Mara Mintzer – Director of Growing Up Boulder
Our society routinely makes decisions without consulting a quarter of the population. We are making choices about land use, energy production, and natural resources without the ideas and the experiences of a full community. The car — an inanimate object has more say of our public policy than this group of citizens. Can you guess which group I’m talking about? It’s children!
I work in urban design and not surprisingly, most cities are designed by adults — urban planners, architects, developers, politicians, and, occasionally, a few loud citizens. Rarely do you consider the voices of a group of four-year-olds, barely tall enough to reach the podium at city council chambers. But today I’m going to ask you this: What happens if we ask children to design our cities?
Back in 2009, I was introduced to a small group of people, who wanted to start a child-friendly city initiative in Boulder, Colorado. I come from a family of civil rights advocates, and I had spent my career until that point working with low-income children and families. But I had never heard of a child-friendly city initiative before! So, I figured its purpose would be to address some of the frustrations I had encountered as the parent of a young child. Perhaps, we would advocate for more changing tables in restaurants or create indoor play spaces for those cold and rainy days.
In other words, make the city more hospitable to children and families. It wasn’t until after I committed to this project, that I realized I had it all wrong. We wouldn’t be designing better cities for children, children would be designing better cities for themselves and for the rest of us too. I bet you are skeptical about this idea, and honestly, I was too.