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Last edited 03 Jun 2022
 City network definitions
A network in its simplest terms is a group or system of interconnected people or things. The connections can be physical, such as train lines as well as non-physical or immaterial, such as goals, drivers, financing or trade. The scale of such connections in terms of city networks can be across singles cities, to those that spread globally across a wide variety of different cities, which we might call cross-city networks..
Within a single city the term city network might be used to refer to a system or infrastructure that runs across the entirety of the city. For example the city underground or bus network. Between different cities a city or cross city-network might refer to cities that are connected by certain shared needs, goals or interests such as climate change or trade as well as geographical locations such the European Economic Community or the Nordic Smart City Network or indeed purely by infrastructure such as the Eurorail city rail network.
 Background to cross-city networks
An inventory of sustainability-related city networks by Keiner and Kim (2007) showed a boom between the launch of the UN Agenda 21 and the passing of the United Nations Millennium Declaration (2000). Accepted as a way to support local action on a transnational scale, there were high numbers of networks created during his time with many disappearing soon after formation. A.Labaeye and T.Sauer (2013) suggested the market had by then reached saturation point.
The shifts in the role of digitisation and technology as a cross-cutting theme of innovation, that incorporates the sustainability agenda were supported by the Lisbon agenda as opportunities for a knowledge-based economy. In around 2014 the UN published their Smart Sustainable Cities Reconnaissance Study, a useful reference for the growing landscape of programmes around the world, that included a definition of the Smart and Sustainable city.
In 2018 the Smart Sustainable City-District Compendium began a process, following on from that of Keiner and Kim (2007) and the UN report of 2014 in gathering a compendium of existing networks that continue to connect different cities across the globe with various outcomes.
Today there continues to be a broad landscape of initiatives that like those during the boom in 2007 come and go, with some lasting longer than others. The difference maybe that they include cities, academia, industry and community networks formed by frameworks, assessments, standards, certifications, initiatives, programmes and projects on a wide variety of topics, often at the nexus between governance, innovation and digitisation. The distinction between typologies, definitions, characteristics and their outcomes has merged, difficult to separate, a blurred mass of interconnected cross-cutting activities. Industry networks form city-client engagement platforms, research frameworks form city networks, built projects are test cases for certification schemes, and evidenced innovation in academic networks ties closely to commercial viability, with added public, as well as private value.
Below is a long list of networks that could sit with in multiple themes and at multiple scales, they touch on frameworks, certification and assessment and are categorised in just one of the many ways that might be possible.
 Cross-city networks by theme
BREEAM is primarily a building standard ( with different scales included in the portfolio), it relates to city networks in terms of its uptake by cities. It is a third-party certified standard since 1990 has helped improve asset performance at every stage, from design through construction, to use and refurbishment. Millions of buildings across the world are registered to work towards BREEAM’s holistic approach to achieve ESG, health, and net zero goals. It is owned by BRE – a profit-for-purpose organisation with over 100 years of building science and research background.
The Carbonn Centre, supporting cities, towns and regions tackling climate change to create transparency, accountability and credibility. one unified process for subnational climate action reporting supported by CDP and ICLEI to make reporting on climate change easier for local and regional governments worldwide, enabling them to track efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build resilience to climate change.
Energy Cities empowers cities and citizens to shape and transition to future proof cities, showcasing concrete alternatives deployed by cities, advocating change in politic and economic governance at all levels, fostering a wide cultural change leading to a future proofed society. Energy Cities’ community is composed by local leaders of thousands of cities in 30 European countries.
The European Energy Award supports local authorities in establishing interdisciplinary planning approaches and implementing effective energy and climate policy measures through the rational use of energy and increased use of renewable energies. There are 1,700 local authorities with a population of 65 million participating today.
European green cities is a non-profit organization that strive to help alleviate the climate crisis by developing CO2-neutral cities and neighborhoods across Europe. We help municipalities and citizen-organizations to develop innovation projects, facilitate stakeholder processes, carry out analysis, implement best practice, train in sustainable urban development and disseminate.
Green House Gas Protocol establishes comprehensive global standardized frameworks to measure and manage greenhouse gas emissions from private and public sector operations, value chains and mitigation actions. Building on a 20-year partnership between WRI and WBCSD, GHG Protocol works with governments, industry associations, NGOs, businesses and other organizations.
Gold Standard was established in 2003 by WWF and other international NGOs to ensure projects that reduced carbon emissions featured the highest levels of environmental integrity and also contributed to sustainable development. Best practice standard for climate and sustainable development interventions, Gold Standard for the global goals, maximises impact, creating value for people around the world and the planet we share.
Level(s) is primarily a building standard, it relates to city networks in terms of its uptake by cities. provides a common language for assessing and reporting on the sustainability performance of buildings. It is a simple entry point for applying circular economy principles, to measure and support improvements, from design to end of life in the built environment.
Passive House Institute is a building standard, it relates to city networks in terms of its uptake by cities. The Passive House Institute (PHI) is an independent research institute that has played an especially crucial role in the development of the Passive House concept an internationally recognised, performance-based energy standard in construction.
SEMANCO is an integrated platform providing access to widely dispersed energy related data about cities, stored by many different organisations. This platform supports improved energy analysis based on the assessment of existing data rather than estimates. It does so using semantic data modelling that enables information stored in different formats and different places to create a multi-level energy model of an urban area to analyse the energy performance of buildings,
ESPRESSO a conceptual Smart City Information Framework based on open standards, consists of a Smart City platform and a number of data provision and processing services to integrate relevant data, workflows, and processes. Identifies relevant open standards, technologies, and information models currently in use or in development in various sectors.
Cities Alliance is a global partnership fighting urban poverty and supporting cities to deliver sustainable development. To manage its activities, the Cities Alliance operates a multi-donor fund with UNOPS as host and Trustee.
Climate Alliance was founded in 1990 when a group of 33 institutions comprised of 12 municipalities from Germany, Austria and Switzerland as well as 6 indigenous organisations of the Amazon Basin met. Motivated take action against the climatic changes taking place the network has strong roots in the German speaking world, but its principles have drawn interest from municipalities across Europe with representatives from almost all EU countries.
EUROPE 2020MP is a network of regions and cities, coordinated by the Committee of the Regions. Its main task is to monitor the involvement of regional and local authorities in the implementation of the Europe 2020 Strategy. The network, set up in 2010, is an initiative of the Committee of the Regions to make sure that the views of cities, regions and other local authorities are taken into account in the definition of the European Commission's strategy for economic growth and innovation.
Luden is a network for mutual co-operation which focuses on major transitions that are taking place across the EU and touch cities, towns and the surrounding country side or what is referred to as “rurban”. The network came into existence in 1989 as result of an initiative undertaken by 19 local authorities in 8 of the former EU 15 Member States.
R20 is the Regions of Climate Action, a not-for-profit international organization founded in 2011 by former Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger in cooperation with a number of leading regions and NGO’s, the United Nations, Development Banks, Clean-Tech companies, and Academia. Our mission is to accelerate sub-national infrastructure investments in the green economy to meaningfully contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Reves Network is a European organisation based on partnership between local and regional authorities and territorial social economy organisations, meaning; cooperatives, mutual societies, associations, foundations and, more in general, All organisations asserting the “primacy of individual and of social objective over capital, the voluntary and open membership, the democratic control by membership, the combination of interests of members/users and the general interest, the defence and application of the principle of solidarity and responsibility, the autonomous management and the sustainable use of most of surpluses”.
The Transition Network represents the transition a movement, a movement of communities coming together to reimagine and rebuild our world. Here we explain what it is, why people do it, how the movement started and give you a sense of our underpinning principles and approach.
URBACT ia a European exchange and learning programme promoting sustainable urban development. We enable CITIES to work together to develop solutions to major urban challenges, reaffirming the key role their play in facing increasingly complex societal changes.
One Planet Living is a framework created in 2003 from experience developing the multi-award-winning BedZED eco-village in South London, providing a range of sustainability consultancy services that make it easier for people to live sustainable lives within the planet's boundaries, now spans five continents.
Resilient Cities Network consists of member cities and chief resilience officers from the 100 Resilient Cities program, sharing a common lens for holistic urban resilience and with thousands of projects in implementation. It was pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation in 2013, as part of its Global Centennial Initiative, a network to enable transformational change in cities through support of resilience plans and projects.
WBCSD A global network of almost 70 national business councils, members from all business sectors and all major economies, representing a combined revenue of more than USD $8.5 trillion and 19 million employees. Since 1995, WBCSD has been uniquely positioned to work with member companies along and across value chains to deliver impactful business solutions to the most challenging sustainability issues.
WRI is a network of local and international experts working in more than 100 cities across 75 countries. Producing practical, data-driven research on how fast-growing urban areas can sustainably deliver core services like transport, housing, clean water and sanitation to all residents. Seeking transformative change, helping decision-makers navigate competing tensions to shape a future where cities work better for everyone.
Global Eco-village Network is not a city network but worth mentioning because of its potential impact on cities. The Global Ecovillage Network‘s shared purpose is to link and support ecovillages, educate the world about them, and grow the regenerative movement – to inspire, scale and facilitate communities and people from all walks of life to become active participants in the transition to a resilient and regenerative human presence on Earth.
The The EU Covenant of Majors for Climate & Energy brings together thousands of local governments voluntarily committed to implementing EU climate and energy objectives. The Covenant of Mayors was launched in 2008 in Europe with the ambition to gather local governments voluntarily committed to achieving and exceeding the EU climate and energy targets.
MedCities was established in 1991 in Barcelona when 16 cities formed a network with the purpose, initially, of supporting environmental protection from a local perspective. In 2015, the network became a fully independent organization and now brings together 67 local authorities from all shores of the Mediterranean basin. The transformation of MedCities into a legal association has increased its operational capacity and enhanced its ability to promote urban sustainable development in the region.
UBC is the leading network of cities in the Baltic Sea Region with Member Cities from Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, and Sweden. Founded in 1991 in Gdask, UBC is a voluntary, proactive network mobilizing the shared potential of its member cities through eight Commissions. Cultural Cities, Inclusive and Healthy Cities, Learning Cities, Planning Cities, Safe Cities, Smart and Prospering Cities, Sustainable Cities, and Youthful Cities.
Citynet is the largest association of urban stakeholders committed to sustainable development in the Asia Pacific region. Established in 1987 with the support of UNESCAP, UNDP and UN-Habitat, the Network of cities has grown to include over 173 municipalities, NGOs, private companies and research centers.
Sister Cities was founded by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956, Sister Cities International is a nonpartisan 501(c)(3) nonprofit which serves as the national membership organization for individual sister cities, counties, and states across the United States. This network unites tens of thousands of citizen diplomats and volunteers in nearly 500 member communities with over 2,000 partnerships in more than 140 countries.
CESBA is a network of European individuals and institutions, committed to sustainability in the built environment. It enforces people, municipalities, cities and regions in enhancing the level of sustainability in their surrounding environment.
RCN is a developing interdisciplinary network of researchers and practitioners from 20+ US universities, national labs, nonprofit organizations, and private institutions who will coordinate their work on the overarching theme of Sustainable Cities. The US network will collaborate with international sustainability research networks in Australia, Europe, and Asia, and with a network of practitioners and policymakers in US and global cities.
Ecodistricts has been promoting a new model of urban development to empower just, sustainable, and resilient neighborhoods since 2013. The Protocol and EcoDistricts Certified guide city makers to take a collaborative, holistic, neighborhood-scale approach to community design to achieve rigorous, meaningful performance outcomes that matter to people and planet. In 2022, EcoDistricts joined Partnership for Southern Equity (PSE) to help build a Just Growth revolution. As a part of PSE, we continue to mobilize and support sustainable and equitable urban development leaders throughout North America and beyond.
Citykeys was funded by the European Union HORIZON 2020 programme, CITY keys developed and validated, with the aid of cities, key performance indicators and data collection procedures for the common and transparent monitoring as well as the comparability of smart city solutions across European cities.
The Commonwealth Sustainable Cities Initiative has been developed jointly by the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU), the Commonwealth Association of Architects (CAA), the Commonwealth Association of Planners (CAP) and the Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF), in collaboration with the Rwandan Ministry of Infrastructure, the Rwandan Ministry of Local Government and The Prince’s Foundation, with support from other Commonwealth organisations, governmental, professional and technical partners as a call to action.
C40 Cities is a network of mayors of nearly 100 world-leading cities collaborating to deliver the urgent action needed right now to confront the climate crisis. Together, we can create a future where everyone, everywhere can thrive.
ICLEI engages at the local to global levels, shaping policy and sparking action to transform urban environments worldwide. We build connections across levels of government, sectors and stakeholder groups, sparking city-to-city, city-to-region, local-to-global and local-to-national connections. By linking subnational, national and global actors, policies, commitments and initiatives, ICLEI strengthens action at all levels, in support of sustainable urban development.
METREX is an established network of over 50 metropolitan regions and areas in Europe. A partner of European institutions, the research community, governmental organisations and other networks working on policies, programmes and projects at the European scale.
Eurotowns was established in 1991 as a 20 city strong Europe-wide network for towns and cities with populations between 50.000 and 250.000. Towns and cities of this size play a significant part in the economic and social life of Europe. The Eurotowns network aims to ensure that this fact is properly reflected in the development of European legislation and promotes the interests of medium-sized cities at European level.
UCLG Founded in Paris, 2004, a major step in the international municipal movement as it succeeded in uniting the major local and regional government associations from across the globe. Our organization is also wholly committed to the full realization and renewal of local democracy, so as to empower local and regional governments to play their role in the future of humanity.
Council of Europe is made up of two chambers: the Chamber of Local Authorities and the Chamber of Regions. It has 306 representatives and 306 substitutes, all appointed for five years, representing over 130,000 local and regional authorities in the Council of Europe’s 46 member states.
The City Mayors Foundation is an international research think tank dedicated to urban affairs, is maintained and financed by professionals working together in Europe, the Americas and Asia to promote strong and prosperous cities as well as good local government. Established in 2003, City Mayors encourages city leaders from across the world to develop innovative and sustainable solutions to long-standing urban challenges such as governance, society, housing, transport, education and employment.
WEF is an International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation engages with political, business, cultural and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas. Established in 1971 as a not-for-profit foundation, it is independent, impartial and not tied to any special interests. The Forum strives in all its efforts to demonstrate entrepreneurship in the global public interest while upholding the highest standards of governance.
Twinning became popular in Great Britain after the Second World War, with the aim that building links and exchanges between individual towns and cities would bring reconciliation and prosperity after years of conflict.
OWHC was officially founded on 8 September 1993 following the first meeting of World Heritage Cities,. The Organization represents a collective intelligence on all issues related to the urban management of a World Heritage property and connects with more than 300 cities having on their territory a site inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. A total population of over 164 million people, represented in the Organization by their mayor, with the active participation of elected municipal officials and heritage managers.
Majour cities of Europe IT users group support local governments in sharing experiences, solutions and strategies in the use of information, communication technologies and leading edge innovation in the administration of local governments as well as the development of new services for the well-being and the wealth of their constituents and for the local economy.
TM Smartcity Forum is a network of smart cities lead by TM Forum, testing and implementing various programmes including the smart city maturity and benchmark models and Open API's to capture the key aspects of a city’s transformation journey to become a smarter city with high levels of community and citizen engagement, attractive for businesses and efficient in sustainable city operations.
OASC is a network that connects cities & communities worldwide to learn from each other and exchange digital, data-driven solutions based on Minimal Interoperability Mechanisms (MIMs). We represent our members towards international institutions, fora and standards developing organisations to ensure their voice is heard when new standards come about.
European smart cities is an integrative approach to profile and benchmark European medium-sized cities, as an instrument for effective learning regarding urban innovations in specific fields of urban development. Initiated by TU Wien since 2007 it works on the issue of smart cities, in cooperation with different partners and distinct projects, has validated a European Smart City Model now its 4th release.
Efus is the only European network dedicated to fostering discussion, cooperation and support among local and regional authorities in the field of crime prevention and urban security. Founded in 1987, it brings together nearly 250 cities and regions from 17 countries.
POLIS is the leading network of European cities and regions working together to develop innovative technologies and policies for local transport. Since 1989, European local and regional authorities have been working together to promote sustainable mobility through the deployment of innovative transport solutions.
CIVITAS is one of the flagship programmes helping the European Commission achieve its ambitious mobility and transport goals, and in turn those in the European Green Deal. It does this by acting as a network of cities, for cities, dedicated to sustainable urban mobility. Through peer exchange, networking and training, CIVITAS fosters political commitment and boosts collective expertise, equipping cities to put mobility at the centre of decarbonisation.
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