Category: Publications

Empowering Cities – The Podcast on New Urban Progress

In a transatlantic forum, the New Urban Progress fellowship discussed solutions and approaches to today’s most pressing issues. The Empowering Cities podcast focuses on a selection of some of these discussions, ranging from financing the climate transformation, if there is a blueprint for progress, and why transatlantic exchanges matter.  

Five Podcast Episodes on Urban Progress

With Congresswoman Marylin Strickland and Former Mayor of Kansas City, Sly James, hosted by President of the Progressive Policy Institute, Will Marshall

With Fritzi Köhler-Geib, Chief Economist at KfW Group, Gereon Uerz, Head of Sustainability at GROPYUS, hosted by Andreas Horchler.

With New Urban Progress Fellows Maria Willett and Steffen Haake, hosted by Neel Brown, Managing Director at the Progressive Policy Institute. 

With New Urban Progress Fellows Richard Lawrence Jr. and Maria Willett, alongside Mayor of Wausau, Wisconsin, Katie Rosenberg, District Councilwoman, Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg (Berlin), Julie Richier, hosted by Cathryn Clüver Ashbrook, Executive Vice President, Bertelsmann Foundation.

New Urban Progress Fellows, Ian Lundy and Julian St. Patrick Clayton, alongside Almut Möller, State Secretary and Plenipotentiary of Hamburg, Deputy Mayor Ulrich Hörning of Leipzig, and hosted by Cathryn Clüver Ashbrook

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Governance Summit

New Urban Progress In Action

After three years of transatlantic exchange, two trips, ten cities, and four conferences, the New Urban Progress fellows debate main takeaways on stage, put their ideas to the test, and discuss how cities can continue being key places of progress for local communities and the transatlantic partnership.  

Urban Power: Uniting Progressives in Cities & Across Regions

To debate some of the main conclusions of the New Urban Progress (NUP) fellowship, NUP fellows Richard Lawrence Jr. and Maria Willet pitched their working group’s action paper The NOVA Cities Index: Unlocking Urban Power to Mayor Rosenberg, of Wausau, Wisconsin and Berlin District Councilwoman Julie Richier. The two leaders represent a rural and highly urban area, respectively, and both had plenty to comment. Watch the whole session (including introductory remarks by the moderator Cathryn Clüver Ashbrook) for a lively conversation on how urban areas across the United States and Germany can deliver on local, regional, and transatlantic progress.  

Reflecting on Main Lessons and Paths Forward

After the main stage debate, a group of urban experts joined the NUP fellows in a breakout session to discuss the three year New Urban Progress fellowship. Topics ranged from cities as a transatlantic actor with an introduction by Almut Möller, State Secretary and Plenipotentiary of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg, to the housing crises that so many cities are facing, to general reflections from NUP fellows Ian Lundy, Julian St. Patrick Clayton, and Deputy Mayor of Leipzig, Ulrich Hörning, on how cities can get better at going beyond words and implementing progressive policies that benefit all. Watch the entire session below.  

Almut Möller
“Foreign affairs is not something that can be taken for granted. It has to deliver to local communities.”

Julian St. Patrick Clayton
“As a city you have to find who you are, your mission statement, your guiding principles, your ethos as a city – after that you fight like hell to maintain that vision. You come back to the drawing board, […] you never lose sight of who you are there, because that is the only thing helping you to get where you want to be.”

Ulrich Hörning
“The key transatlantic takeaway for me is the role of capturing values through property taxes. This is something completely underdeveloped in Germany.“

From left to right: Ian Lundy, Julian St. Patrick Clayton & Ulrich Hörning

New Urban Progress fellows, steering committee members, and sounding board member Cathryn Clüver Ashbrook. (Excluding other fellows who followed along online!). 

Forward with New Urban Progress

The New Urban Progress fellowship began in 2019 and at a time when there were many doubts about the future of the transatlantic partnership. The fellowship’s mission has been to bring together young urban leaders not only to exchange best practices on how to make cities more innovative, democratic, and sustainable, but also to strengthen ties between Germany and the United States. As the fellowship comes to a close, the two concluding sessions took place during yet again a volatile moment for the transatlantic partnership.  One month before the midterms in the United States and with climate change, inflation, and the war in Ukraine still real challenges, the value of exchanging best practices at the city level, while strengthening ties between democratic actors in the two countries remain clear. 

For more concluding thoughts and lessons learned from the fellowship, watch the New Urban Progress Documentary and read the NOVA Cities Index: Unlocking Urban Power action paper. 

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The NOVA Cities Index: Unlocking Urban Power

The NOVA Cities Index is a tool and framework for cities to live up to their promise of progress. The index’s criteria were chosen based on conversations with urban leaders during trips to Germany and the United States as well as intensive work within the New Urban Progress fellowship. The action paper outlines why these criteria matter and what policies cities must deliver on in order to build urban environments that flourish for all. 

The NOVA Cities Index

Leaders internationally have to move faster to address the mounting challenges of climate change, rising inequality, housing insecurity, and health inequity. Over two years, our working group of fellows representing a diverse range of public, private, and civic experiences has studied these issues, speaking with activists, community leaders, elected representatives, and business leaders in cities across Germany and the United States. Our resounding takeaway from our experiences is that there is a shared understanding of our collective challenges, but a severe lack of requisite actions to meet them. Cities release climate equity plans while allowing freeway expansions in urban cores to proceed; they name ambitious emission reduction targets while still zoning single family housing en masse near transit stops. There is an impressive and deep understanding of the challenges facing cities, but there has to be more action.

The lack of action that we have observed is devastating because cities are exactly the actors that can make real, inclusive progress. To support urban leaders, our group assessed the actions necessary to respond to urban challenges and foster inclusive urban progress (considering shared challenges on both sides of the Atlantic). We devised a baseline criteria as guidance to determine whether the progressive visions espoused by many influential urban thinkers have been put into practice. At their best, cities are the life force of our civilization, bustling with an energy that unlocks the highest form of human collaboration and flourishing. The brightness of their potential is a ‘supernova’ (a powerful and luminous stellar explosion) for society, thus, we are excited to introduce the NOVA Cities Index: a blueprint for inNOVAtive cities.

The NOVA Index Criteria

1. Housing Affordability – In a Nova City, 80% of population is not rent burdened.

2. Land Use & Transportation – A Nova City is compact and dense.

3. Inclusive Innovation & Workforce Development – A Nova City invests in the success of its citizens, attracts talent, and fosters local entrepreneurs/economic development.

4. Open Data – A Nova City prioritizes transparency and commits to creating a single central open data portal for  its  city  and  making  100%  of  its  data  available.

5. Digital Equality – A  Nova  City  provides  digital  infrastructure  to  at  least  75%  of  its  population  and  is  working towards 100% within 5 years.


Read the the entire action paper for how these criteria were chosen and why they matter. 

What's Next for the Index?

The index is ready to be put to the test! It was first discussed and debated at the Progressive Governance Summit 2022 at the session on urban power – watch the presentation and debate here

The index will be pitched to city offices around Germany and the United States. We hope to engage with a growing group of urban leaders and generate productive conversations in the United States and Germany on how cities can continue to be places that deliver progress. 

Authors of the NOVA Cities Index 

  • Andrea Jonas is Project Manager for international urban development at the German Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Developement (BBSR).
  • Ian Lundy is Impact Investor at MSquared 
  • Jamaal Glenn is Director at Schmidt Futures and Adjunct Professor at New York University.
  • Marc Lendermann is Economic Counselor for the German Consulate General San Francisco.
  • Maria Willett is Chief of Staff at the City of Rochester Hills, Michigan.
  • Richard Lawrence Jr. is Principal Planner at the City of Alexandria, Virginia.
  • Victoria Boeck is Research Associate for open data at the Technologiestiftung Berlin.

The project is supported by the Transatlantic Program of the Federal Republic of Germany and funded by the European Recovery Program (ERP) of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK).

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New Urban Progress – The Documentary

The New Urban Progress (NUP) documentary was premiered at the Progressive Governance Summit 2022: Joining Forces. The travel documentary follows the NUP fellows on their two 10-day research trips in Germany and the United States, where they debate and exchange how cities can be more inclusive, democratic, and sustainable. The young urban practitioners share best practices, innovative ideas, and ambitious visions for progressive politics in urban settings and discuss the role of cities within the transatlantic relationship.

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Empowering Cities Ep. 5 – Building Urban & Transatlantic Infrastructure

What are successful approaches and polices to the most pressing issues for German and US cities? How can cities and international networks strengthen the transatlantic partnership? Listen below for answers and more. 

Episode 5 of the Empowering Cities Podcast

The New Urban Progress fellowship spent three years examining and debating how cities can strengthen the transatlantic relationship. The fellows, partners, a project patron, and members of the sounding board participated in an end-of-fellowship discussion on what the most pressing issues are for urban areas in Germany and the United States, how we can deliver policy to address these challenges, and why cities are central to the transatlantic partnership. The discussion took place at the 2022 Progressive Governance Summit: Joining Forces, in Berlin on October 13th.  


"It is great to meet people and make new friends, but it is even better to do great stuff with each other that is felt very clearly in both cities"
Almut Möller is a member fo the New Urban Progress Sounding Board.
Almut Möller
State Secretary and Plenipotentiary, Hamburg
"As a city, you have to find your direction and definition of who your are (...) and then after that you fight like hell to maintain that vision of what that is"
Julian St. Patrick Clayton
Deputy Director for Policy and Research, Center for NYC Neighborhoods
"The messaging is important but the action has to be there, and the action has to follow and we can all look at these crises and respond with action from both the public and private sector in a way that is complementary and building alliances"
Ian Lundy
Impact Investor, MSquared

This episode is part of our podcast series Empowering Cities. Listen to Episode 4, as our fellows put the NOVA Cities Index as blueprint for progress to test, Episode 3, a look back at the main lessons from the two fellowship trips, Episode 2 on how to finance the green transformation, and Episode 1 on the American Rescue Plan

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Empowering Cities Ep. 4 – A Blueprint for Progress

City leaders share the same concerns: Climate change, rising inequality, housing insecurity and health inequity, to name a few. They all talk about working towards progress. But how can a city’s progress in these areas be assessed?

Episode 4 of the Empowering Cities Podcast

In this episode, New Urban Progress fellows Richard Lawrence Jr. and Maria Willett present their NOVA Cities Index, a blueprint with the goal to help city leaders focus on how to make their city more innovative, green, and equitable. They are joined by Katie Rosenberg and Julie Richier to debate how useful these metrics actually are and also discuss how urban power can bring progress locally, regionally and transatlantically. The session is hosted by Cathryn Clüver Ashbrook.

“We liken the progress of cities to stars or constellations. You have cities that shine bright like a supernova”
Richard Lawrence Jr.
Principle Planner, Alexandria, Virginia

This episode was recorded at the Progressive Governance Summit 2022. For the full session, which was called “Urban Power: Uniting Progressives in Cities & Across Regions” and included Brian Hanson, watch our recording of the entire session. 

This episode is part of our podcast series Empowering Cities. Listen to Episode 3, a look back at the main lessons from the two fellowship trips, Episode 2 on how to finance the green transformation, and Episode 1 on the American Rescue Plan

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Just Change

The massive disruption of urban life through the Covid pandemic opened a window of opportunity to fundamentally rethink city infrastructure and governance. In many places, streets were reprioritized for cycling and green spaces gained new importance. At the same time, Covid unveiled and deepened existing inequalities. The New Urban Progress fellows explored how cities can create an innovative ecosystem for just change by focusing on mobility, housing and civic engagement.

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Places for People: Land use policy strategies for urban futures

On their travels throughout Germany and the US, the Networked Governance and Democracy working group observed how land use is an underlying factor in almost, if not all policy solutions for urban progress. Inspired by conversations from the trip as well as personal and professional experience, the following action paper details three methods of civic engagement that can weave legitimacy and justice into land use policy across cities in Germany, the United States, and beyond. 

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Cities at the Heart of the Transatlantic Partnership with Deputy Mayor Mayekar

In April 2022, the New Urban Progress fellowship kickstarted their tour of the United States in Chicago. They met with Deputy Mayor Samir Mayekar to discuss inclusive growth and innovation. A committed transatlantist, the Deputy Mayor also sent over thoughts on why cities are essential to the transatlantic partnership. 

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Thoughts on City Diplomacy with Mayor Adler of Austin, Texas

The New Urban Progress fellowship visited Austin in late April, 2022. They met with Mayor of Austin, Steve Adler. After our meeting, the Mayor shared some thoughts on city and subnational diplomacy and why urban areas need to lead the way in tackling global challenges. 

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