Improving children’s lives through the Urban 95 Academy Leadership programme

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The Urban95 Academy leadership programme, first launched in 2021 by LSE Cities and the Bernard Van Leer Foundation, will continue for a further three years, providing 1500 city leaders with a fully-funded learning opportunity.

Open to city officials across the world, the Academy supports municipalities to understand how their work can positively impact the lives of young children and families.  Academy participants learn how they can effectively deliver better services for everyone by reimagining urban policies, programmes and places that put babies, toddlers, and caregivers at the centre.

The Urban95 Academy has scaled rapidly. The course began with a cohort of 30 cities in 2022 and by the end of 2023 it has trained over 600 city leaders from nearly 200 cities. The extension of the programme for three more years will provide training and support for a further 300 cities and 900 city leaders.

Dr Savvas Verdis, Lecturer in Practice at LSE Cities and Director of the Urban95 Academy, said: “The Urban95 Academy has become a benchmark for training programmes targeted at Municipalities. Through an initial blended online learning experience, we can scale the knowledge to hundreds of cities.

“This first online engagement step allows us to see which cities show the greatest potential and commitment to the early childhood development agenda. A selection of these cities are then invited for more customised face to face learning at the LSE campus.”

‘Practical tools to help create places where children can thrive’

The success of the programme highlights the demand for knowledge and practical tools to help create places where children and families can thrive. This course is a fantastic example of the impact that partnerships between philanthropy and academia can have in changing assumptions and shifting perceptions at the highest level of local government.

During its second phase, the Academy will strengthen its alumni community of dedicated leaders and practitioners who are creating safe, vibrant and inclusive Urban95 environments. The course curriculum will also be expanded to explore new topic areas including research around caregiver wellbeing, urban housing and global displacement.

Rushda Majeed, Chief Programme Officer at the Van Leer Foundation, added: “It’s wonderful to see such a tremendous response to the Urban95 Academy from cities around the world. Focusing on early childhood not only supports children and families, it also provides a sustainable and inclusive way to think about better quality of life for all citizens. This success demonstrates the desire of city leaders to put young children at the heart of city strategy, planning and design. We look forward to our collaboration with LSE and the participating cities during the next phase of this partnership.”

Author: Simon Weedy

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