We host summits that bring together urban leaders, practitioners and academics from around the world to examine timely challenges facing cities and the dynamic leadership strategies that are instrumental to tackling them. Thus far, we have hosted conferences focused on topics from rising sea levels and historic preservation to urban mobility and crisis management.

Read on for recaps of past conferences and click here to view our upcoming events.

Past Conferences

Experiential Learning for Social Impact Summit

Experiential learning continues to grow as a hallmark of a Boston University education, via both new and longstanding programs across our many schools, colleges and centers. This day-long summit brought together BU leaders, faculty, and staff to share models and lessons learned in creating experiential learning opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to help them find their passion and develop professional skills. This event was hosted by the IOC, Faculty of Computing & Data SciencesCollege of Arts & SciencesWheelock College of Education & Human DevelopmentSchool of Public HealthSchool of LawSchool of Social WorkCollege of Communication, and Government & Community Affairs.

Beyond the City Walls: The Politics of Resentment

October 2021

The Initiative on Cities hosted this conference on the political tensions between cities and the more rural parts of their regions that are often “left behind” communities. The wave of populist politics that has swept economically advanced democracies in the last 10 years has many aspects; one central theme has been antipathy to metropolitan cities and their more liberal values. Beliefs that leading metropolitan centers take more than their fair share of resources—including tax revenue—and dominate culturally have been critical elements in fueling populist movements. Understanding and finding a way to alleviate these tensions is important for the future of cities.

Meeting the Challenge: Global Innovations in Urban Housing

April 2019

Meeting the Challenge: Global Innovations in Urban Housing was an international conference to address America’s housing affordability crisis. Conference participants featured the High-Cost Cities Housing Forum (HCHF), a peer-to-peer group comprised of local housing commissioners from nine of the most expensive cities in the United States. The commissioners were joined by leading international experts representing eleven countries for a two-day program that featured a mix of panel presentations, keynotes, and local site visits. Conference speakers, including Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, highlighted several housing strategies and challenges on topics ranging from land use planning to social housing. The event was supported by Citi Community Development, The Rockefeller FoundationEnterprise Community Partners, and the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.

Confronting Inequality and Economic Mobility: Data-Driven Lessons from Boston, for Boston

April 2018

The Initiative on Cities partnered with the Boston Area Research Initiative (BARI) to host their annual conference at Boston University. Featuring speakers and attendees from academia, government, and non-profit and private industry, Confronting Inequality and Economic Mobility: Data-Driven Lessons from Boston, for Boston, showcased the myriad projects happening in Boston aimed at enhancing economic equity and reducing inequality.

Changing the Climate: How Public Health, Cities, and the Media Can Advance Climate Solutions

April 2018

The Initiative on Cities collaborated with the School of Public Health to host a conference that brought together thought leaders from public health, cities, and journalism to develop strategies that bring greater attention to—and produce visionary actions that address—the global climate challenge.

Cities & Kids: Enabling Optimal Development for Urban Youth

March 2017

How can America’s cities best enable the optimal development of their most vulnerable residents – children? Cities & Kids: Enabling Optimal Development for Urban Youth, hosted by the Boston University Initiative on Cities and the Boston University School of Public Health, brought together government officials, public health professionals, youth and family advocates, and youth to learn and share ideas for how cities can help children achieve their full development potential.

The Dynamic City: Futures for the Past

April 2016

The Dynamic City: Futures for the Past, the fifth City Leadership Summit, examined urban historic preservation with developers, academics, architects, preservationists, planners and mayors over the course of two days. Participants were particularly interested in the tension between celebrating a city’s historic character and adapting for 21st century economic and social needs. The Dynamic City was co-hosted by the Boston University (BU) Initiative on Cities, the BU American and New England Studies Program, and Historic New England.

Transportation Nudges: Experiments in Improving Urban Mobility

December 2015

Transportation Nudges: Experiments in Improving Urban Mobility, the fourth City Leadership Summit hosted by the Initiative on Cities at Boston University, delved into these topics and more, bringing together transportation demand managers, urban planners, technologists, computer scientists, government officials, behavioral economists and community and business leaders to examine innovative ways cities can nudge their way to better mobility.

Fiscal Leadership and the Modern City

April 2015

Fiscal Leadership and the Modern City examined the ways in which communities are tackling contemporary financial constraints with 21st century financial tools. What are the greatest fiscal threats facing cities, and where are the opportunities? How can they use resources more efficiently? And what methods are they using to identify new revenue streams, balance budgets and finance growth? Can cities be expected to finance themselves?

Sea Level Rise and the Future of Coastal Cities

November 2014

Sea Level Rise and the Future of Coastal Cities gathered mayors, scientists, city officials, urban planners and developers to discuss the known and emerging threats facing coastal cities. The meeting, held on November 13th and 14th, examined what is known, what cities are already doing to increase their resilience and reduce risks to citizens, and explored design principles that could be employed to create more resilient cities. The day closed with a discussion of how partnerships between businesses, cities, and academia can yield practical innovations designed to protect and enhance urban communities.

Leading Cities Through Crisis: Lessons From the Boston Marathon

March 2014

The first City Leadership Summit hosted by the Initiative. Leading Cities Through Crisis: Lessons from the Boston Marathon, examined city resiliency and recovery in the wake of mass trauma. Leaders from the security, medical, and media industries, as well as business and government officials discussed the planning and preparedness efforts that preceded the Boston Marathon attacks of April 15, 2013 and the mechanisms Boston deployed to get back to business and heal as a community.

See our Events Calendar for more information on events hosted by the Initiative on Cities.