Equity, Leadership, and Innovation Needed to Transform Cities, Say Leaders at the Inaugural Convening of BUILD
(Bilbao, Spain)--The Bilbao Urban Innovation and Leadership Dialogues (BUILD), launched in Bilbao this week from June 11-14, brought together 120 U.S. and European urban leaders to share strategies for sustainable and equitable urban transformation and global engagement. The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF), in partnership with the Bilbao City Council, hosted the event at the iconic Euskalduna Palace Conference Center and Concert Hall and other sites throughout the city.
Featured speakers at BUILD included Angela Glover Blackwell, founder and chief of PolicyLink, Janet Lamkin, president of Bank of America for California, and Ibone Bengoetxea, deputy mayor of the Bilbao City Council, among many others. For a full agenda and social media overview of BUILD, visit gmfus.org/build.
In Bilbao, participants viewed landmarks such as Iberdrola tower, Bilbao City Hall, the headquarters of Innobasque, and neighborhoods of urban transformation such as La Vieja and Ametzola. Participants saw not only the physical aspects of the city’s renewal, but also the strong local identity and sustained leadership that supported it.
“Bilbao must remain Bilbao, and not become a theme park,” said Deputy Mayor Ibone Bengeotxea during her opening evening remarks. “It must preserve its own identity while opening to the world as a 360˚ city.
Through dialogue, workshops and site visits, participants explored both the leadership and policy angles of two themes: sustainable and equitable urban transformation and global engagement for cities. Participant discussion affirmed GMF’s identification of the need to confront pressing local issues in U.S. and European cities, while looking ahead and abroad at how global engagement can drive forward innovation, inclusion, and transformation agendas.
“We brought together GMF’s network to give city leaders new connections and ideas to drive local and global policy agendas in their own cities,” said Geraldine Gardner, director of GMF’s Urban and Regional Policy Program. “Creative urban transformation demands bold leadership that thoughtfully mobilizes as many constituents as possible in a city to share a vision.”
As Angela Blackwell described in her scene setter address, “equity is the superior growth model for the future” that enables citizens to participate, prosper, and reach their full potential. During small-group discussions, participants agreed with Blackwell, adding that policies that are informed by multiple viewpoints from citizens are more powerful, effective, and transformative.
Innovation emerged as central to achieving both sustainable urban transformation and global engagement. As Kevin Cottrell, director of Transatlantic Leadership Initiatives at GMF stated, global engagement can be leveraged in new and innovative ways, but “relies on the confluence of several local factors, such as the alignment of business and workforce development strategies, local NGOs that connect communities to global issues, and educational institutions that foster global engagement efforts.”
Inclusion, notably of diaspora communities, was also described as a central component of any city’s global engagement strategy. As Leigh Moran, senior officer of Strategic Initiatives at the Calvert Foundation, described: “To thrive locally, you have to connect globally, to be truly inclusive and create opportunities for engagement and ownership.”
Participants discussed leadership across the three days, both as a central component of Bilbao’s own transformation story and as a theme that can drive change in the participating cities. As Mateu Hernandez, executive director of Barcelona Global described, “Barcelona’s urban change was led by powerful mayors that maintained the transformation process over the course of decades. But to manage this growth and success, he asserted, leaders from all corners of the city must now be part of the city’s transformation.
BUILD is a joint product of the Transatlantic Leadership Initiatives and Urban and Regional Policy Programs at GMF. Both programs work to empower and equip local and regional leaders with new experiences, knowledge and tools to advance more sustainable, inclusive, and globally competitive cities. Together, GMF works to develop a transatlantic urban agenda that is derived from a set of common challenges and potential for shared solutions between U.S. and European cities.
GMF live tweeted sessions on Twitter using #GMFBUILD. To see a social media overview of the event, click here.
For press inquiries: