Organised by CIDOB’s Global Cities Programme in collaboration with Metropolis and The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, with the support of Barcelona City Council
City networks have become a permanent fixture of the global landscape of urban governance. They have proliferated to an extent hardly imagined some decades ago, and today they constitute a complex ecosystem composed of more than 200 entities and counting. At its core, city networks can be characterized as institutionalized structures that facilitate cooperation among local (and/or regional) governments, which can join (or leave) the network voluntarily. Relatedly, these networking spaces provide a variety of services and functions to their members and play a decisive role in helping them address shared challenges collectively.
Broadly speaking, most city networks perform three types of functions. First, advocacy: they represent the collective interests of their members vis-à-vis other tiers of government and lobby on their behalf to include the urban voice in global policymaking. Second, knowledge dissemination, by acting as platforms for knowledge sharing, policy learning and peer-exchanging. And third, policy implementation: city networks encourage adoption of regional and global policy frameworks and stimulate action to reach these goals (i.e., Agenda 2030, European Green Deal, or climate targets).
Yet, despite the wide range of activities and services on offer, there is still a poor understanding of how such initiatives are perceived, experienced and valued by city networks members. Nor if they are adequately responding to the membership expectations and requests. Further, we lack a clear framework to measure its impact and effectivity to transform local realities on the ground. For instance, to what extend joining a particular city network may improve the formulation of local climate, gender or digital policies? Are cities making the most of the services on offer? And if not, what are the main obstacles and limitations they are facing? How can the value proposition of city networks in terms of advocacy, knowledge dissemination and policy implementation be enhanced to serve their member’s needs better?
Those are not trivial questions, since being able to appraise impact could provide a clearer picture for cities on the added value of joining one network or another – which is even more important if we take into consideration the current overcrowded ecosystem of city networks. By the same token, measuring the return on efforts invested in these transnational networking spaces could also prove a valuable instrument for local governments to legitimate internationalization policies and strategies in the eyes of their citizens. Lastly, this is a relevant issue not only for cities but also for the increasingly professionalized network’s secretariats, who are interested in bringing maximum value to its members and are open to reformulating its functions and services to better serve them.
Seeking to contribute to this much-needed debate, CIDOB’s Global Cities Programme hosts a digital seminar to launch a reflection process around these issues. Organized in collaboration with Metropolis and with the support of Barcelona City Council, the overall aim of the session is to generate an interactive debate and to gather inputs and insights from all participants. The seminar's conclusions will inform a policy paper to be published by CIDOB in the coming months.