When asked to work collaboratively with others to design an innovative world that addresses sustainable development challenges that our society faces today, you might be surprised to find out that few groups of people rise to the challenge quite like kids do.

During Dream Tank’s April Design World Workshop, we collaborated with the City of Boulder employees and their imaginative children with a goal to design and build an ideal future city. The catch? Kids are in charge. And this is where we see all the difference. By restricting adults from taking control of the situation, giving orders, or using discouraging language (what we call “Dream Crushing”), children were able to think innovatively and collaboratively in order to devise solutions to real world problems that are faced in society today.


Here’s how it all played out: children and adults were divided into eight teams and challenged to brainstorm ideas for the most innovative city that they could think of. In doing so, teammates kept the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals in mind and centered a lot of their ideas around the SDGs they felt were most applicable to their new city. After brainstorming, teammates came together and shared their innovations with another and collaborated to form the most creative and clever city that they could think up. Next, the teams built their cities’ prototypes, which allowed for children and adults to craft and create. This encouraged teammates to build on their own ideas on a much deeper level and express their creativity much more thoroughly.


The most rewarding and inspiring time spent at the workshop was the pitch time. Each team took turns presenting their own perfect idea of an innovative city. Kids came up with ideas that I never would have even considered, including a solar-powered library with removable walls, a city that uses holograms as paper substitutes, and even anti-weapon sensored disco pants (it’s actually exactly what it sounds like). Kids in the audience asked thought-provoking questions about the ideas from the teams presenting. The event was inspiring and fulfilling beyond ways that I can explain!


A pair of Dream Makers show off their idea.




The Design World Workshop changed my perspective on the way environmental and social problems are handled in our world today. I am reminded by my experience with these kids that a child’s mind is a gift that we fail to utilize to the extent in which we should. I am thankful for moments in which children’s ideas are heard and acted on, and I dream for a future in which more people realize the importance of the voice of a child




A very special thanks to our wonderful facilitators: Maddy, Heidi, Ashley, Sharon and Andy, all of whom were instrumental in the workshop’s success. Another warm thanks to our partners: City of Boulder Innovation and Analytics Program, City of Boulder, City of Boulder HR and the Collaboratory — Thank you for supporting young innovators!

Author: Bailey Payne, CU Sophomore, Business Development Coordinator Fellow