The trends of international economic intensification and political integration, combined with the move towards knowledge specialisation and economic scale, demand a new and unprecedented city focus on internationalisation. Cities wishing to have high levels of productivity, a strong position in global economic value chains, and a high quality of life, must internationalise to succeed.

Over the past two decades, many cities have begun to reassess their relationship with foreign cities, and their position in the new global network of production and consumption. These cities are now adapting their strategic efforts accordingly. International citizens play a key role and openness (the capacity of a city to attract international populations and help them settle and contribute to the city's future success) is key to achieve the changes necessary for successful internationalisation.

OPENCities research has found that city and regional bodies are becoming increasingly active and engaged in the international arena, developing a host of facilities which operate at that level. Alongside the established group of well-known ‘world cities’ such as London, New York, Paris or Tokyo, there are four other broad ‘types’ of city that have sought to internationalise:

  • Large mega-cities, capable of hosting a critical mass of activity (ie Sao Paulo)
  • Small cultural and/or economic hubs which distinctive niche has inherent international implications (ie Zurich or Edinburgh)
  • Ambitious secondary cities seeking to escape a constraining national urban system by looking for international opportunities (ie Manchester or Barcelona)
  • Historical “world cities” looking to re-establish their international position (ie Singapore, Madrid)

Investigate your city internationalisation profile, compare your city with other cities and decide which are your strengths and weaknesses. Then have a look at the case studies and download policy recommendations for successful internationalisation and review your current strategic framework. For further research download Internationalisation of OPENCities.

OPENCities is a BAK project in partnership with cities around the world.