With mounting globalisation, sprawling city-to-city connections, and an increasing role in global governance, it is critical for city leaders to understand and strategically orient their networking activities to open up the horizons of urban policy. Michele Acuto from University College London addresses this in the following lecture.



AUDIO: Michele Acuto  - Networking City Leadership


Issues which the lecture addresses
In a globalised urban age, “city networking” is a fundamental activity for urban officers, civil society and business actors alike. The lecture is based on research by the UCL City Leadership Laboratory on the extent, shape, modalities and challenges of city networking both as formal city-to-city cooperation as well as a tactic to enhance the effectiveness of urban policy. It draws on a series of studies (by UCL in collaboration with WHO, Chicago Council on Global Affairs, ARUP, C40 Cities, and University of Oxford) to highlight the urban management features of city networking and city diplomacy, their key capacity development needs and urban governance implications, and offers practical illustration of how this globally connected approach to city leadership, when applied strategically, is essential in the 21st century.

Short analysis of the above issues
The lecture uses analysis from a series of studies from the UCL City Leadership Lab. From the world of the Lab in collaboration with ARUP and C40, it flags the importance of collaborative modes of urban governance versus top-down approaches, and disbands the myth of the powerful mayor vs the potential of the networked city leader. From the UCL-WHO “city diplomacy” collaboration it offers a series of case studies and a capacity development gap analysis of diplomatic skills in local government. From Lab collaborations with Chicago and Oxford, it illustrates the global landscape of city networks (over 200 today) showing the diversity and the potential of these many forms of collaboration across cities.

Propositions for addressing the issue
– introduction to the networked dimension of city leadership
– the landscape of city networking (data and analysis of over 200 city networks)
– the import,once of collaborative modes of urban governance/policy (data and analysis on powers of collaboration between cities)
– the possibilities of city diplomacy (data and analysis of best practices and case studies)
– the pitfalls of city networking and the other urban actors savvy in this area
– practical suggestions for networked city leadership


Michele Acuto is Director of the UCL City Leadership Laboratory at University College London (UCL), where he is Professor of Urban Theory in the Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy (UCL STEaPP). Michele is a Senior Fellow of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and a Fellow of the Programme for the Future of Cities at the University of Oxford. He was previously Fellow in the Institute for Science, Innovation and Society (InSIS) at the University of Oxford, and Fellow in Center on Public Diplomacy at the University of Southern California, and has taught at Australian National University, University of Canberra and National University of Singapore. Michele also worked for International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), Kimberley Process for conflict diamonds, and the European Commission’s response to pandemic threats. He holds a PhD from the Australian National University, and is the author of, amongst others, The Urban Link (Routledge), and Global City Challenges (Palgrave).

Michele Acuto is also the Hub Coordinator of the UNI thematic hub Safer Cities.


Acuto, M. (2016) “Give Cities a Seat at the Top Table” Nature 537: 611-13.

Acuto, M. and S. Rayner (2016) “City networks: breaking lock-ins?” International Affairs 92 (5): 1230-45.

Acuto, M. and S. Parnell (2016) “Leave No City Behind” Science 352 (6288): 893. 

“Powering Climate Action” C40 Climate Leadership Group, UCL and ARUP report (August 2015)

Acuto, M. (2015) “City Diplomacy” in P. Kerr, C. Costantinou and P.Sharp (eds.) the SAGE Handbook of Diplomacy, London: SAGE.

Acuto, M. (2013) “City Leadership in Global Governance” Global Governance 19 (3): 481-98.

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