Mayor Elke Kahr During the launch of the initiative , Source: City of Graz

Graz will listen to the children on how to make the city better

Graz will listen to the children on how to make the city better

The city has instituted a five-year plan to make itself more child friendly after the pandemic

Last February, authorities in Graz, Austria, decided to implement a five-year plan dedicated to children and youth in the city. On 11 July, they announced the first initiative of the plan which will be called ‘Summer of Listening’ (Sommer des Zuhörens). As city officials have described it, it would be the largest children's participation project in the history of Graz.

Although the new Communist mayor of Graz, Elke Kahr, was elected on a platform promising housing reform and improving living standards, many of the city’s initiatives have stalled. Nevertheless, the administration’s five-year plan promises to help children in a meaningful way, by fixing the gaping holes in urban child infrastructure in services, revealed by the pandemic.

An informed approach

One of the main reasons behind the five-year plan and its focus on children, according to a press statement, is the city’s commitment to thank residents for bearing through the last two years of the pandemic.

Furthermore, in December of 2021, the city issued a study, to identify the biggest issues for families, through which authorities have recognised three areas, where they need to take immediate action. They include everyday opportunities for sport, low-threshold access to mental health services and social contacts, as well as financial relief.

These priority areas need to be addressed quickly to compensate for the effects of the pandemic on youth. According to the official statement, children and young people in Graz have achieved great things during the difficult times while renouncing a lot. 

The wisdom of children

The main aim of the Summer of Listening is to get as much feedback as possible, from diverse groups of children aged between six and ten years. However, unlike many similar programmes across the European Union, city officials will seek out the children, rather than making them come to official meetings.

The city claims that during the summer, municipal representatives, accompanied by youth professionals, will visit the neighbourhoods, parks and sports centres, looking for children to talk to. The city’s Youth Councillor, Kurt Hohensinner, explained that hearing opinions, criticism and suggestions from the children will ultimately be a decisive factor in the municipality’s development.

Additionally, a city statement points out that the quality of listening is especially important. The statement reads: “Information is often lost in the hectic everyday life, in families, at school, but also in politics. So this summer the tables will be turned: the children will speak, write, paint and draw - and their city will listen to them.”



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