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Choosing a city network : How to

Originally posted at Atlantic Cities’ blog (September 2013) 

From CAAC coaching activities on the international strategies of our members, a question keeps coming round: Which is the best network of cities (apart from us, of course!)? Where should I join to get the best return?

Since the XX century, many city networks have been created, both generalist (aiming for overall cooperation) and topic-oriented: energy, participation, children, internet…etc. The decision of joining a network should be integrated in a well-defined international strategy. The cities should join a network whose values and aims correspond to this Strategy and to the core policies of the city.

Thus,one choice could be between a general and a sectoral network, the latter being oriented by the core topics of city planning. However, our city topic is not covered by the existing networks and sometimes it is better to be more ambitious, and create your own. For instance, Donostia-San Sebastian has created the World Network of Surf cities and Brest both the Conference of Peripheral Port Cities and the Maritime Innovative Territories International Network. The city can even endeavour to re-launch an inactive network, if the size, the topic and the partnership are suitable.

Another choice should be the role to be played in the network. So size has to be considered: do we want to be the big fish in a small pond or the small fish in a big pond ? It depends on the strategy, either we want to enhance our positioning through leadership or we want just to learn from bigger cities.

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