The New Localism

How Cities Can Thrive in the Age of Populism

Bruce Katz, Jeremy Nowak
Release Date: January 9, 2018
Inside Look:

The New Localism provides a roadmap for change that starts in the communities where most people live and work.

In their new book, The New Localism, urban experts Bruce Katz and Jeremy Nowak reveal where the real power to create change lies and how it can be used to address our most serious social, economic, and environmental challenges.

Power is shifting in the world: downward from national governments and states to cities and metropolitan communities; horizontally from the public sector to networks of public, private and civic actors; and globally along circuits of capital, trade, and innovation.

This new locus of power—this new localism—is emerging by necessity to solve the grand challenges characteristic of modern societies: economic competitiveness, social inclusion and opportunity; a renewed public life; the challenge of diversity; and the imperative of environmental sustainability. Where rising populism on the right and the left exploits the grievances of those left behind in the global economy, new localism has developed as a mechanism to address them head on.

New localism is not a replacement for the vital roles federal governments play; it is the ideal complement to an effective federal government, and, currently, an urgently needed remedy for national dysfunction.

In The New Localism, Katz and Nowak tell the stories of the cities that are on the vanguard of problem solving. Pittsburgh is catalyzing inclusive growth by inventing and deploying new industries and technologies. Indianapolis is governing its city and metropolis through a network of public, private and civic leaders. Copenhagen is using publicly owned assets like their waterfront to spur large scale redevelopment and finance infrastructure from land sales.

Out of these stories emerge new norms of growth, governance, and finance and a path toward a more prosperous, sustainable, and inclusive society. Katz and Nowak imagine a world in which urban institutions finance the future through smart investments in innovation, infrastructure and children and urban intermediaries take solutions created in one city and adapt and tailor them to other cities with speed and precision.

As Katz and Nowak show us in The New Localism, “Power now belongs to the problem solvers.”

Praise for The New Localism

“Of great interest to urban activists and workers at the interface of the public and private sectors, with much food for thought for investors as well.”
Kirkus Reviews

“A powerful remedy for what ails American government. The new localism the authors
propose is not an alternative to effective national governance but a foundation for it
rooted in the fact that knowledge and power are shifting downward in this century and
that authority must do so too. It is required reading for policymakers.”—Yuval Levin, editor of National Affairs and author of The Fractured Republic

“A book that goes beyond the daily headlines of political dysfunction to elevate the work
of problem solvers who care about growth and inclusion. Central to the argument is the
need to re-connect private capital to a public purpose and recover the potential of public
wealth. This is a book about the future and it could not be more timely.”—Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation

“Using many examples, the authors cogently explain how the global re-emergence of
the city-state underlies the empowerment of a new breed of metropolitan leader and a
dramatic increase in economic growth and political power to the urban center.”—Steve Denning, Chairman of General Atlantic

The New Localism arrives at a time when cities are assuming an even greater role—in the
United Kingdom and across the world—in driving modern economics and tackling some
of the biggest challenges we face. As this continues at a pace, I’m sure the ideas in this
book will help inform urban governance and finance for many years to come.”—Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London

“In a time of increasing polarization and dysfunction, The New Localism demonstrates
how cities can be the driving force of progress to move our nation forward and solve global problems. While state legislatures and national capitals are too-often paralyzed, local constituencies demand direct results, and initiatives in larger cities can spawn widespread
solutions. This book showcases the best within our cities and is a resource for mayors and leaders everywhere to get things done for the people they serve.”—Eric Garcetti, Mayor of Los Angeles

“Katz and Nowak focus on solutions at a time when so much of public life is consumed by grievance. They remind us of the best traditions of American problem solving. If you care about cities and what you can do to make them more prosperous and inclusive, then read this book.”—John Fry, President of Drexel University

“With many national and state capitals struggling to adapt to a rapidly changing world, cities are increasingly responsible for shaping a future around innovation, inclusion, infrastructure, and the deployment of new technologies. Bruce Katz and Jeremy Nowak bring their unparalleled global and local expertise to create a New Localism—and provide cities,
and anyone who cares about our future, a roadmap for cities to become the world’s premier problem solvers with a mission to fulfill all of their citizens’ human potential.”—Greg Fischer, Mayor of Louisville, Kentucky

“Federal and state governments are unable to innovate fast enough to keep pace with our changing needs. As mayors, we don’t have the luxury of waiting for someone else to lead; we are expected to solve problems and we willingly lean in to that responsibility. Bruce and Jeremy understand this better than anyone and share their optimism for the way local leadership can be the antidote to the growing polarization and political dysfunction at the national level.”—Jorge Elorza, Mayor of Providence, Rhode Island

The New Localism offers a new way of thinking about cities—one that seeks to harness their full potential in order to advance greater opportunity, inclusion, and growth that truly serves the public good.”—Cory Booker, United States Senator for New Jersey and former Mayor of Newark

“If The Metropolitan Revolution explained what was happening in the world’s metros and why, The New Localism does the invaluable work of breaking down the ‘how’: what are the governance mechanisms, the leadership qualities, and most important, the new financing tools that enable metros to drive innovation, expand opportunity, and power the future. Katz and Nowak’s careful deconstruction of new ways of getting things done leaves metros—and the national governments that should support them—with a wealth of ideas, and no excuses for inaction.”—Jennifer Bradley, Director, The Center for Urban Innovation at the Aspen Institute, and coauthor, The Metropolitan Revolution


Bruce Katz is the cofounder of New Localism Advisors and was the Centennial Scholar at the Brookings Institution, where he focused on the challenges and opportunities of global urbanization. He was vice president and codirector of the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, which he founded in 1996. He coauthored The Metropolitan Revolution (Brookings, 2013).

Jeremy Nowak was the cofounder of New Localism Advisors and a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Drexel University's Lindy Institute for Urban Innovation. He created The Reinvestment Fund, one of the largest community investment institutions in the United States, and chaired the Board of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.