What’s trending? On the cultural challenges facing cities

The 2015 Madrid carnival. No idea. Image: Getty.

Cultural and creative industries are increasingly central to cities’ strategic agendas. They positively impact local economic development and can help generate greater social cohesion. As such, city administrations will have to consider the challenges these industries are likely to face in the coming years, and how cities themselves might need to adapt in order to meet them.

That is precisely the process EUROCITIES recently underwent with our members. By focussing on the horizon 2030, and talking to members, we identified five areas that will need the attention of city administrations. Through this dialogue, and thanks to our ongoing involvement in the Culture for Cities and Regions initiative, financed by Creative Europe, we have started to map and share ideas about the on-the-ground changes this will entail.

Horizon 2030: Creative thoughts for cultural planning

First, changing demographics will mean that cities’ populations have different needs. Many cities will focus on developing intercultural dialogue to welcome newcomers; others will offer services to a growing number of pensioners, or young families.

In many cases, culture is a perfect tool to help engage otherwise vulnerable societal groups. Birmingham’s Arts Champion scheme ensures it brings quality cultural activities to more remote neighbourhoods by pairing them with large city-funded arts organisations based in the city centre. Each organisation is then challenged to work with local adults and families to reduce social isolation and boost cohesion.

Second, audience empowerment means making better connections with citizens by reflecting their ideas in the everyday work of cultural organisations. Local cultural institutions will need to adapt by working more closely with local citizens. Co-creation can help build ownership of culture-led development among citizens.

From the city perspective, this can also mean making sure public spaces are accessible to different users. To take the example of public libraries, Aarhus provides rooms for mothers to feed their babies, and Antwerp offers knitting groups in one community library to help migrants socialise while learning Flemish.

Third, given that city budgets are increasingly stretched, we can expect to see a new approach to governance and networking. Cultural organisations will have to look for alternative and innovative forms of income generation, and work on more cross-sectoral projects. Sofia has already launched its Fund for Innovations in Culture, which earmarks funding for more risky and innovative cultural and creative projects. The city has doubled the amount of private funding raised for these projects, with a view to making them more sustainable in the long term.

Fourth, new technologies will heavily impact the way people access cultural services. From the city point of view it will be important to make sure all citizens have adequate digital skills, across social and generational divides, to deal with the trend. New technologies will affect the way cities communicate with citizens and work with local stakeholders.

By 2030 we expect this to be mainstreamed into arts and cultural programming. However, we all still have a lot to learn about how to make the most of these new cultural opportunities. What will be the impact of new technologies on cultural organisations?

Fifth, city administrations will take on new roles as brokers or advisors as cultural organisations start changing their business models. Rather than offering financial support, cities will be well-placed to use their connections to help broker new partnerships, or offer public spaces to be used by artists and cultural organisations.

They could also help out by assisting local cultural organisations with EU-funding applications or promoting local activities through their communications channels. In northern Portugal, ADDICT (the country’s creative industries agency) is bringing together a diverse range of local stakeholders – such as companies, artists and universities - with no history of cooperation in order to boost the performance of the regions’ creative industries.

Cooperating for better policy

By sharing their experiences, cities can learn from one another and develop the policies needed to face these challenges with confidence. Networks like EUROCITIES and the Culture for Cities and Regions initiative provide such spaces to foster cooperation among cities.

These challenges need to be approached strategically, with a clear political will and vision. The more evidenced-based learning that we share, the bolder new initiatives will become.

Julie Hervé is senior policy advisor at EUROCITIES, the network of major European cities. 


CityMetric is now City Monitor! Come see us at our new home

City Monitor is now live in beta at citymonitor.ai.

CityMetric is now City Monitor, a name that reflects both a ramping up of our ambitions as well as our membership in a network of like-minded publications from New Statesman Media Group. Our new site is now live in beta, so please visit us there going forward. Here’s what CityMetric readers should know about this exciting transition.  

Regular CityMetric readers may have already noticed a few changes around here since the spring. CityMetric’s beloved founding editor, Jonn Elledge, has moved on to some new adventures, and a new team has formed to take the site into the future. It’s led by yours truly – I’m Sommer Mathis, the editor-in-chief of City Monitor. Hello!

My background includes having served as the founding editor of CityLab, editor-in-chief of Atlas Obscura, and editor-in-chief of DCist, a local news publication in the District of Columbia. I’ve been reporting on and writing about cities in one way or another for the past 15 years. To me, there is no more important story in the world right now than how cities are changing and adapting to an increasingly challenging global landscape. The majority of the world’s population lives in cities, and if we’re ever going to be able to tackle the most pressing issues currently facing our planet – the climate emergency, rising inequality, the Covid-19 pandemic ­­­– cities are going to have to lead the way.

That’s why City Monitor is now a global publication dedicated to the future of cities everywhere – not just in the UK (nor for that matter just in the US, where I live). Our mission is to help our readers, many of whom are in leadership positions around the globe, navigate how cities are changing and discover what’s next in the world of urban policy. We’ll do that through original reporting, expert opinion and most crucially, a data-driven approach that emphasises evidence and rigorous analysis. We want to arm local decision-makers and those they work in concert with – whether that’s elected officials, bureaucratic leaders, policy advocates, neighbourhood activists, academics and researchers, entrepreneurs, or plain-old engaged citizens – with real insights and potential answers to tough problems. Subjects we cover include transportation, infrastructure, housing, urban design, public safety, the environment, the economy, and much more.

The City Monitor team is made up of some of the most experienced urban policy journalists in the world. Our managing editor is Adam Sneed, also a CityLab alum where he served as a senior associate editor. Before that he was a technology reporter at Politico. Allison Arieff is City Monitor’s senior editor. She was previously editorial director of the urban planning and policy think tank SPUR, as well as a contributing columnist for The New York Times. Staff writer Jake Blumgart most recently covered development, housing and politics for WHYY, the local public radio station in Philadelphia. And our data reporter is Alexandra Kanik, whose previous roles include data reporting for Louisville Public Media in Kentucky and PublicSource in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Our team will continue to grow in the coming weeks, and we’ll also be collaborating closely with our editorial colleagues across New Statesman Media Group. In fact, we’re launching a whole network of new publications, covering topics such as the clean energy transition, foreign direct investment, technology, banks and more. Many of these sectors will frequently overlap with our cities coverage, and a key part of our plan is make the most of the expertise that all of these newsrooms combined will bring to bear on our journalism.

Please visit citymonitor.ai going forward, where you can also sign up for our free email newsletter.

As for CityMetric, some of its archives have already been moved over to the new website, and the rest will follow not long after. If you’re looking for a favourite piece from CityMetric’s past, for a time you’ll still be able to find it here, but before long the whole archive will move over to City Monitor.

On behalf of the City Monitor team, I’m thrilled to invite you to come along for the ride at our new digs. You can follow City Monitor on LinkedIn and on Twitter. If you’re interested in learning more about the potential for a commercial partnership with City Monitor, please get in touch with our director of partnerships, Joe Maughan.

I want to thank and congratulate Jonn Elledge on a brilliant run. Everything we do from here on out will be building on the legacy of his work, and the community that he built here at CityMetric. Cheers, Jonn!

To our readers, on behalf of the City Monitor team, thank you from all of us for being such loyal CityMetric fans. We couldn’t have done any of this without you.

Sommer Mathis is editor-in-chief of City Monitor.