The Success of Cities Requires Collaboration Across Sectors

By 2050, more than 70 percent of world’s population is expected to live in cities. Swelling urban populations combined with aging infrastructure and tightening budgets are putting more pressure than ever on municipal leaders to ensure that resources are maximized. Indeed, the indisputable trend of urbanization is presenting a unique set of challenges – as well as opportunities – for municipal governments.

Fortunately, because cities are increasingly where challenges first emerge, they have the opportunity to be first-movers when it comes to innovation, creativity and developing solutions. To change systems, however, collaboration across sectors is needed. And the cities that are best positioned to succeed are those that take advantage of experts across a wide spectrum – from the public, private and non-profit sectors.

Working with entrepreneurs, private sector institutions like Citi can provide the seed funding that is necessary to help fuel their ideas into reality. Streetline, Inc., for example, developed a free app to help people find parking spaces. Reducing the amount of time people spend looking for parking spots decreases traffic and it’s good for the environment and local businesses. Recognizing the benefits and innovative nature of Streetline’s idea, Citi provided financial support and guidance to reduce up-front costs and implement the system. Similarly, Citi helped Revolution Foods – a company which aims to provide children with access to healthy, affordable food – to expand the distribution of its products, particularly in urban areas across the United States.

In addition to helping entrepreneurs, the private sector can also support local governments by providing capital, expertise and tailored solutions to spur the implementation of public programs. Take the award-winning Kindergarten to College program that Citi Community Development launched with the City and County of San Francisco. Through this collaborative initiative, all incoming kindergarten students receive a college savings account and their first deposit of $50. When it comes to tackling the rising cost of higher education, an early start at a college savings account can provide a much-needed jumpstart.

Citi also works with public sector clients to develop creative strategies that help their cities modernize and operate more efficiently and inclusively. New York City’s Department of Finance collects and safeguards more than $40 billion in taxes, fees and various other payments through a network of 33 public agencies that are responsible for everything from parking tickets to property taxes. In partnership with the City of New York, Citi re-engineered and modernized the department’s collection processes across agencies, which helps the City manage its finances more efficiently, and has benefits for citizens as well. And as the nation’s top affordable housing lender, including to schools and healthcare facilities, Citi helps stimulate investment that strengthens communities in cities across the United States.

Taken together, projects like these demonstrate that urban centers are the proving grounds for innovative ideas, and collaboration across sectors is critical so that the best skills and ideas can contribute to implementing needed solutions. Cities are hubs that attract leadership and innovators from across the business, academic, and non-profit fields. Local governments should leverage this outside perspective to generate new ideas, and implement services that they might not be able to do on their own.

At Citi, we are committed to doing our part to develop next-generation solutions to the toughest urban challenges, and to make sure the financial capacity exists to turn those concepts into reality. Heading into an exciting few days for the New Cities Summit in Dallas next week, I’m looking forward to engaging on these ideas and many other topics of importance to the future of our cities and how to help enable progress in communities.