Cities are becoming more important on the global level. As the world is rapidly urbanizing, global challenges are increasingly being caused and dealt with in the world’s cities. With its newly formed Urban Agenda for the EU, the European Union recognizes the growing importance of cities, by for the first time directly involving them in the multi-level processes of EU governance. This development is groundbreaking, but also delicate: the success of the Urban Agenda is not yet set in stone, but will depend on its ability to produce tangible outcomes in the upcoming years. In our essay ‘Learning with Cities, Learning for Cities’ (Potjer & Hajer, 2017), we argue that the Urban Agenda will create such tangible outcomes when it fosters the experimental quality of cities. Cities are uniquely capable to address complex problems through practical experimentation and innovation. The Urban Agenda can strengthen this quality by explicitly learning from it: by institutionalizing successful experiments and an experimental way of working. But how can such learning take place in the Urban Agenda’s complex setting of multi-level governance? That is the topic of our research project. We pose the following research question:
How can the Urban Agenda learn from experiments and innovations in cities?
In the upcoming months, we will answer this question by conducting an empirical research into three partnerships of the Urban Agenda for the EU. The investigation is done as part of an ongoing research project into the Urban Agenda that runs from May to December 2017, and is primarily undertaken by Suzanne Potjer, PhD candidate at the Urban Futures Studio. The research on the Urban Agenda is done in collaboration with the Dutch Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations. It will result in an applied research rapport as well as an academic article. For more information on the research project, please contact Suzanne Potjer.