European Cities Programme

Meeting the urban challenges of the 2020s

A research, engagement and capacity building programme on the future of European cities supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies

Rising inequality, climate breakdown, political polarisation, migration pressures, tech disruption... the issues European cities are facing can easily feel overwhelming.  

The European Cities Programme is a new initiative at LSE Cities to support Europe’s urban centres as they navigate the complex challenges ahead. Over our first two years, we've brought together city leaders, policy makers and civil society movements from across the Continent to plan pathways towards more just, sustainable and democratic futures.

Our initiative provides European city governments with three foundational resources:

  • European Cities Knowledge Hub: a live database on European city government and its priorities and challenges. The Knowledge Hub collects in-depth information on a representative selection of 162 European cities across 37 European countries. Its more than 50 indicators chart the changing profiles of city leaders and track levels of political ambition and administrative capacity across urban Europe

  • Deep-dive research into urgent questions faced by European city governments. Our first phase of research focused on emerging trends of wellbeing, care and post-growth economics in European cities. Going forward, we turn our attention to the capacities city governments need to face up to complex, interlocking crises and to realise their ambitions for a just transition

  • Practical support for Europe's city leaders: To face the challenges of the 2020s, city governments must work in new ways, collaborating across traditional boundaries, deepening relations with citizens and forging new political alliances. Our programme explores how universities and their partners can support city leaders to deepen their networks, resources and organisational capacity on the ground.

In June 2023, we published Old Cities, New Ambitions: The Future of Urban Europe, which represents the culmination of our first phase of work. Our findings are brought into dialogue with essays from urbanists and city leaders in Europe and beyond. We invite city leaders, researchers, policy makers and citizens to connect with us through our public events, roundtables, policy briefs, blogs and academic articles.  


Project members

Ben Rogers 200x200-a

Ben Rogers is the Programme Director for the European Cities Programme and a Distinguished Policy Fellow at LSE Cities. He was founding Director of Centre for London from 2011 to 2021 and is also Professor of Practice, London, at the University of London. He has written several acclaimed books on philosophy and history and has written widely on cities, citizenship, and urban policy.


Catarina Heeckt-200x200

Catarina Heeckt is the Programme Lead for the European Cities Programme and a Policy Fellow at LSE Cities. She is responsible for managing the day-to-day running of the programme and oversees policy-relevant research, drawing on more than a decade of work to promote transitions towards more resilient and inclusive urban development.


Nuno Ferreira da Cruz

Nuno Ferreira da Cruz is the Research Lead for the European Cities Programme and Assistant Professorial Research Fellow at LSE Cities. He is responsible for overseeing research outputs and ensuring that they build on the latest thinking and cutting-edge academic and policy research related to urban governance.


Francesco Ripa 200x200

Francesco Ripa is the Policy and Engagement Manager for the programme. Francesco monitors relevant developments in European cities, liaises with external partners and contributes to policy-relevant research activities. 



Lucie Charles 200x200

Lucie Charles is a senior researcher for the European Cities Programme. She supports policy relevant research across all aspects of the project, with a particular focus on good growth in cities. 



Imogen Hamilton Jones 200x200

Imogen Hamilton Jones is the Programme Manager of the European Cities Programme. She delivers policy-relevant research across all aspects of the project, informed by her professional background in London policy and urban anthropology. She also manages relations with external partners and monitors developments in European urban politics and policy.



Project Background

A new sense of power and purpose

In recent years, Europe’s urban centres have gained a new sense of power and purpose – a development aided by the transition to an urbanised, post-industrial economy, a growing expert policy consensus in favour of cities, and, within the European Union, supranational funding, and policy support. 

Though the picture varies across the continent, on the whole Europe’s cities have gained new agency, become better networked and developed an increasingly confident sense of shared identity. Many cities have seen sustained investment in public transport, walking and cycling, public spaces, green infrastructure, cultural and visitor amenities, higher education and, at least in some cases, affordable housing and sustainable urban extensions.

It’s become common to hear European city leaders and commentator draw a contrast between the civic, green, cosmopolitan and forward-thinking outlook of their voters and the conservatism of national politics.

Challenges, ambitions and expectations

But there is another side to the story. Even as European cities appear to have gained in influence and confidence, the challenges they face seem to mount. Many city governments have set ambitious decarbonisation targets, with an increasing number promising to be carbon-neutral by 2030

But alongside the radical actions that they will need to take to get  on a sustainable footing and adapt to climate change, residents – and national governments – are looking to them to tackle stubborn and often growing inequalities, increase the supply of affordable housing, accommodate and integrate migrant communities, respond to the needs of an aging population, create healthier more resilient food systems, manage disruptive technologies, boost skills and economic opportunity – the list could go on.  

And all this against a background of limited and often diminishing city budgets, political polarisation and heightened political mobilisation enabled by social media, and the prospect of further health, climate, and other emergencies for which they are on the frontlines.


Publications and commentary

  • Publication
    Old Cities New Ambitions: the future of urban Europe
    05 July 2023

    This publication discuss the needs, capacity challenges, and priorities faced by cities leaders; the development of post-growth agendas in many European cities and the challenges and opportunities these represent; developments in housing, transport, and climate policy; and the (slowly) changing demographic profile of European Mayors.

  • Article
    Cities in the eye of the storm
    Eurocities Pulse Mayors Survey 2023 (page 30)
    June 2023
    Ben Rogers discusses the context in which Europe's city leaders operate.
  • Journal Article
    'Prosperity Beyond Growth: An Emerging Agenda for European Cities'
    Journal of City Climate Policy and EconomyUniversity of Toronto Press.
    08 May 2023
    Ben Rogers, Nuno F. da Cruz, Francesco Ripa and Imogen Hamilton-Jones investigate the dissemination of post-growth ideas and policies across European cities.
  • Blog

    Europe is increasingly more diverse – when will city leadership follow suit?
    12 January 2023
    Francesco Ripa explores the findings of a new survey of 166 European mayors which reveals a striking lack of diversity in terms of gender, age, and ethnic background.

  • Commentary  
    The (Slowly) Changing Face of Europe's Mayors (Bloomberg CityLab)
    19 December 2022

    Despite some high-profile exceptions, most mayors across European cities do not reflect the increasing diversity of urban populations, a new survey finds.

  • Blog
    Hey Big Spenders: pandemic recovery funding in Europe and the US 
    26 July 2022
    Catarina Heeckt argues that the EU may have missed a golden opportunity to empower cities post pandemic, and that there is a lot to learn from the bolder approach taken by in the United States.


Project team
Ben Rogers; Nuno F da Cruz; Catarina Heeckt; Francesco Ripa; Lucie Charles; Imogen Hamilton-Jones; Louise Ellaway

Project Funders
Bloomberg Philanthropies

Research Strand
Urban Governance

July 2021 – December 2023 (1st phase)