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Global Change Through Urban Partnerships

Cities as far-​​flung as Boston and Van­couver, Canada, share com­plex, but solv­able, urban chal­lenges, including afford­able housing, job cre­ation and eco­nomic devel­op­ment, according to North­eastern alumnus Michael Lake, exec­u­tive director of the World Class Cities Part­ner­ship (WCCP).

Speaking at the first annual Part­ner­ship Summit at the Egan Research Center last Thursday, Lake told some two-​​dozen civic, busi­ness and aca­d­emic leaders from all over the world, “We may face common chal­lenges, but we can bring people together to rec­og­nize the pos­si­bil­i­ties for our cities and create pos­i­tive change in the twenty-​​first century.”
Thought leaders, he added, have the poten­tial to “create global change on a local level.”

WCCP is an ini­tia­tive of Northeastern’s School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs. The goal of the pro­gram is to estab­lish pro­duc­tive part­ner­ships between uni­ver­si­ties and gov­ern­ment agen­cies in met­ro­pol­itan areas world­wide to iden­tify and address mutu­ally impor­tant urban issues.

On the first day of the two-​​day summit, del­e­gates from Boston; Barcelona, Spain; Dublin, Ire­land; Guadala­jara, Mexico; Haifa, Israel; Lisbon, Por­tugal and Van­couver, addressed the eco­nomic devel­op­ment of their respec­tive cities. On the second day, they designed a research agenda for sharing strate­gies related to attracting and retaining both busi­nesses and indi­vid­uals that form a city’s eco­nomic foundation.

“This part­ner­ship could have a key long term ben­efit for our region,” said Brendan Williams, a lec­turer in urban devel­op­ment at Uni­ver­sity Col­lege Dublin.

“The strength of this part­ner­ship is in its world­wide spread.”

The city of Dublin, he said, has spent too much time and money on devel­oping its con­struc­tion and real estate sector and not enough energy on rebuilding its edu­ca­tion system.

“We need to remember that people create wealth,” he said. “We must invest in people.”

Boston, said city coun­cilor Tito Jackson, is only a tem­po­rary des­ti­na­tion for global entre­pre­neurs, such as Face­book founder Mark Zucker­berg, who is worth some $14 billion.

As he put it, “We have to keep young, inno­v­a­tive talent and make sure they are putting down their roots in Boston.”

Young activists in Guadala­jara, Mexico, take a do-​​it-​​yourself approach toward solving the city’s prob­lems, noted Hector Robles Peiro, the gen­eral director of social devel­op­ment for the Mex­ican city of Zapopan.
In response to increased levels of traffic and air pol­lu­tion, for example, some 100 young envi­ron­men­tal­ists painted a bike lane along the crowded streets.

“Young people no longer believe in politi­cians or insti­tu­tions to solve their prob­lems,” said Peiro, who added that NGOs run by 20-​​somethings are pop­ping up around the city. “People have started orga­nizing themselves.”
Lake praised the summit. “In this age of com­mu­ni­ca­tion we find that sharing infor­ma­tion and knowl­edge advances any com­mu­nity or any issue,” he said.

– by Jason Kornwitz

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