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Cities and cohesion policy: networking as a tool

Originally posted in Atlantic Cities blog (May 2013)

Since the early 80’s, in a context of globalization and rapid socio-economic and environmental shift, the progress of urban networks has been steady. Thus, urban networks have become key actors tackling the sustainability challenges of the 21st century. From a general point of view, an urban network can be defined as a set of towns connected between them by shared common objectives, which boost the information flows and the implementation of common projects. Research on urban networks has mainly focused on a center-periphery approach based on economic flows that should involve local urban actors within worldwide networks so as to provide crucial resources for urban strategies.

Generally, city-networks aim at: (1) mutual learning (exchange of knowledge, experiences, benchmarking, dissemination of strategic information); (2) lobbying (promoting cities’ role in political issues and decision making process at national and EU levels, acting as knowledge centers); (3) implementing short term or long term project by pooling resources.

Independently of their fields of action, city networks can be classified in reference to two main criteria:

Geographical scope: Five types can be distinguished here: (1) regional-national; (2) cross-border; (3) transnational; (4) interregional; (5) global. Going deeper, the size of the members can also be highlighted (capital, medium, small cities…).

Organizational structure: Notwithstanding with the experience of the different organizations they can be classified as follows: (1) non-hierarchical relation between members; (2) decentralized cooperation; (3) flexible governance structures; (4) highly centralized decision-making.

In the frame of the project TONETA, I have worked together with Samuel Baylet in a definition of the stance of city networks in cohesion policy. In July 2012 we published a working paper, taking into account the growing importance of the urban dimension in the future EU cohesion policy. In this document, the first section analyses the role of urban cooperation within the thematic and integrated approaches proposed by the Common Strategic Framework (CSF). Therefore, as far as smart specialization and territorial integrated approaches are concerned, the experience of territorial city-networks has to be pointed out. Thus, the second section describes the emergence of transnational and cross-border city-networks as innovative tools to implement EU policies.

You can read HERE the working paper

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