About the Blog


Urban Current is a product of the German Marshall Fund’s Urban and Regional Policy Program, which facilitates a sustainable network of globally-aware and locally-engaged leaders by promoting the transatlantic exchange of knowledge and the incubation of innovative solutions for current urban and regional challenges.

Our current initiatives include:

Urban and Regional Policy Fellowship

The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) grants a number of fellowships each year through the Urban and Regional Policy program. Fellowships provide opportunities for practitioners and policy-makers working on economic, environmental, and social issues at the urban and regional policy levels. Selected fellows can meet with their counterparts across the Atlantic and discuss how similar challenges are approached in a policy context other than their own. Fellows can choose to travel for short-term (3-4 weeks) or long-term (3 months) research periods, and return from their time overseas equipped with the ideas and insights necessary to effect significant and lasting positive change in their own communities.

Cities in Transition

The Cities in Transition program is three-year initiative designed to build a network of leaders in five older industrial U.S. cities: Cleveland, Detroit, Flint, Pittsburgh and Youngstown.  Each year of the program focuses on a different policy area impacting its member cities. Through annual study tours, working meetings, and policy workshops, participants work together to articulate critical policy challenges facing their communities and to identify ways to adapt innovative solutions that European older industrial cities have adopted to address challenges associated with disinvestment from the urban core and economic restructuring. The first year of the program focused on shirking cities, the second year focused on place based-economic development strategies and the third year will focus on the alignment of education, workforce development, and skills training behind coordinated economic development strategies.

Detroit-Torino Partnership

A three-year initiative to strengthen ties between two “auto communities” on either side of the Atlantic reinventing themselves through new industry, spatial planning, and branding. Through annual study tours and exchanges, the aim of these ongoing exchanges is to engender a relationship between the two cities that encompasses not merely government agencies but foundations, civil society institutions, universities, and businesses. These relationships and the outgrowth of cooperation that will spring from them will enable each city to develop a set of policy recommendations and practices tailored specifically to economic and planning challenges they will face in the years to come.

Transatlantic Cities Network

A durable framework for exchange on shared challenges and innovative solutions between policymakers and practitioners in the United States and Europe. The TCN currently includes representatives from twenty-three cities in the United States and Europe. Cities are selected to participate in the TCN by the Urban and Regional Policy program in conjunction with an expert Advisory Committee, based on cities’ potential to share innovative policy solutions in certain key policy areas, as well as to benefit from the experiences of other cities in different policy areas. In 2011, the group traveled to Austin, Texas. In 2012, the group traveled to Birmingham, UK.

Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2)

The Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) Fellowship Program is part of a larger SC2 initiative, a federal interagency pilot initiative that aims to strengthen neighborhoods, cities, and regions by aiding local governments in the development of sound economic visions and strategies. The fellowship program will place extremely motivated , mid-career professionals who are committed to public service, and who will become the next generation of leaders in local government agencies for a two-year (24 month) fellowship period.  Fellows will work in seven pilot cities: Chester, PA; Detroit, MI; Fresno, CA; Memphis, TN; New Orleans, LA; Cleveland, OH and Youngstown, OH.

Strong Cities, Strong Communities Bootcamps

To complement the SC2 fellowship program, GMF is currently planning a series of “bootcamp” policy sessions. These sessions will build civic capacity, engage and connect stakeholders, and encourage innovative thinking around community revitalization strategies and economic development. A defining element of the boot camps is an emphasis on working in cross-disciplinary, cross-sector teams as a first step toward breaking down silos both between government agencies and between government and non-government actors. By engaging a broader community of professionals and citizens in these activities, GMF will increase the likelihood that the capacity building achievements of the SC2 program will endure beyond the two-year fellowship period and will have a long-lasting impact on the economic futures of these cities.

Dialogues for Change

In cooperation with the German Ministry of Transport, Building, and Urban Development and HUD, the German Marshall Fund is engaging several US and German cities in an ongoing dialogue surrounding civic engagement practices in planning. Participants will come together to exchange ideas and talk about successes, opportunities and challenges to civic engagement in their home communities. They will learn innovative approaches and new ideas to engaging citizens in the planning process. This project aims to move civic dialogue beyond the plan or project level to a more sustained, continuous dialogue in cities.