Transatlantic Dialogue on the Future of Work, Democracy and Well-being


Three organizations – Das Progressive Zentrum, the Alfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft in Germany and the Progressive Policy Institute in the United States – have joined forces to foster metro innovations and democratic renewal in the spirit of transatlantic dialogue. We are launching a three-year effort in three German cities and three U.S. cities, with the aim of sparking a cross-fertilization of ideas for local initiative and problem-solving.


Across the United States and Europe, metropolitan regions have emerged as hubs of public innovation and collaborative problem-solving. A new model for progressive governance is emerging from some of our most dynamic cities, large and small. In The New Localism, Bruce Katz and Jeremy Nowak describe this phenomenon:

“Cities are now dealing with some of the hardest challenges, facing our society: social mobility, competitiveness, climate change, and more. The 20th century was very much about hierarchical systems; specialized, compartmentalized, highly bureaucratic. The 21st century is going to be networked, distributed and led by cities.”

This urban uprising yields instructive insights for local and national policymakers in the United States and Europe. Both confront a rising tide of illiberal populism and would benefit from learning more about what creative cities on both sides of the Atlantic are doing to renew liberal democracy from the ground up.

Therefore, our project will focus on the city as a laboratory and experimental area for three topics: 1. Inclusive innovation and growth (digital transformation and energy transition), 2. Networked governance (cultural integration, citizen participation, and democratic innovations), and 3. Social mobility (equal opportunity and addressing inequality as well as accessibility of public services).

By launching a transatlantic dialogue with young leaders, activists, practitioners, experts, journalists and political actors from both sides of the Atlantic, we want to answer the following questions:

  • How can cities promote economic innovation and entrepreneurship, while working to carve out distinctive niches in the global economy?
  • How are cities pioneering a “networked governance” that supports a broad array of civic actors in getting things done?
  • How are cross-sector metro coalitions finding creative ways to deal with the challenges of inclusive growth, social mobility, and affordable housing?


We believe that cities are rising actors of global policies and therefore can serve as a great vehicle for relaunching transatlantic dialogue. We want to contribute to the German-U.S. rapprochement by complementing intergovernmental diplomatic efforts with citizen diplomacy, emphasizing people-to-people exchanges. We want to engage young Germans and U.S.-Americans in a dialogue on contemporary social, cultural, and economic phenomena present in all post-industrial multicultural societies and through this lens, focus on what we have in common, instead of divisions.

To achieve that goal, a group of young leaders from Germany and the U.S. will be invited as Project Fellows. Assisted by the project partners, these ambitious individuals representing a broad spectrum of practical work on the ground, the economy, culture & the media as well as civil society will generate research papers, blogs, and articles sharing their impressions and expertise brought about by the project. We hope for this content not only to emerge from direct exchanges within the group of Project Fellows but also be inspired by two journeys across the U.S. and Germany, discovering unique stories and initiatives behind innovative cities in both countries. Over the course of these trips, the delegation will explore a range of urban projects and learn from the various background stories of the involved actors. All these encounters will be documented in a movie, accompanying the project.
In addition to a Steering Committee, gathering representatives of all three Project Partners, and ensuring timely and effective implementation of the initiative, the project will organize a Sounding Board of distinguished urban experts and transatlantic analysts from Germany and the U.S., who will serve as an advisory body. Moreover, well-known personalities of the urban studies scene in Germany and the U.S. will be invited to take on the role of Project Patrons

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The project is supported by the Transatlantic Program of the Federal Republic of Germany and funded by the European Recovery Program (ERP) of the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy (BMWi).