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Tackling Low Wages and Gentrification in a Livable City


By Jay Walljasper

Asheville traveled pretty far down the same path as most American cities in the 1970s and 80s with a dwindling downtown and booming suburbs. All the boarded up buildings gave rise to a proposal to tear down eleven square blocks downtown and construct a state-of-the-art shopping mall. Plans fell through and the mall was build elsewhere, hurting downtown even more in the short run but setting the state for a remarkable revival.


ICW’s State-Specific Postsecondary Ed. Report Cards: Continuing the Conversation about Higher Ed.

Yesterday, Tuesday June 19th, The Institute for a Competitive Workforce (ICW), held an event releasing the 3rd edition of its Leaders & Laggards series, A State-by-State Report Card on Public Postsecondary Education. The report analyzes the performance of different state public higher education systems and assigns letter grades to each state according to their outcome, identifying the best performers and those who have fallen behind. In addition to highlighting successful state practices, the report includes recommendations for what states performing poorly can do to improve select performance areas.
   The Leaders & Laggards Report grades states on:
      1. Student Access & Success
      2. Efficiency & Cost-Effectiveness
      3. Meeting Labor Market Demand
      4. Transparency & Accountability
      5. Policy Environment
      6. Innovation
The overall objective of the report is to “arm readers with information that gives them a clear-eyed view of how state systems of higher education compare with one another on a host of outcome, efficiency, and policy measures”.

Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce estimated that “by 2018 more than 60% of American…


Detroit Initiatives Advance Contemporary Public Life

Knight Foundation and CEOs for Cities announce support for nine organizations

Detroit, Mich. – March 27, 2012 – Nine Detroit organizations that are accelerating citizen participation in public life will receive $65,000 through a partnership between the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and CEOs for Cities, a national network of urban leaders.

 The awards are part of Knight and CEOs for Cities’ joint effort to strengthen contemporary public life.  Nationally, the two groups are exploring ways to foster more informed and engaged communities where people participate in decision-making, shape their neighborhoods with volunteer and civic commitments, enjoy communal spaces together and more.

In Detroit, individuals and institutions across the city are becoming part of a growing social innovation movement, seeding small-scale but transformational projects that are having an impact on community well being. This new support will strengthen a range of efforts – including virtual and real-world spaces where Detroiters can come together to discuss local issues, create new products and services and celebrate people having an impact on the city. A list of projects is below.

“Detroiters are blending entrepreneurship, creativity and civic action in imaginative ways. We hope these projects will…


Mayor Nutter Announces Launch of Interactive, Social Media Tool ‘Change By Us’ for Philadelphians

[Philadelphia, November 21, 2011]   Mayor Michael A. Nutter and the Mayor’s Office of Communications announced the launch of the ‘Change By Us Philly’ website.  This website serves as an interactive, social media platform that enables citizens to connect with City officials, community-based organizations and each other to share ideas and create projects to benefit the City of Philadelphia.  The website is accessed at and is operational.

 “Our Administration wants to know what is important to its citizens and actively works to make the changes Philadelphians want and need,” said Mayor Nutter.  “The ‘Change by Us Philly’ website is an innovative, social media tool that will enable Philadelphians to present ideas to City officials, get involved with existing City projects and create new initiatives to make Philadelphia a smarter, safer, greener, cleaner and better City.”

 Change By Us Philly was created by Code for America, CEOs for Cities and Local Projects with the support of the Rockefeller Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.  The website will be administered by the Mayor’s Office of Communication.  The Office of Communication will be assisted by non-profit partners with site maintenance and upkeep.

 “The City…


Change By Us Goes Open Source

Change by Us, a new digital platform that enables citizens to connect with their local governments and collaborate on projects for city improvement, is now available for free download through a not-for-profit open source license. Change By Us launched today in Philadelphia and is already live in New York.

Created by New York-based media design firm Local Projects and national urban advocacy non-profit CEOs for Cities, Change by Us is a new kind of public dialogue that seeks to reinvent the relationship between citizens and government through a digital platform designed to foster better engagement in key civic priorities. From citizens and non-profits to community-based organizations and local governments, Change By Us re-imagines the public process as one designed for cooperation, productivity and even fun.

Change By Us launched today in Philadelphia with a press conference by Mayor Michael Nutter and was executed in partnership withCode for America, an organization that connects civic-minded, tech-savvy individuals with industry and governmental leaders to develop innovative applications that can be used in cities across the country. In July, Mayor Michael Bloomberg launched Change By Us in New York City in support of his vision for modernizing city government and making it more customer-focused, innovative and efficient. The project has been generously supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation's Technology and Engagement Initiative, The Rockefeller Foundation and The Case Foundation.

"After Change By Us' successful launch in New York City and now Philadelphia, we are excited to see the code released open source for anyone to use,” said Jake Barton, Principal at Local Projects. “At a time that cities are being squeezed for funds in all directions, Change By Us is a free software platform that turns citizens into collaborators, empowering everyone in a city to make change for good. This triple win for any city costs nothing to install, entices citizens to participate, and creates ample press opportunities to tell stories about positive collaborative change."

The source code and instructions for installation are available for download on Github under a Gnu AGPL license. While Change By Us will be available to any city through a not-for-profit open source license, Local Projects and CEOs for Cities are engaging in partnerships with cities around the world to set up, host and maintain the platform.

"At Knight Foundation, we seek out the most innovative ideas for using technology to transform the way people engage with their communities and leaders," said Paula Ellis, Knight's vice president for strategic initiatives.  “Change by Us is great opportunity to put new technological tools in the hands of innovative community members, so that citizen action can be at the center of community change.”

"Change By Us puts the capacity to create a better community in the hands of the people -- making it a tool not just any, but everycity could use. Now that the platform is open sourced, they can. That’s the power of shared technology,” said Jennifer Pahlka, founder and executive director of Code for America. Code for America worked with Local Projects and CEOs for Cities to help open source the application, develop new features and deploy it in Philadelphia. Code for America’s Civic Commons initiative is proactively supporting the use of resuable technology in governments around the world.

“Reinventing public life in America begins with acknowledging the critical role technology plays in the way we engage with one another,” said Julia Klaiber, Director of External Affairs at CEOs for Cities. “By releasing the code to the open source software community, our hope is that as many cities as possible can leverage the power of Change By Us to create real, citizen-driven change.”

“With the advent of powerful and sophisticated open source Internet-based tools like Change by Us, Philadelphia, New York, and other cities have the opportunity to unleash the full potential of positive, constructive, collective action” said Jeff Friedman, Manager of Civic Innovation & Participation for Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter.  

“We’re already proud in New York City that we’ve had the opportunity to partner with Local Projects inshaping Change by Us into a powerful platform for igniting collaboration at many levels.  Now that the code has been open sourced, we’re especially excited that it will be that much easier for other cities to use it to ignite civic innovation. We look forward to learning what others are able to achieve with it, and we’re excited about collaborating with them and Local Projects in further developing the platform into one of the defining tools of open government.”  Bob Richardson, Director of Strategic Technology Development, NYC Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications.

For more information, contact Jake Barton of Local Projects at +1 212 480 0479, Julia Klaiber of CEOs for Cities at +1 202 420 9451 or Abhi Nemani of Code for America at +1 909 206 2220.


SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher Named Chair-Elect of CEOs for Cities Board of Directors

State University of New York Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher has been nominated as Chair-Elect of the Board of Directors of CEOs for Cities, a national network of urban leaders dedicated to building and sustaining the next generation of great American cities. 

Chancellor Zimpher will assume the role of Chair, effective January 1, 2012. She has been a network partner for CEOs for Cities since 2002 and a member of the Board since 2009.

"Nancy is known among urban advocates for her vision, drive, and sheer ability to get the job done,” said Lee Fisher, President and CEO of CEOs for Cities. She has been a proactive member of the CEOs for Cities board for years, and I am thrilled that she was appointed Chair-Elect of the Board."

“CEOs for Cities is an outstanding organization that brings communities together to build stronger, more competitive cities throughout the United States,” said Chancellor Zimpher. “After having been involved with CEOs for Cities for many years and seeing first hand the positive effects its work has had across the country, it will be my great pleasure to serve as Chair of the Board, and I thank Lee Fisher and the leadership of CEOs for Cities for the opportunity.”

With hundreds of network partners in nearly 50 cities across the country, CEOs for Cities empowers civic leadership with facts; keeps the facts in front of urban influencers and the media; and works with local leaders to translate research into action. CEOs for Cities works with its network partners to develop great cities that excel in the areas most critical to urban success: talent, connections, innovation and distinctiveness.

SUNY leadership and campus presidents are among CEOs for Cities network partners in Albany, Binghamton, New York, Rochester, Stony Brook, and Syracuse.

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CEOs for Cities is a national network of urban leaders dedicated to building and sustaining the next generation of great American cities. Learn more at

 The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive university system in the United States, educating more than 467,000 students in more than 7,500 degree and certificate programs on 64 campuses with nearly 3 million alumni around the globe. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunity, visit


CEOs for Cities Calls for Collaboration

From zombie races to local venture capital competitions to the “mother-in-law test,” CEOs for Cities’ 2011 Fall Meeting gave participants the chance to share their best ideas for community engagement, economic development, and long-term growth and sustainability with fellow urban leaders around the country.

The second and final day of the conference focused on education and talent.  Audience members, including foundation executives, venture capitalists, university leaders, mayors, and academics discussed what could be done together to help cities achieve their Talent Dividend—the economic returns that are correlated to per capita ratio of college graduates.

Chris Kennedy, former president of Merchandise Mart Properties and member of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees, talked about being born into a “city-centric” family.  “Lee Fisher and CEOs for Cities know that every city is a communal enterprise,” he told the crowd. 

Kennedy emphasized the need for collaboration among political, business, and academic leadership.  “Perhaps the only perpetual job creation activity that a government can engage in is funding academic research institutions in higher education,” he said.  “Our research institutions have an important role not just creating jobs, but in sparking entire industries.”

This theme was further developed by design guru Bruce Mau, one of the founders of Massive Change Network, who noted that a majority of recently-polled CEOs reported that the top challenge that they faced was creativity. 

“Practically everything you can think of will be done differently in the future,” Mau told the audience, adding that this creates a tremendous opportunity for higher education institutions.  “When you attach purpose to education, it’s an accelerator,” he said.  “I would think about organizing entire universities around great challenges that we face.”

In closing remarks, Harvard Professor and Triumph of the City author Ed Glaeser examined the characteristics of successful American cities that have enabled them to continue to thrive despite significant transitions.

“Knowledge is more important than space,” he told the audience, citing the trading floors of Wall Street as an example.  “We get smart by being around smart people, and people in cities take advantage of this.  This is what cities do.”

Glaeser warned against housing, transportation, and community development policies that contribute to suburban sprawl and detract from vibrant urban centers.   “The economist’s perspective places emphasis in giving people options,” he said.  “Cities do not need handouts or favors, but they do need a level playing field.”

The conference closed with a series of city tours that highlighted areas of urban innovation in Chicago, from urban agriculture to the economic revitalization of a historic Chicago neighborhood.

CEOs for Cities’ new president and CEO Lee Fisher called the fall meeting a tremendous success.  “We had an extraordinary line-up of creative leaders here,” he said.  “I think that we all learned from each other, and I hope that attendees will bring these ideas back to their own cities.”

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CEOs for Cities is a national network of urban leaders dedicated to building and sustaining the next generation of great American cities. Learn more at


CEOs for Cities Fall Meeting Kicks Off in Chicago

HUD Secretary Donovan, former HUD Secretary Cisneros address innovation and development in America’s cities on first day of two-day conference

[October 11, 2011Chicago, IL – CEOs for Cities launched its 2011 Fall Meeting today with an impressive roster of speakers from around the country addressing the need for smart and innovative approaches to revitalizing America’s metro centers.  The first day of the two-day conference sparked lively conversations among the nation’s top urban leaders. 

U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Shaun Donovan and former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros, who currently serves as executive chairman of CityView, delivered the keynote addresses.

In his remarks, Secretary Donovan addressed the steps the federal government is taking to partner with local communities, cities and metro regions to “help them become the dynamic, diverse, resilient economies America needs to win the future.”

“Growing cities and regions requires us to capitalize not only on our cities’ leadership, but also on the unique assets of their so-called ‘anchor institutions’—the hospitals, universities, foundations, and businesses,” Secretary Donovan said to a cross-sector audience of urban leaders.  “It is the presence of these institutions that defines the place itself.”

CEOs for Cities’ national meetings gather cabinet secretaries, mayors, executive officers, academics, philanthropists, entrepreneurs and thought leaders to collaborate on how to build vibrant cities.  The 2011 Fall Meeting allows leaders to share the creative tactics—in business, infrastructure, sustainability, education, and arts and culture—that are lifting up cities across the country.

This is CEOs for Cities first national meeting under the leadership of newly-appointed president and CEO Lee Fisher.  “I am delighted to welcome such a truly inspiring crowd to Chicago,” Fisher said.  “I never fail to come away from a CEOs for Cities national meeting energized by the caliber of the participants and the quality of the programs our members are implementing around the country.”

Cisneros reflected on the role of cities as a central part of the American story.  “In America, it has been the machinery of urban life that has provided the stepping stones to a better life.”

Recognizing a series of urban initiatives that are transforming cities from Baltimore to Cleveland to Los Angeles, the former HUD Secretary told the audience, “I believe that we are witnessing the dawning of a new golden era of America’s cities.”

The second day of the conference will feature presentations by Chris Kennedy, immediate past president of Merchandise Mart Properties; Bruce Mau, co-founder of MassiveChangeNetwork; and Harvard economist Ed Glaeser. 

CEOs for Cities is a national network of urban leaders.  Among its signature initiatives are The Talent Dividend Prize, in which metro areas are competing to increase the rate of college completion over the next four years, and Change by Us, an online platform for public engagement that is rolling out in cities across the country.

Members of the media interested in attending the final day of the conference tomorrow should contact Alaina Beverly to request credentials.  For more information about the conference visit

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CEOs for Cities is a national network of urban leaders dedicated to building and sustaining the next generation of great American cities. Learn more at



Talent Dividend Prize Update: College Pays Off

New Report: The College Payoff

Further support of the Talent Dividend from a new report by Anthony Carnevale at Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. The College Payoff finds that post secondary degrees pay handsomely.  In fact, "the difference in earning between those who go to college and those who don't is growing -- meaning that postsecondary education is more important than ever." The report finds that those with bachelor’s degrees, no matter the field, earn vastly more than counterparts with a high school diploma, or some college.

Reminder: Challenge Grant Deadline

If your city applied for the Talent Dividend Prize Challenge Grant program, please note that September 15 is the deadline to submit documentation of matching funds. Your $10,000 grant check, available through the generous support of The Kresge Foundation, will be sent upon receipt of this documentation.

Please contact Bridget Marquis with any questions.

Increasing Adult College Completion with Pam Tate

There are currently 40 million adults in the U.S. who have started college, but not completed a degree.  In fact, in most metropolitan areas at least 20 percent of the adult…


Reminder: Talent Dividend Webinar

Webinar: Increasing Adult College Completion with Pam Tate

Nearly twenty percent of adults in the US have some college, but no degree.  How can your city recapture this talent to achieve the Talent Dividend?

Join us on August 2 from 2:00-3:00pm CT to learn about, a new platform for increasing college completion among adult learners.  Pamela Tate, CEO of The Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) will share this new tool along with a thorough exploration of using prior learning assessments and portfolio development as part of your city’s Talent Dividend strategy.

Register now for this webinar and come with questions for Pam and her team.

If you have problems registering online, please send your full contact details to Bridget Marquis to reserve your spot.