OPENCities research has been supported by data collection and analysis, international knowledge sharing and collation of case studies, to come up with a methodology to measure openness. Below is a simplified chart that illustrates this methodology of rigorous testing and assessment each city was subjected to in order to define and measure its openness.

OPENCities process of defining and measuring openness

OPENCities process of defining and measuring openness

"Openness is the capacity of a city to attract international populations and to enable them to contribute to the future success of the city".

Indicators of Openness

Previous to the elaboration of the OPENCities Monitor, BAK Basel conducted a one-year feasibility study, in close collaboration with a group of European Cities that have been working to develop local action plans to become more open as part of the OPENCities Project, co-funded by URBACT and led by Belfast. The feasibility study ascertained the suitability and availability of the proposed indicators, and verified their international comparability.

The cities included in the feasibility study consisted of the following European cities: Belfast, Bilbao, Bucharest, Cardiff, Dublin, Dusseldorf, Gdansk, Madrid, Nitra, Poznan, Sofia and Vienna. As well as these the following UK cities were also involved: Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Edinburgh. A further sample of international cities was included in the feasibility study but data from these cities was examined remotely: London, New York, Sao Paulo, Singapore, and Toronto.

Collecting and Preparing the Data

BAKBASEL examined a large number of official sources (international, national, regional or city statistics) and surveyed and collected information from a wide range of other sources (embassies, private and public organisations etc.). Three categories of data emerged from the research undertaken:

  • Internationally comparable data from official sources (Eurostat / Urban Audit, European Social Survey (ESS) and OECD).
  • Data collected by BAKBASEL research projects and from regional statistics. A data gathering and validation process was initiated in collaboration with the European cities with the aim of both checking the validity of the data which had been researched and filling data gaps. By June 2009 eleven cities had sent in the data they had collected. BAKBASEL checked each city's input and validated these inputs with respect to their comparability.
  • Missing data.

Most data used to construct the indicators of the groups of international population are available from official sources (such as Urban Audit or the European Labour Force Survey). Some cities, however, were not included in these official statistics. These cities were asked to close the existing data gaps.

OPENCities Monitor therefore looks to cover a multidimensional concept of openness using a mixed system. Its index family, complete with sub-indices, allows the sample to be divided into comparable sub-groups. Benchmarking will analyse the strengths and weaknesses of the individual cities, through individual peer review, and careful monitoring. Values above 100, for example, signal that the city is more open than its peer groups' average.

A core element of benchmarking is the selection of cities to be compared. It makes no sense to compare a city in question with all other cities. It is more useful to restrict the comparisons to a specific "league" of regions, for example, ones that are of similar size, have a similar degree of internationalisation or are specialised in the same business sectors (such as knowledge centres, visitor destinations) and spatial economic functions.

City benchmarking and continuous comparison facilitates the development and ongoing review of a city's visions and actions to become more open. Over time, the benchmark results can help define the progress that a city should make in order to call itself an "open city" as a kitemark. This tool can also have an important educational implication. Progress in developing actions plans, strategies or investment decisions of cities can be judged and benchmark reports can highlight problem areas or underline particular successes. The clear commitment of the involved cities can be set as a kitemark.

Finally, decision making as to why we have selected 53 indicators (out of over 150 being researched) is based on the following overarching concerns:

  • Ensure simplicity and affordability
  • Ensure swift data collection for a larger number of cities than those involved in the project in order to provide a good basis for recruitment and initial comparison.
  • Ensure perception data from within the participating cities can be factored and weighted easily, as several dimensions of open-ness can only be measured with perception data.

Download Feasibility Report.

Download Technical Details.

The OPENCities Monitor is conducted by BAKBASEL. BAK Basel Economics AG (BAKBASEL) is an independent Swiss research institute.