GMF brings together hundreds of policymakers, elected officials, academics, and business leaders from around the world to discuss topics from energy to migration, economics to security, urban growth to diplomacy.
The Bilbao Urban Innovation and Leadership Dialogues (BUILD) brought 150 U.S. and European urban leaders together to share strategies for sustainable and equitable urban transformation and global engagement in Bilbao, Spain, September 16-18. The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF), in partnership with the Bilbao City Council, hosted the second edition of BUILD at the Deusto University Library in the iconic Abandoibarra area and other locations throughout the city.
Featured speakers at BUILD included Juan María Aburto, mayor of Bilbao; Antonio Villaraigosa, former mayor of the city of Los Angeles, California; Tony Allen, president of the Skillman Foundation; and Bulelwa Makalima-Ngewana, CEO of the Cape Town Partnership, among many others. For a full agenda and social media overview of BUILD, visit gmfus.org/build.
Throughout the event, participants deepened their understanding of BUILD’s two core themes: leading equitable and sustainable urban transformation initiatives and developing leaders and civic ecosystems to support a city’s global engagement. Using Bilbao as a backdrop, participants also focused on leading from ideas to action.
“Bilbao’s transformation has depended on a concentration on three axes, including improved internal and external mobility, investment in education and the environment, and expanded local municipal capacity,” said Xabier Ochandiano, councilor for economic development with the rrade and employment office, at Bilbao City Council. Nonetheless, he added that Bilbao’s transformation is not over yet, and that the city is constantly searching for new ideas.
Through peer-to-peer dialogue, workshops, and site visits, participants explored Bilbao and cutting-edge urban issues. Breakout sessions touched on themes such as the relevance of emerging themes such as the circular economy, how to connect Bilbao’s art district to the world, strategies for engaging elected leaders in global engagement efforts, and on the eight elements that foster a city’s global engagement.
“The events of the past years, from the migration crisis in Europe to the unrest in American cities such as Baltimore, have reaffirmed the importance of global engagement strategies that are paired with a strong focus on local equitable development,” said Geraldine Gardner, director of GMF’s Urban and Regional Policy Program. “We saw the value of bringing BUILD 2014 participants back to Bilbao in 2015 to allow participants to move from ideas toward actionable policy agendas,” added Kevin Cottrell, director of GMF’s Transatlantic Leadership Initiatives.
In her opening address, Allen encouraged participants to take the negative aspects of their cities and turn it into something attractive. “Take a city’s deficit, brag about it, and then turn it into an asset—that is what makes a city magnetic.” Amidst the ongoing migration crisis in many European countries, inclusion emerged as central to achieving both sustainable urban transformation and global participation. As Villaraigosa described it, inclusion was integral to his city’s internationalization strategy and his efforts to bridge divides between the city’s many ethnic groups. Praising the city of Bilbao, he added that “you don’t have to be big to think of yourself in the global context.
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.
Continue to follow the conversation: #GMFBUILD. Below are photos from day one of BUILD, view photos of day two and three.