With Shoji screens decorating Northeastern’s Alumni Pavilion and a translator’s booth in the corner, nearly two-dozen senior municipal officials from Hangzhou, China, recently engaged in a series of discussions with experts on urban issues affecting cities across the world.
The weeklong conference was the first convened by the World Class Cities Partnership, a new initiative out of Northeastern’s School of Social Science, Urban Affairs and Public Policy. The initiative is aimed at convening international groups of city officials and specialists, university faculty, students, and policy innovators from metropolitan areas worldwide to identify mutually important urban issues. The goal is to establish productive partnerships between universities and government agencies to help address complex problems such as education, job creation and economic development.
Northeastern alumnus Michael Lake, executive director of World Class Cities, says the conference was a step toward building a relationship with Hangzhou that focuses on improving quality of life for residents of both cities.
“Hosting this delegation of senior municipal officials from Hangzhou has served to further unite our two cities by strengthening our existing connections, fostering new relations and learning from one another’s challenges and successes” Lake explains. “It is this sharing of knowledge and best practices to address urban issues that forms the core of the World Class Cities Partnership.”
As part of the series of events, Chinese delegates heard from a variety of Massachusetts’ top-ranking directors and CEOs, including John Palmieri, director of the Boston Redevelopment Authority, Lisa Signori, director of administration and finance for Boston, and Jeremy Segal, director of business development at the Cambridge-based Akami Technologies. They discussed issues ranging from urban planning and education to economic development and high technology.
The delegates also toured local high-tech companies, middle schools, the site of the Big Dig, and the Parkman House, the ceremonial residence of Boston Mayor Thomas Menino.
The conference was a success, says Barry Bluestone, director of the Kitty and Michael Dukakis Center for Urban & Regional Policy at Northeastern. He goes on to emphasize the importance of establishing relationships such as this one with other cities across the globe—especially in today’s highly competitive global economy.
“We hope through the World Class Cities Partnership that Boston and Hangzhou, as well as other cities like ours, will be able to work together to find the best ways, the best practices, for enhancing our ability to attract new technology and new firms and create good jobs and a good community for all of our citizens,” he says.