BUILD 2018: A Year of “Ideas to Action”

Just over a year ago, the Urban and Regional Policy Program (URP) of the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) held its fourth BUILD conference in the dynamic city of Detroit, Michigan.

Just over a year ago, the Urban and Regional Policy Program (URP) of the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) held its fourth BUILD conference in the dynamic city of Detroit, Michigan. Since its inception, the core principles of BUILD have been convening dynamic, cross-sector cohorts of local leaders; exchanging innovative urban policy and practice ideas, and supporting the transfer of ideas to action to bring tangible benefits to transatlantic cities. Over four years of BUILD meetings, GMF brought together leaders from its URP program and Marshall Memorial Fellowship alumni to realize these core values of outcome-oriented transatlantic exchange. In 2018 the focus of our BUILD work was not on convening but on enlivening the third principle of bringing ideas to action. We did this through our own work and by supporting follow-up projects by BUILD participants.

Through the generous support of BUILD 2017 partners – the Bank of America Foundation and the Kresge Foundation – URP awarded five BUILD 2018 Ideas to Action mini-grants. These transatlantic collaborations proposed by BUILD participants from 2014 to 2017 help to advance projects, policies, and practices connected to the themes of sustainability, inclusion, and global engagement. After a year of engagement, we are proud to celebrate and share the successes of their activities. Over the coming weeks, URP will publish blog posts highlighting the successes of the following projects.

  • Tanya James (Central City Renaissance Alliance, New Orleans) sharing lessons learned with Torino, Italy from her organization’s use of a co-creation engagement model to expand inclusive participation in water planning and climate resilience.

  • Stewart Sarkozy-Banoczy, Lynette Rawlings, and Jordi Albareda collaborating to bring the Fair Saturday arts and culture event that originated in Bilbao, Spain to the Washington, DC region.

  • Anamaria Vrabie (Cluj Cultural Center, Cluj-Napoca, Romania) working with the City of Pittsburgh to set up a revolving fund that can aid in its resilience strategy related to socio-economic shocks.

  • Jacqueline Taylor (City of Detroit) and Mary Dellenbaugh-Losse (Berlin-based urban expert) developing a publication and good practices database of Euro-American examples of partial adaptive reuse of vacant buildings

  • Dale Medearis (Northern Virginia Regional Commission) collaborating with the Stuttgart Region in Germany on a technical exchange mission on sustainable waterfront and airport redevelopment, mobile source emissions controls and monitoring policies, affordable housing, and electric/autonomous car infrastructure planning.

In addition to these activities, the URP team has been working to deepen the key policy themes from BUILD 2017 through its convening and research activities. Just as we expect our BUILD participants to enliven our “ideas to action mantra”, we also see our responsibility to make an impact from our transatlantic exchange activities. Here is what we have been working on as a follow-up to the BUILD 2017 breakout sessions.

  • Multigenerational Cities: Aging as Innovation. This BUILD session sparked a follow-up workshop in June 2018 to explore how housing and technical innovation can support multigenerational cities. In early 2019, GMF and AARP will release a policy brief on alternative housing models that can support a multigenerational approach in transatlantic cities.

  • Joining Forces: Philanthropic Partnerships for Transformative Change. GMF partnered with the European Foundation Centre (EFC) to host a follow workshop in May 2018 in Brussels, Belgium with BUILD participants and members of the EFC’s Funders Forum on Sustainable Cities. During the ideation workshop, the participants took the ten ideas from the BUILD session and created four pilot projects. URP is now in the process of exploring opportunities to test the pilot projects in its 2019 METROS initiative.

  • Inclusive Economic Development: Aligning Jobs, Skills, and Pay. URP launched the Inclusive Economic Development Task Force in January 2018 to dive deeper into the issues surfaced at BUILD and to develop recommendations. The IED Task Force report will be released in January 2019 and URP is developing two concepts to pilot the recommendations with interested cities in 2019.

  • Clean, Green, and Seen: Transatlantic Allies for Local Climate Agendas. Discussions informed GMF’s grant application to the European Commission Delegation to the United States, which focused on the role of civil society in local energy transitions. GMF received the grant and is now implementing the Energy Allies initiative with the cities of Cambridge, Massachusetts and  Charlotte, North Carolina in the United States, Nantes in France, and Heidelberg in Germany.

  • Neighborhoods Rising: Co-collaboration as an Antidote to Apathy? Input from this session contributed to the formation of the Vibrant Neighborhood Forum and the URP project team’s understanding of different civic engagement models that are relevant to building civic capacity in transatlantic cities.

  • How Autonomous Vehicles Can Improve your Urban Life. Between December 2017 and June 2018, GMF held a series of events in Washington, DC, and Brussels, Belgium to further develop the ideas from this session and define opportunities for further transatlantic dialogue.

As the URP team looks to 2019, there is a clear need for continued engagement in the BUILD themes that advance an agenda of sustainability, inclusion, and global engagement in transatlantic cities. We will pursue these initiative and support BUILD participants’ own work to move from ideas to action in 2019. Tying BUILD to URP’s ongoing transatlantic programming has been a critical linkage for ensuring that the conference is not just a one-off event but rather a key tool for realizing our mission. For 2019-2021, GMF will launch a new three-year cycle for BUILD activities that includes smaller seminar events on specific topics as well as the larger conference. The first BUILD seminar in the fall of 2019 will focus on a transatlantic exploration of key policy levers that advance an inclusive economy, and specifically the role that anchor institutions play in this agenda. The topic of anchor-institution engagement was first introduced at BUILD 2016 through our engagement with Ted Howard and the Democracy Collaborative. While initially an American concept, this policy approach is more relevant in European cities than ever before. The URP team looks forward to engaging with its network on this and other BUILD activities in the year ahead. We also encourage you to share your BUILD Ideas to Action moments with us and on social media by using the #GMFUrban and #GMFBUILD.