When we make our communities better places for children and youth, we make them better places for all.

The City of Boulder is partnering with UNICEF USA and Growing Up Boulder to work towards formal recognition as a UNICEF Child Friendly City. The goal of the UNICEF Child Friendly Cities Initiative (CFCI) is to identify and prioritize action steps and mobilize the community to improve young people’s health and well-being. In Boulder, this work will be co-designed with young people, including historically underrepresented children and youth.

Project Overview

UNICEF Child Friendly Cities Initiative (CFCI) is a framework that engages local governments together with communities to prioritize the needs of children and elevate their voices in local governance and decision-making. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) launched CFCI in 1996 to protect children’s rights in an increasingly urbanized and decentralized world. This framework helps to identify areas of success and growth and creates a common vision among programs and services that support youth. That foundation leads to action plans that help children and youth thrive in ways that were previously unimagined.  

Why Boulder?

While Growing Up Boulder has been supporting youth engagement for 13 years, and the city’s Youth Opportunities Advisory Board (YOAB) brings teen voices to city planning, the structural support from the UNICEF CFCI Framework of Action offers a new way to bring city departments together to align efforts and further reach populations that experience structural and systemic inequities. Becoming an official UNICEF Child Friendly City would allow Boulder to be formally recognized for our work and elevate our impact to the next level.

A city's commitment to children doesn't end once it is recognized as a UNICEF Child Friendly City; instead, it continues to build upon the relationships and plans it developed during the recognition process to advance young people's well-being. Additionally, the City of Boulder has the option to renew its collaboration with UNICEF USA after recognition by committing to future program cycles and adopting a new action plan to deepen, sustain and expand efforts from the first action plan.

UNICEF’s Child Friendly Cities Initiative is guided by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Convention is the most rapidly and widely ratified international human rights treaty in history. The Convention changed the way children are viewed and treated – i.e., as human beings with a distinct set of rights, instead of as passive objects of care and charity.

To date, 196 countries have become State Parties to the Convention. The United States has not ratified the Convention. CFCI is, however, a valuable way for local communities across the US to signify a commitment to the spirit and ideals behind the Convention.

Though the MOU is signed with UNICEF USA, formal recognition is as a UNICEF Child Friendly City.

CFCI Priority Areas: Safety and Inclusion, Children's Participation, Equitable Social Services, Safe Living Environments, Play and Leisure


CFCI in Boulder will be a multi-year, collaborative process that will start with a local situation analysis. City staff, partners, young people and adult allies will look at available public data on child well-being and weigh in about what they think is and is not going well for Boulder’s children and youth. Based on this intergenerational planning process, we will then craft a local action plan that builds on past success and inspires future improvements.

The city is in the fortunate position of having approximately $2 million in seed money for its action plan from the sale of the Broncos stadium. Our goal is to let young people guide our decisions in how to spend it. Other funding to support implementation will be identified once the action plan has been developed.

After implementing and measuring progress, Boulder will then work with UNICEF USA to achieve recognition as a UNICEF Child Friendly City.

CFCI recognition in the United States is not an accreditation model. Rather, it is a transformative process through which local governments and stakeholders commit to advancing child rights. CFCI is not about creating perfect cities, it is about improving children’s well-being and building the better future they deserve.

Stages of CFCI: Joining CFCI, Recruit, Situation Analysis, Create Action Plan, Implement Plan, Recognition

Joining CFCI2-3 MonthsSign a memorandum of understanding with UNICEF USA, and designate resources to CFCI. Create an internal Executive Committee to guide the CFCI process and establish a staff team of CFCI champions. Receive designation as a Child Friendly City Candidate.
Community Engagement2-3 MonthsInvite nonprofit leaders, business owners, city officials, and youth to join the CFCI Task Force.
Situation Analysis3-4 MonthsAnalyze data and collaborate with the city’s Youth Opportunities Advisory Board (YOAB) to facilitate community conversations and better understand the needs and perspectives of children and youth in our city.
Local Action Plan3-6 MonthsWork alongside YOAB to conduct intergenerational workshops and build a local action plan.
Implementation1 YearSustain collective impact and meet regularly to coordinate plan implementation and measure success.
Evaluation & Recognition3 MonthsCelebrate official CFCI Recognition in meaningful ways. Define plans to renew collaboration with UNICEF USA and deepen and sustain CFCI efforts in the future.

  • A place where children are safe and protected from exploitation, violence and abuse
  • A place to have a good start in life and grow up healthy and cared for; a place to have access to essential services
  • A place to experience quality, inclusive and participatory education and skills development
  • A place to express their opinions and influence decisions that affect them
  • A place to participate in family, cultural, community and social life
  • A clean, unpolluted and safe environment with equitable access to the outdoors
  • A place to meet friends and have places to play and recreate
  • A place to have a fair chance at life regardless of their ethnic origin, religion, income, gender or ability

For over eight decades, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has built an unprecedented global support system for the world’s children. UNICEF relentlessly works to deliver the essentials that give every child an equitable chance in life: health care and immunizations, safe water and sanitation, nutrition, education, emergency relief and more. UNICEF USA advances the global mission of UNICEF in the U.S. to empower policies, practices, and programs at the federal, state and local levels to improve the lives of children, starting with our country’s most vulnerable and excluded communities.

Growing Up Boulder (GUB) is a nonprofit program based in Boulder, CO. Their mission is to offer young people opportunities to participate, deliberate, and influence local issues that affect their lives. ​Locally, GUB has engaged directly with more than 7,500 young people, 1,500 university students, 60 partner organizations, and contributed youth voice to more than 100 projects. GUB engages children of all backgrounds to include their input in local government decisions, including on topics such as the design of affordable, sustainable housing, resilience planning, transit systems, parks and open space, and productive community dialogue.

Map of CFCI in the United States

CFCI Global impact map

The 2023 budget included a preliminary allocation of $50,000 to support initial planning and engagement efforts to kick-off the project. Additional funds will be allocated to cover consultant support throughout the remainder of the effort.

Once a Local Action Plan is developed, the city plans to leverage an exciting source of funding --- approximately $2 million from the sale of the Broncos stadium – to catalyze plan implementation and advance collective impact projects. Partnerships, grant funding, and additional city allocations will also be critical in sustaining momentum and forward progress.

How can I participate?

Making our community a place where children and youth thrive will take all of us. Visit Be Heard Boulder at UNICEF Child Friendly Cities Initiative | Be Heard Boulder to provide feedback on key questions throughout the process.

Follow City of Boulder Instagram #CFCIBoulder

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