In this fast urbanizing world, Citiscope spurs innovations to help cities work better for all of their people through the power of independent journalism.
The global challenge
The majority of the world’s peoples now live in cities, yet there’s relatively light coverage of urban experiments and breakthroughs — how cities are inventing new ways to cope with such challenges as climate change, poverty, congestion and environmental quality.
Today’s global media, for all its diversity and assets, suffers clear market failure on issues of immense concern to city builders and reformers everywhere. The prevailing focus, in print and broadcast, is on politics, central governments’ policies, personalities, and disasters. Digital media are picking up some of the slack, but long-term, focused coverage is still insufficient.
Citiscope seeks to fill some of the gap and act as a conduit of experimentation to public officials, administrators, and decision-makers of cities worldwide. We also aim to serve the broader world of problem solvers and change-makers in business, nonprofits, academia, neighborhoods, foundations and the media — anyone sharing a stake in the urban future.
How Citiscope Does It
Citiscope uses the power of strong storytelling to build credibility and draw reader attention to the world’s most imaginative steps to build sustainable cities.
Original stories by independent journalists
Each week our editors select an important innovation or significant new direction — one useful to other cities — that’s being undertaken in a city somewhere around the world. The topics range from “green” energy grids to slum upgrading, accessible transit to sustainable water systems.
Rather than parachute in a reporter to do the story, Citiscope commissions local journalists who can unlock the local context in a way that outsiders can’t. A companion goal: to encourage journalists from around the globe to recognize and pursue quality coverage of urban issues, prompting more to take a career interest in covering the tide of new experiments in their cities and worldwide. Journalists interested in writing for us should read this.
Stories of local innovations are kept “live” through periodic updates on how the experiment is actually working out — positives, negatives, lessons learned.
“CitiSignals” – Editors’ picks of news in and about cities worldwide
Each week our editors select timely updates on the most important breaking news and key developments in and about cities across all continents.
The need for these quick reads is great as cities rise in worldwide import, more and more people want to be “in the know” — mayors, councils and other city officials, business and civic groups, NGOs and businesses, academics and ordinary folk with a global focus. But it’s tough to keep up.
We sift through hundreds of leads worldwide for the most important items. We invite readers to submit their CitiSignal story suggestions to us as well, to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Citiscope’s Origins and Development
In 1996, Citiscope editor Neal Peirce covered the United Nations’ Habitat II conference in Istanbul where he learned about and became intrigued by a world database on leading city innovations then being developed by UN-Habitat. Interviewing Nicholas You, the UN-Habitat official in charge, he then wrote one of his columns (syndicated by the Washington Post Writers Group) on the topic. He then returned frequently in his column on world cities and their new directions.
Fast forward to 2007. Rockefeller Foundation president Judith Rodin and vice president Darren Walker decided to invite distinguished city actors and observers from around the world to participate at a major month-long “Global Urban Summit” at the foundation’s Bellagio, Italy conference center. Peirce was invited to attend the conference and write a report on its findings. He assembled a team from the Citistates Group which he headed — a network of journalists, speakers and civic leaders focused on building competitive, equitable, and sustainable 21st century cities and metropolitan regions. With colleagues Curtis Johnson and Farley Peters, he authored the resulting book: Century of the City: No Time To Lose, published by the Rockefeller Foundation in 2008.
The next year, 2009, at a gathering of urbanist Gordon Feller’s “Meeting of the Minds” in New York City, Peirce re-encountered Nicholas You. They started to strategize: how to take compilations like the UN’s “Best Practice” reports and turn them into living, verified, updated coverage. Or even better, how to commission verified reports by local journalists that could then be distributed to print and electronic media across the world.
So the Citiscope idea was born. Initial support was provided by the Cities Alliance. Peirce and Peters attended key urban conferences, including meetings of the World Urban Campaign, chaired by Nicholas You, in cities around the world. They received support from the Ford Foundation in developing a business plan for their operations. They attended the World Urban Forums in Rio de Janeiro in 2010 (where Peirce moderated a plenary session on the “right to the city” theme) and Naples in 2012 (preparing a full report for UN-Habitat and the Ford Foundation on the strengths and weaknesses of U. S. participation).
And in 2013, both the Rockefeller Foundation (through its new “Resilient Cities” program) and the Ford Foundation (moving into international city urban development work) provided strong funding permitting Citiscope to plan its move into full operation — CitiSignals starting in October 2013, and a full program of weekly stories by journalists worldwide commencing in January 2014.
Citiscope, formally organized as a 501-c-3 charitable organization under U. S. law, assembled a board of directors chaired by Donald Borut — recently retired (after 22 years) as executive director of the National League of Cities in the U. S., plus extensive work with the global umbrella organization of cities, United Cities and Local Governments. And — completing the circle, as it were — a leading adviser among Citiscope’s board members is Nicholas You, now an independent international business consultant and (from his home in Nairobi) chair of the steering committee of the UN-Habitat-affiliated World Urban Campaign.