succeed.

Supporting emerging leadership

In addition to opportunities to learn from experts as well as one another in group discussions, we also held one-on-one meetings with each team to better understand the challenges they face as well as the opportunities to design streets for kids in their cities. These conversations informed our workshop curriculum, as we adapted to meet the needs of participants in real time.

In total, this program brought together an incredible group of leaders doing outstanding projects around the world, and strengthened their leadership for projects to come. In the final session on November 16, 2022, participants had the opportunity to renew and share their commitments to take action and become their local Streets for kids changemaker.

I am committed to promoting Streets for Kids in my work.In the next few month I will:Review my existing projects and explore ways they can shift to better servechildren and caregivers.In the next few years I would like to:Commit to incubating new projects that focus on improving streets forkids and caregivers.In the future I hope to:Have this work easier to get done, so transformations could happen faster!

A commitment shared by one of the Leadership Accelerator participants in the closing session.

In 2023 GDCI’s Streets for Kids team will continue to work with a select number of Leadership Accelerator participants who are ready for implementation. We look forward to building on the incredible experiences of this Accelerator and continuing to follow the work of all our participants in the years ahead.

Want to learn more about Streets for Kids resources and opportunities like the Leadership Accelerator? Join the GDCI email list to stay in the loop about these and future Streets for Kids opportunities.

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