Director, Nowak Metro Finance Lab at Drexel University
“If you went back to the mid-20th century, when the federal government was at its apex,” says urbanist Bruce Katz, “the theory of problem-solving was that it would be top-down, driven by the federal government and driven by experts — specialized agencies with specialized expertise and experience.”
Katz believes that approach must now change.
In The New Localism: How Cities Can Thrive in the Age of Populism, he and the late Jeremy Nowak focus on the rise of cities and urban networks as the world’s changemakers in the 21st century.
Through their theory of New Localism, Katz and Nowak argue that addressing the social, economic, and environmental challenges of this century will require a bottom-up approach. The two urban experts call for a shift of power downward, from federal and state governments, to cities and metropolitan communities.
Cities are more nimble than federal and state governments, held closely accountable by their constituents, and better situated to collaborate with public, private, and civic actors, to generate quicker, more impactful solutions. The successes that cities accumulate individually can be replicated across global networks of communities and governments. Consider, for example, the collaborative work being led by the C40 network of cities, in a committed effort to tackle climate change.
In addition to his writing, Katz is a Distinguished Fellow at the Lindy Institute for Urban Innovation, and the Director of the Nowak Metro Finance Lab at Drexel University. The lab was founded in 2018, to help cities develop innovative strategies to leverage public assets and fund infrastructure for public benefit — with a focus on supporting inclusive and equitable growth.
Prior to his work at Drexel University, Katz was the inaugural Centennial Scholar at the Brookings Institution. He served as Chief of Staff to Henry Cisneros, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, from 1993 to 1996. In 2008, he was a senior advisor to Shaun Donovan, the first Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under the Obama Administration.
In this conversation, Katz expands on the ideas of New Localism, discusses why urban areas are centers of innovation, and explains how Philadelphia can strengthen its innovation ecosystem around a commitment to inclusion, equity, and sustainable growth.