BUILD Urban Innovation and Leadership Dialogues 2017 Report

February 26, 2018
Geraldine Ide Gardner
Divya Khandke
4 min read
The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF), in partnership with the City of Bilbao, the Kresge Foundation, and the City of Detroit was pleased to host the fourth edition of BUILD from Nove

The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF), in partnership with the City of Bilbao, the Kresge Foundation, and the City of Detroit was pleased to host the fourth edition of BUILD from November 15-17, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan.

BUILD 2017

BUILD 2017 highlighted how transatlantic cities have proven resilient despite disruptive dynamics challenging established paradigms in the global political and economic order. While there is a greater urgency to respond to challenges at home, there is also an increased opportunity for cities to play a more prominent role on the global stage by advancing sustainability, economic inclusion, security, and democracy. BUILD 2017 reflected on the role that cities and regions can play in the broader transatlantic relationship via new local diplomacy efforts and by reflecting our transatlantic values of democracy, freedom, justice. The dialogue at BUILD continued to explore the intersection of policy and leadership in urban transformation by lifting up breakthroughs in transatlantic cities and stewarding in-depth discussions of pressing policy issues from inclusive and sustainable growth to mobility and demographic change.

Agenda Overview

At BUILD 2017, participants:

  • Increased their fluency in the global trends impacting transatlantic cities in the wake of disruptions;
  • Unpacked and discussed policy themes related to urban transformation on a multitude of topics;
  • Engaged in leadership practice sessions designed to impart new skills to enhance their professional and personal ability to lead change;
  • Built their transatlantic network through structured peer learning and casual networking;
  • Submitted plans of action as a result of lessons learned from BUILD sessions.

The 2017 agenda offered a mix of inspiring plenary dialogue, policy and leadership breakout sessions, casual networking, and an exploration of the City of Detroit.

BUILD 2017 began with a reception held at the Detroit Institute of Arts, Rivera Court. The room features a 27 panel fresco mural of Detroit’s manufacturing history and labor force of the 1930s by Mexican artist, Diego Rivera. The venue served as the perfect setting for starting the conversation at BUILD about urban transformation. The City of Detroit’s Chief of Staff, Alexis Wiley; President of GMF, Karen Donfried; and General Director of Bilbao Ekintza, Nora Sarasola gave opening remarks on the vision for Detroit and the transatlantic relationship of cities respectively.

The plenary sessions provided a space for critical discussion on how transatlantic cities can rise above the wave of disruption to global leadership while delivering on a local agenda of sustainability, inclusion, and innovation. Daily breakout workshops dove deeper into the frontline issues and addressed both the policy dimensions and leadership practices to support participants in translating ideas into action. BUILD’s host city of Detroit provided a compelling case study of urban transformation that is driven by a people-first agenda, rooted in the city’s DNA of innovation, and is ready for global engagement. Tabletop dialogues throughout the conference encouraged BUILD participants to think critically and realistically about what it means for cities to be the drivers of change. After two and a half days of dialogue and exchange, BUILD concluded with a closing celebration in the heart of Detroit’s downtown.

New this year were the BUILD Locally Hosted Dinners and the BUILD Breakfast. The BUILD Locally Hosted Dinners provided the opportunity for participants to sign up for small, themed breakout dinners hosted by Detroit locals on the evening of Thursday, November 16. The dinner themes included an exploration of ways that citizens can rebuild their own communities in cities with very few resources, cities as working labs for multi-modal transit, and strategies currently in place in Detroit to include communities of color in Detroit’s economic revival.

Friday’s BUILD Breakfast offered additional opportunities for participants to share innovations and best practices with their colleagues. Six BUILD participants hosted table discussions and shared about their work on affordable housing dispatches, deliberative democracy, adaptive reuse, smart cities, community based waste disposal, and micropolitan workforce development.

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