Given the unprecedented challenges of a new ‘Urban Age’ (Gleeson 2012), including climate change, hypertrophic urban growth, and globalization, cities are exploring new and radically different policies that address their increasing vulnerability to an array of shocks and stresses.
In times of uncertain national policy and shifting global markets, a new frontier of city leadership has emerged that actively embraces experimentation as a new model of city governance. Here, experimentation is understood as the emergence of new forms of institutional innovation manifesting through experiments linked to the global processes of shifting public/private authority and the restructuring of local government (Bulkeley and Castan Broto 2012). Such governance is by default tentative, emergent and ‘in the making’.
Typically, the new governance draws on global city networks, facilitating collaboration and shared learning among city governments. City networks have proven to be relevant to the spread of new discourses and result in a more radical form of urban politics, witnessed in the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40) and 100 Resilient Cities (Davidson & Gleeson 2017; Acuto & Rayner 2016; Bouteligier 2012).
C40 incorporates the most globally influential and economically powerful mayors, representing global megacities. C40 has mobilized more than 10,000 climate actions through its 90 members since 2005 (C40 2015). 100 Resilient Cities—Pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation (100RC) — is dedicated to helping cities take a systems approach to building urban resilience. Even though global city networks are gaining momentum and influence (Barber, 2017) it remains unclear how shared learnings, knowledge exchange and collaboration in global city networks inform the institutionalisation (i.e. adoption and mainstreaming) of new forms of city governance (Acuto & Morissette 2017; Acuto & Rayner 2016; Davidson & Gleeson 2017).
Perhaps tellingly, these new city governance forms manifest in a time when traditional city planning and governance structures are in question and experiencing in many contexts paralysis and uncertainty. A core question is whether they can renew embedded and historical urban institutions and their policy.
Melbourne provides an excellent pilot for insights into the possible formation of new global city governance as it is one of the top 10 most networked cities globally and the only Australian city in the ranking. In total, Melbourne participates in 15 active single-issue city networks, i.e., environment, peace, climate change, age-friendly, historical and cultural. (Acuto et al. 2017).
Our current research will provide insights into whether Melbourne is experiencing a new global city governance, how this is constituted through collaboration in global city networks and how learnings are translated across the highly varied metropolitan contexts within global cities, particularly Australian cities lacking metropolitan government (Gleeson et al 2012).
This study, New Socio-ecological Imperatives for Cities: Possibilities and Dilemmas for Australian Metropolitan Governance was recently published in the journal Urban Policy and Research.
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