In 2021, the second phase of the IURC North America (IURC NA) program was launched, marking a significant milestone in the collaborative effort towards sustainable urban development. The IURC NA network, comprising over 50 cities from the European Union, the United States, and Canada, was strategically divided into four thematic networks: Waste Management and Circular Economy, Sustainable Urban Mobility and Transport, Economic Development, and Renovation Wave.
Throughout the second phase, the network of cities actively participated in seven networking events, each focusing on a specific theme. From the Renovation Wave in Kansas City to Waste Management and Circular Economy in Ottawa, these events provided a platform for cities to share challenges and innovative solutions. Sustainable Urban Mobility and Transport took the spotlight in Zaragoza, while Baltimore hosted discussions on Urban Regeneration and Economic Development for Social Inclusion. Mannheim wrapped up the series with a focus on Green Urban Transformation. Additionally, two co-hosted events in Brussels with IURC Latin America expanded the scope of collaboration, fostering global perspectives on urban sustainability. As side events to the IURC Global Event, which brought together cities from all IURC geographical areas, these Brussels gatherings facilitated cross-cultural dialogue and knowledge exchange.
In addition to the in-person events, the cities engaged in a series of 20 webinars, delving deeper into the pressing social and environmental issues they faced. These digital sessions allowed for the exchange of insights, fostering a collaborative spirit among the diverse cities in the network.
The city-to-city cooperation program, involving 18 cities from the EU, Canada, and the US, was a highlight of the second phase. Sixteen study visits provided firsthand experiences of sustainable urban development solutions. Noteworthy outcomes emerged, such as a Canadian urban farming model influencing fire prevention and repopulation strategies in Galicia and Northern Portugal. The Barcelona Metropolitan Area explored replicating Boston’s Mayor’s Office of Urban Mechanics, focusing on civic innovation across 36 municipalities.
Several transformative initiatives also emerged from this collaboration. Zaragoza’s EVENTSOST system is transforming the Spanish city’s tourism and events sector, while Ottawa considered its adoption to align economic growth with sustainability and a reduced carbon footprint. The Canalejas Mobility Hub in Madrid, a driver of sustainable urban mobility, caught the attention of San Diego, sparking interest in its replication. By transforming underutilized parking structures into mobility hubs, both cities are making strides toward sustainability, accessibility, and improved public health.
Encouragingly, all city pairings and trios expressed a keen interest in continuing the cooperation and implementing lessons learned. As a result, the announcement of the third phase of the IURC North America program in December 2023 comes with great anticipation. A new cohort of 18 cities and metropolitan areas will join the initiative, further expanding the network and facilitating the exchange of best practices.
The success of the second phase underscores the importance of international collaboration in addressing the complex challenges of urban development. As we look forward to the future, the IURC North America program remains committed to fostering sustainability and resilience in cities and metropolitan areas. See you in 2024!