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What Would You Change if You Could Experience the City from 95cm?

by Thaabit Kamaar
Photo by [Urban95}

What would you change if you could experience the city from 95cm? The all-important question is what drives the Urban95 global initiative. The name “Urban95” refers to the height of a healthy 3-year-old child, which is approximately 95cm.

The initiative was developed by the Bernard van Leer Foundation, and for nearly six decades, the organisation has focused on early childhood development. The foundation recognises that the environment significantly impacts children and aims to ensure urban planning and designs consider the needs of children, families and caregivers.

The organisation aims to encourage cities to create spaces conducive to early childhood development. “To create spaces where children can grow, learn, create, imagine and play in all urban areas worldwide.”

What is the Urban95 Academy?

The Urban95 Academy is a fully funded educational program for worldwide municipal leaders who desire to make cities, urban areas and public spaces child-friendly. LSE Cities created the program at the London School of Economics in partnership with the Bernard van Leer Foundation.

It is a 7-week online course participated by city leaders in over 150 cities worldwide. Once the program is completed and based on their performance and participation, cohorts from 10 cities are flown to London for a week of in-person learning and connecting.

As a participant in the online program, Rehana Moosajee said, “What’s exciting about Urban95 is … Its bottom-up desire for change and its top-down ability to make the changes as well the interface and … Leadership training.

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Creating Safer Environments for Children and Caregivers

As the Bernard van Leer Foundation website specifies, “Our mission is to improve opportunities for all young children, especially the millions of young children growing up in circumstances of socio, economic and environmental disadvantage around the world”.

Founder of the Barefoot Facilitator Moosajee said in conjunction with the mission statement, the strategy is aimed at getting national and provincial governments to understand what are the experiences of the child and why investing in safer and healthier public spaces for them and caregivers is essential.

“When your 95cm child steps out, a child you love, onto a sidewalk, how do they experience the world? What [sights do they see], what sounds do they hear, what is the level of air quality, do they have access to green spaces, what is the quality of the environment that this child is exposed to, and what is the long-term trajectory? … A lot of the work I’ve been doing with organisations involved in early childhood development is that, I think we’re trying to treat a lot of the challenges in society without looking at the root causes. [Many] the root causes are actually in children’s formative experiences.”

Urban95 encourages city planners, city leaders and policymakers to design safe, inclusive cities that support young children’s physical, cognitive and emotional development.

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