In 2012, Penn IUR published a white paper entitled “An Assessment of How Cities Create and Transfer Knowledge: A Landscape Study,” the culmination of a two-year study focused on understanding and improving the mechanisms through which cities transfer knowledge and best practices surrounding sustainable urban development. This work built on Penn IUR’s broader involvement with the Rockefeller Foundation’s 2007 Global Urban Summit at the Bellagio Center in Italy, where Penn IUR developed the week –long session, “Toward a Twenty-First-Century Urban Agenda.” That work resulted in Global Urbanization (2011), edited by Eugenie L Birch and Susan M. Wachter, a publication in Penn IUR’s City in the 21st Century book series.

In March 2013, with support from the Rockefeller Foundation and Penn’s Office of the Vice Provost for Global Initiatives, and in partnership with the Penn School of Veterinary Medicine and a Faculty Steering Committee representing nine schools and six centers at the University of Pennsylvania, Penn IUR convened the “Feeding Cities: Food Security in a Rapidly Urbanizing World” conference. The conference addressed a fundamental challenge of our modern age: how to provide a sustainable, nutritious, and affordable diet to the world’s burgeoning urban populous.

In August 2013, Penn IUR, in partnership with the Forum for the Future and the Economist Intelligence Unit, convened the “Future of Transforming Cities” an expert roundtable held at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center in Italy. The roundtable engaged twenty-six leaders from the public, private, and non-profit sectors in scenario-building exercises to articulate the drivers of change in urban areas and outline policy interventions needed to plan, finance, and implement public infrastructure.

Over the course of the event, meeting participants were challenged to address the central premise that many urban areas, in both the developed and developing world, are suffering from critical deficits in public goods that prevent their achieving resilient and equitable futures. Participants proposed multi-sectoral and systemic interventions aimed at provisioning public water, sanitation, and mobility infrastructure, housing and public space, as well as increased economic opportunities and the legal and market frameworks to sustain these goods. As part of its ongoing work on this project, Penn IUR is engaging in activities to turn the findings into actionable policy recommendations for urban leaders.


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