Why Municipal Leadership Matters: Alan Broadbent

September 13th, 2012

By Alan Broadbent, Chairman and CEO, Avana Capital Corporation
Chairman, Maytree Foundation         

Migration and urbanization were two dominant and intersecting trends of the 20th century, and they have picked up speed in the 21st century. As people move within and between the countries of the planet, urban regions have become home to more than half of the world population, and the figure increases every day.

People move to cities because that is where opportunity exists at scale. They move for work, school, entertainment, acceptance and love. They go to the city for economic success, as they move into and upwards in their careers. They extend their education in higher learning, meet their mates and begin families, and find a place in neighbourhoods and communities. In the city they find people interested in the same things they are, and culture in a vast array of expression.

They move from the hinterlands and rural areas in a relentless internal migration.

And they move from around the world, historically from farms to farms, then farms to cities, and now from large cities to large cities. In every country the biggest cities are becoming bigger at a faster rate of growth than secondary or tertiary cities.

Cities know and feel both urbanization and immigration profoundly. At the national and sub-national levels, urbanization and immigration are policy issues. At worst, they become xenophobic political issues as politicians stir fear of immigrants. At the municipal level, though, they are primary lived experience. And at the city level is where we find the political and community voices that embrace immigrants, knowing they bring strength, vitality, and innovation.

So at the municipal level, in our cities and urban regions, managing the settlement and inclusion of newcomers is vital. Managing it well can make a city prosper. Managing it well helps newcomers succeed at work, school, in the neighbourhood, and at the sports field or concert hall. Municipal governments provide essential services that impact day-to-day living, and can be flexible and responsive in their design and delivery. They exert their influence in a myriad of other ways, as employers, providers of good and services, and as wealth creator and policy-makers.

It is of great interest to city leaders, then, to know the key tasks of settlement and inclusion, how to capture them in policy and programs, and what constitutes good practice. What are the large scale programs, and what are the smaller scale innovations? What cities have a program worth emulating or adapting? Who is it important to talk to in order to learn lessons from other places?

We know that civic leadership matters. Where you see a newcomer population thriving in an inclusive way, you see leaders in city government, in local business, in community organizations and institutions showing the way. For there is no doubt that leadership matters, whether it comes from the head of the city government or from other, often surprising, places in the community.

Cities of Migration illuminates these stories of city leadership and successful practice. It has built an international network of local practitioners sharing their work. It connects them in a variety of ways, so that good ideas travel at the speed of light, with the click of a button or the sound of a voice over a telephone line.

We hope you will find new ideas to inspire your work at home.

Alan Broadbent is Chairman of Maytree, the Caledon Institute of Social Policy, and the Tamarack Institute. He is also Chairman and CEO of Avana Capital Corporation. Alan is the author of Urban Nation: Why we Need to Give Power Back to the Cities to Make Canada Strong. In addition, Alan is Chairman and CEO of Jamscor Inc.; Chairman of the Tides Canada Foundation; Chairman of Diaspora Dialogues; advisor to the Literary Review of Canada; Co-chair of Happy Planet Foods; member of the Governors’ Council of the Toronto Public Library Foundation; Senior Fellow of Massey College and Member of the Order of Canada.

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