GUIC introduction


Growing Up in Cities

A program to involve children, young
people and governments in evaluating and improving local environments



What is Growing Up in Cities?

Growing Up in Cities is an international effort to develop a better
understanding of children’s and young people´s own perspectives on
the places where they live, their concerns related to the urban environment
and their proposals for change. It uses participatory action-research methods
to involve young people in (1) evaluating and discussing their community
environment and (2) developing strategies and proposals for its improvement.
Through this process, young people become active participants in making
their cities and towns better places in which to live.

Growing Up in Cities is based in eight countries: Argentina, Australia,
India, Norway, Poland, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Each national site serves as a center for disseminating information and
training about the project model. The site teams include a number of the
world’s leading child-environment researchers and experts in urban planning
and design with children and youth.

The participatory principles of the 1990s require that children and youth
not only express their ideas but also become engaged in articulating and
implementing recommendations. Growing Up in Cities gives special
attention to urban policy development through young people’s own presentation
of issues for public debate.

Participation means education for action. Growing Up in Cities
provides opportunities for young people to learn life skills and gain self-confidence
through engagement with the public places of their neighborhood and city.
These are the same places where they will need to demonstrate social and
environmental responsibility and the capacity for democratic action when
they become adults.

What issues does the program address?

The aim of the program is to increase understanding of how different
urban environments encourage or inhibit healthy human development, by exploring
questions such as:

  • How do young people use and perceive their neighborhood environment,
    and how does it shape their lives and sense of identity?

  • How can children and young people be involved in enhancing their local
    environment and addressing its problems?

  • What environmental and social supports do low-income, working class
    urban communities offer to children and young people?

  • What factors prepare young people to invest hope and energy in their
    communities and cities by committing themselves to their improvement?

  • How are rapidly changing global economic and social forces affecting
    the environments of urban childhood?

  • How can negative consequences of these changes be addressed through
    city governance?

  • How can effective partnerships be built among government officials,
    urban planners and designers, child advocates, researchers, community leaders
    and children and their families in order to promote environments for well-being?

    How can I learn more?

    The Growing Up in Cities model is being disseminated through a
    variety of means.

  • Beginning in November 1997, training workshops on methods and strategies
    are being organized by the Averroès European Training Centre in Amsterdam,
    and further workshop series are being planned in different regions of the
    world 1998-2000.

  • A manual on Creating Better Cities with Children and Youth, which
    presents program-based methods and approaches, is scheduled for 1998 publication.

  • Individual sites are producing program reports in various media, including
    video and exhibits.

  • A book summarizing initial program results, a youth-oriented book, and
    a documentary film are in preparation.

  • Updated program information is available on the web at

  • An electronic discussion room on children’s participation in community
    improvement efforts is available at

    How can I become involved?

    Growing Up in Cities is being undertaken by an international network
    of individuals and organizations. For more information on the program, or
    to discuss how you might get involved in the program’s ongoing efforts,
    please contact the site leader nearest you:


    Who provides program support?

    Growing Up in Cities revives the vision and methods of a UNESCO project
    with the same name that was directed by the influential urban planner, Kevin
    Lynch, in the 1970s. The current project was initiated by the Norwegian
    Centre for Child Research
    in 1994.

    General coordination is by Louise Chawla, sponsored by the MOST
    of UNESCO (Management
    of Social Transformations and the Environment), with additional support
    from Childwatch International.
    Individual program sites receive support from a variety of national and
    international organizations and foundations.

    Growing Up in Cities draws upon the experience and advice of an
    Advisory Board of international experts from the fields of child research
    and advocacy, urban planning and development, and participatory planning
    and design.

    December 1997

    Back to Childwatch

    UNESCO´s Growing
    Up In Cities