Blog from Alison Clare: Child friendly cities – lessons from around the world

Blog by Alison Clare, Programme Director

January 2017

At the end of last year I visited New York to attend a conference looking at how to develop a global network of child-friendly cities. By 2050, 70 percent of the world’s population will be living in urban environments so they play an increasingly important role in helping all children achieve their full potential.

The gathering was the first meeting of the New York Academy of Science’s Global Compact for Early Childhood Development and an opportunity to hear how other countries are taking a preventative approach to tackling some of the issues in early years’ development.

It’s an international project bringing together people from 13 cities around the world, including the Better Start sites, looking at innovative, evidence-based approaches to improve the lives of children living in urban environments.

It was inspiring to hear about some of the most creative approaches being used to support children’s development. The puzzles built into bus stops, for example, that children solve while they wait for their bus; or the ‘I’m a Cow’ signs on supermarket milk fridges, which prompt conversations about where food comes from and get parents talking to their children at every opportunity.

It was also good to hear how our sister sites are doing and I was struck by how some are linking ideas to squeeze as much as possible out of each initiative they support. In Nottingham, for example, they are using the Dolly Parton library programme to offer free books to children under five. They’re also working with the local Rotary Club to extend the book funding so that the scheme can be offered outside the A Better Start areas too. And they’re working with other community venues to provide books and reading opportunities for families.

These examples underlined for me, once again, the importance of thinking much more widely than single issue projects and ensuring we’re making the most of everything that already exists. And one thing that came over very clearly to us Brits was how lucky we are to have the resources provided by the NHS, in particular the regular contact with children and families set out in the healthy child programme. It’s something we should value and use as fully as we can to deliver our goals.

To make an impact in Southend we need to be smart about wrapping projects together and finding clever ways to maximise (and measure) the reach of everything we do. One way to do that, of course, is to continue to collaborate, and the Global Compact members are developing an online hub to share resources and learning across the network. I look forward to continuing to contribute and collaborate over the coming months.

Visit for more information.


  1. Prof Premraj Pushpakaran says:

    Prof Premraj Pushpakaran writes — 2017 marks bicentennial year of The New York Academy of Sciences!!!

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