Building a new future in city management

Gildo Seisdedos. Professor. IE Business School

28 November 2006

By the year 2025, three quarters of the world population will live in an urban setting. Cities will need to respond by offering a whole new array of services to their citizens. To that end, the Instituto de Empresa and the city of Madrid are working together to help urban managers prepare for these challenges.

The future of our cities

In November, the city of Madrid and the Instituto de Empresa signed an agreement before the top managers of the leading urban services companies to collaborate on the launch of an international forum aimed at developing and publicising a cluster of excellence in urban management in Madrid.
This agreement responds to an undeniable reality: The accelerated pace of urbanisation. By 2005, almost 75% of the world´s population is expected to live in cities. To cope, city dwellers will need new information technologies and transport infrastructures to free them from the tyranny of space and time. Cities can no longer seek shelter in captive markets and in endogenous demand; they must mercilessly compete with each other for people and resources.

Globalisation in an Urban setting

This is called globalisation and it is here to stay. Much has been written on the subject, and there is one aspect on which everyone seems to agree: globalisation is most tangible in cities. The conclusion of this is that the response to globalisation must be urban. Cities will play a leading role insofar as they will be responsible for developing new strategies for a world without territorial hierarchies. In this environment, the successful cities will be those that offer urban services that are both competitive and environment-friendly, while contributing to social harmony.

These new strategies include an added component for cities: responsibility. It is no longer possible to blame others if your city loses out. Instead, cities must become responsible for their own economic development and this puts more pressure on them. On the one hand, cities are assuming a new generation of duties and responsibilities, which up to now were unheard-of. They create economic development agencies, set up strategic alliances with other cities in the world, promote tourism, create powerful brand names, sponsor events and develop their own television channels.

On the other hand, they face the phenomenon of globalisation and the pressing need to solve the problems of their citizens. Indeed, these citizens look to urban managers for answers, because they are responsible for our cities functioning successfully everyday. We can tolerate many things, but we cannot tolerate the failure of our cities to work. So far, Spanish cities work; and they work well.

Urban management, in all its dimensions, is a powerful economic force. Today, the sector represents almost 17% of Spain’s gross domestic product and is about to exceed banking, traditionally the leading industry.

Madrid, a Cluster of Excellence

It is a good idea to develop clusters in sectors such as biotechnology and nano-technology, but we must also remember to value Madrid´s assets as an undeniable centre of the cluster of excellence in urban management. This conviction is what has led us to launch the idea of the urban management forum.

We need a new form of urban management that does not limit itself merely to hardware or to the design and construction of a city´s buildings, but rather embraces all aspects. On the one hand, urban software is becoming increasingly important as it helps develop a city’s environmental services, enhances its access to the information society (physical mobility and telecommunications) and promotes art and culture and urban services. At the same time, it improves fundamental aspects of urban management such as efficiency in providing, marketing and financing these same services.

Today, this field is a wide-open window of opportunity--a virgin territory Madrid is looking to take over on a global scale.

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