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.


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.


  • Public Event
    What is driving the green backlash in European urban politics? | LSE Festival
    15 June 2024

    SpeakersLiam Beiser-McGrath, Assistant Professor in International Social and Public Policy, LSE Department of Social Policy; Jean-Louis Missika, Deputy Mayor of Paris (2014 – 2020); Shirley Rodrigues, Deputy Mayor of London (2016-2024); Ciarán Cuffe Member of the European Parliament (2019-2024); Catarina Heeckt, Programme Lead European Cities Programme, LSE Cities. 

    Further event information
    Listen to the podcast

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

    SpeakersJames Anderson, Head of the Government Innovation program, Bloomberg Philanthropies; Anna Lisa Boni, Deputy Mayor of Bologna; Mohamed Ridouani, Mayor of Leuven; Ben Rogers, Bloomberg Distinguished Fellow in Government Innovationm LSE Cities

    Further event information
    Video of the live event
    Listen to the podcast

  • Public Event

    Growing Apart: cities, nations and the future of Europe
    23 May 2023

    SpeakersAziza Akhmouch, Head of cities, Urban Policies and Sustainable Development Divison, OECD; Neil Lee, Professor of Economic Geography, LSE; Ben Rogers, Bloomberg Distinguished Fellow in Government Innovationm LSE Cities

    Further event information 
    Video of live event 
    Listen to the podcast 

  • Roundtable summary
    Implementing post-growth agendas in European cities
    4 April 2023
    Read the event summary and view a presentation on the ways in which post-growth policies are being put into practice in some of Europe's cities.
  • Roundtable summary 
    Understanding prosperity without growth: an emerging agenda for European cities?
    2 November 2022
    Read the event summary and view a presentation on the evolution of post-growth thinking in Europe and its influence at the level of the city. 

  • Roundtable summary
    Europe's cities in the 2020s: Change, challenges, and governance capacities 
    4 May 2022
    Read the event summary and view a presentation on the recent past, current challenges and possible futures of European cities, as they grapple with climate change, covid recovery, inequalities, migration pressures, polarisation, and other issues.

Publications and commentary


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

Project Funders
Bloomberg Philanthropies

Research Strand
Urban Governance

July 2021 – August 2023 (1st phase)
September 2023 - December 2024 (2nd phase)