Youth City Design podcast

How can kids design better cities?

Episode 17 of Voices in Local Government started with this seemingly rhetorical question. Mara Mintzer, co-founder and executive director of Growing Up Boulder, and Sarah Huntley, director of communication and engagement of Boulder Colorado, explained that, whether or not you have children, including youth in community planning and hearing their voices actually yields more sustainable, healthier, and usable communities for people of all ages.

Because young people are naturally more inclusive in their thinking, their ideas seamlessly apply to various areas of interest throughout the community. Mintzer and Huntley spoke on how integral including youth voices was to the success of many projects and initiatives, including both Boulder's Transportation Master Plan and Reimagining Policing programs, as well as lessons they've learned along the way, like how simplifying and demystifying local government is helpful to not only youth, but for the community at-large.

Transportation Master Plan

Huntley references "The Transportation Master Plan [as being] a very ripe place for young people's voices, particularly around alternative modes of transit, traffic, and safe ways to get around town." Through the help of Mara's group, a child friendly map was developed based on feedback from young people and families. This map has become very popular on where to go in town and how best to get from point A to point B, ultimately aiding in capacity building for young people by helping them to learn to navigate.

Reimagining Police

Not only can young people have a helpful input on things like transportation and park planning, but their voices provide some much-needed perspective in heavier topics as well. Particularly, Boulder's Reimagining Policing effort looks to define what community members want from their police department in the future. Who better to set their sights on a brighter future than the young people who will be most directly impacted by it? Young people of all ages, particularly those who may have been impacted in their lived experiences by policing in one way or another help guide this initiative by conveying what's important to them and helping to define some focus areas to put strategies behind.

Demystifying Local Government for the Community

Designing programs with kids in mind can also help improve your messaging to the community at large by simplifying and demystifying local government for all. Through working with young people, Mintzer and Huntley discovered that getting down to the essence of questions they ask opens the door to much broader conversations with a wider range of people, adults and children alike.

There is huge cost savings potential in just ensuring questions are both simple and effective. Questions that are too complex often result in not getting the information you really need and having to go back to the drawing board.

Once the proverbial veil of local government is lifted, kids want to be more involved in the decisions that affect them. Measurements show that children want to have a voice in these decisions much more after working on a project, and they continue to stay involved in civics.

How to Certify as a Child-friendly City

Bonus clip not included in the podcast, Mara Mintzer explains Growing Up Boulder's larger vision, based on UNICEF's Convention on the Rights of the Child to create and certify child-friendly cities.

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Silly to Substantial

Chocolate milk drinking fountains and elephants free roaming the streets, aside, kids have a lot of valuable contributions to make to their communities if their voices are heard. Considering youth contributions today will ensure a brighter, more equitable tomorrow. One where the community blossoms and kids develop a deeper understanding of the governing body that serves them. For more on the benefits and how to begin getting young people involved in projects in your community, check out the full episode of Voices in Local Government, on Apple, Spotify, or on our website.


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Your thoughts, your words, your peers. Share your ideas with fellow ICMA members and local government leaders to advance the profession. We’re searching for interesting and insightful stories on any of ICMA's priority topics that can help others learn a memorable takeaway to serve their communities better.

Best practices, practical tips, innovative approaches, and lessons learned through success or failure are a few of the methods; Voices in Local Government PodcastPM magazineICMA Blog, and videos are a few of the platforms.

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City/county managers, senior staff, department specialists, early-career professionals, students, and everyone in-between – all viewpoints are welcome.

Whether it’s a clean draft ready to submit or an early concept, complete our form or email ICMA's content manager and VLG host, Joe Supervielle, at, and we’ll get back to you on next steps.



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