In an increasingly urban world, tackling global challenges means working in cities. Cities everywhere face mounting pressure to meet the needs of residents and maintain global competitiveness. With power, financing, and problem-solving capacity spread across the public, private, and civic sectors, real progress requires strong collaboration. In this networked context, governance – not just government—matters.

The Brookings Centennial Scholar Initiative and Global Economy and Development program are collaborating on the Project on 21st Century City Governance to examine the defining features of urban governance: The norms, institutions, and networks that power successful urban areas. Focusing initially on U.S. and European cities, the Project explores three areas:

  • The baseline characteristics of urban and metropolitan governance in a comparative context. The Project will examine how key powers and responsibilities are distributed in different nations (or consortia like the European Union), among different levels of government and across different sectors of society – and how they are changing.
  • The lifecycle of specific transformative transportation and energy projects.  The Project will analyze projects in Europe and the United States in depth —from the design to financing to execution and operation—to gain a granular understanding of the underlying governance mechanisms that support successful projects.
  • The drivers of urban governance innovation. Experts will describe emerging norms of urban governance and the institutional design features that support them in practice, with a focus on lessons that can be applied across different systems and contexts.

The Project’s aims is to improve interactions between cities, higher levels of government, and the private and civic sectors, with the ultimate goal of fostering cities that are governed more effectively and function as productive, sustainable, and prosperous centers of thriving regions and nations.

Caroline Conroy, Research Analyst
Kemal Derviş, Vice President and Director, Global Economy and Development
Alaina Harkness, Fellow
Alex Jones, Senior Policy Analyst and Advisor
Bruce Katz, Centennial Scholar