Advanced Leadership Initiative explores the future of cities

Man speaking into a microphone on a panel

Brian P. Golden, director of the Boston Planning & Development Agency, speaks to ALI Fellows./Photo by Russ Campbell

2 min read

Through its 2019 Future of Cities Deep Dive, the Harvard Advanced Leadership Initiative (ALI) used cities as a laboratory to explore complicated, cross-sector problems and potential solutions to address those problems.

For many people around the world, cities are a source of hope. They are engines for innovation and economic growth. They are hubs for progressivism and democracy. Cities are growing — but so are the opportunities and challenges associated with them.

During the conference, ALI fellows examined these challenges and learned how leaders around the world were responding.

Each session highlighted one major global or community challenge where ALI fellows might fill a gap. Deep Dives included readings, outside experts, often faculty from relevant Harvard programs, and a focus on problem solving and practical applications of knowledge.

Over the course of the two-day event, participants heard from experts in law, policy, urban planning, public health, and education who brought distinct perspectives to the discussion and raised important questions for the group to consider. The cohort also heard from practitioners facing these challenges head on and developing solutions for the future of cities.

The Deep Dive gave fellows an in-depth look at one particular challenge common to many cities around the globe: urban education. Fellows considered how city leaders and educators ensure both excellence and equity in classrooms around the world.

Presenters included professors from Harvard Business School, the Harvard Graduate School of Design, the Harvard Graduate School of Education, the Harvard Kennedy School, the Harvard Law School, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, elected officials, artists, and professionals in urban design and planning.

Synthesizing the content of the event, ALI fellows identified equity as the most pressing problem facing cities around the world. While there was disagreement about the best means to effect change, the group agreed that underlying all issues facing cities were profound challenges of inequity.

They also recognized the importance of tying initiatives together, involving community members, and activating government at the local level.

To learn more, read the full 2019 Future of Cities Deep Dive Report.