Children’s indicators becoming an formal planning tool

World Vision International, Surabaya, Indonesia

SDG 1: No povertySDG 4: Quality educationSDG 5: Gender equalitySDG 11: Sustainable cities and communitiesSDG 16: Peace justice and strong institutionsSDG 17: Partnerships for the goals
World Vision International is an international child-focused organisation, with a federated network of more than 90 countries. The organisation has set a global strategy to advocate and influence the United Nations to refocus the global political discourse on children’s rights across the rural/urban continuum. For the last decade, World Vision launched several learning initiatives, one of them being about child vulnerabilities in diverse urban settings.

Once a city is friendly for children, both girls and boys, World Vision believes it is a city friendly for all its citizens. The organisation wants to ensure that children are involved in the planning of the city, hence, that urban development is not only being people-centred but also child-centred. Children are the critical citizens of today that will be the future leaders of tomorrow. The clear message from the children of a sub-district in Surabaya was“the underlying issue is that our voices are not being heard. We need to have our voices heard.”

Good practices & solutions

The organisation established a Centre of Expertise for Urban Programming to become a knowledge asset to internal and external stakeholders. An action research program was launched to pilot projects in six countries, one of them being Indonesia. The pilot projects tested innovative and locally driven urban poverty eradication solutions, such as securing urban land rights, influencing municipal policy implementation, and creating livelihood opportunities – with children and youth leading change in their communities.

Throughout the pilot projects, children were given space to speak their mind, share their opinions and participate actively. As an agency that is focused on children’s well-being, World Vision was committed to create those formal platforms for dialogue with planners, decision-makers, community-based leaders and family members. In Surabaya, they detected that children have good observational skills. Children tend to look for places to play, which is an important activity for them in order to develop important knowledge about their neighbourhood and their city. One of the innovative methods used during the project was to give children cameras to photograph and film their neighbourhoods.

Through visual pictures, the critical social, cultural, political, economic, and physical issues in the neighbourhoods emerged. With this information, World Vision was able to sensitise the families and communities to understand these issues and advocate for change.

Outcome & opportunities

A child friendly city is where every child is formally recognised as agents of change, and formally acknowledged to be able to contribute to the kind of life they want to live. That is why it is so important to include children in formal and informal decision-making. A child friendly city starts with listening to the children. This type of project enables children to have a voice in their own development. The project team was, in close collaboration with the children, able to identify seven indicators of a child-friendly neighbourhood in the local context. The indicators evolved around themes such as children’s health, education, care and protection. These indicators were later on implemented in the official development plans of the city.

Lessons learned & recommendations

Many of the indicators can be applied globally, as they relate to the environmental issues or urban space design. There are for example indicators related to liveability. Liveable cities support access to mobility so that children can move freely, but also social conventions of expressing themselves, talk and disagree. Many planners, due of the way they have been trained, know fairly little about the social aspects of planning. Planning is inherently a technical profession, leaving many social aspects out of the equation. For example, wasted space is a wasted asset for a community of a city, so how can that space become a living environment? A key lesson learnt is the need to strengthen existing partnerships with multiple stakeholders and partners, such as civil society, universities and local government. Collaborative efforts support sharing of knowledge, resources and efforts to replicate and scale up locally tested solutions.

Related SDG targets
Further reading

Photo: ardiwebs /

FacebookTwitterLinkedInCopy Link

Project: Urban Girls Movement