The promise and challenge of learning between cities: UrbanA’s community of practice engages with governance scenarios


Pic: By Unsplash

There are many inspiring initiatives for sustainability and justice in cities across Europe, but how can these experiences be effectively shared with others? Translocal learning — the process of sharing locally-rooted knowledge with people in other places — is no easy feat.

At last week’s webinar, on Feb 23rd, over 40 people gathered virtually to learn about learning and to provide feedback on UrbanA’s new governance scenarios as tools that aim to facilitate knowledge-sharing between cities.

As a knowledge broker that synthesizes and shares experiences of sustainability and justice from many different cities, the topic of translocal learning is highly relevant to the UrbanA project. The ways in which knowledge travels between places, and the impacts on recipient communities, are key considerations in the governance of just and sustainable cities.

Governance is the theme of UrbanA’s upcoming Arena on March 18/19 and this webinar provided a valuable opportunity to dig into the topic of translocal learning in greater depth and to engage our Community of Practice in the co-creation of governance scenarios.

Watch the video of Sophia Silverton’s presentation

The webinar kicked off with a presentation by Sophia Silverton from the University of Freiburg who discussed the value and the challenges associated with translocal learning. In brief, learning between cities is typically seen as a way to tackle commonly-held problems of sustainability and justice based on lessons from local initiatives. As local knowledge is shared, it is expected to enable positive change in other places and consequently to drive more widespread, systemic change. However, several studies have found that lessons from such local initiatives are rarely implemented outside their original setting. They suggest that what has been learned is largely limited to the initial real-life context. Furthermore, if not done carefully, translocal learning may even be a source of injustice, if the needs, desires, and knowledge held by local residents are not considered while their municipality implements a pre-developed sustainability ‘solution’ from another city.

While these challenges are not easy to address, UrbanA’s governance scenarios have been developed to present inspirational initiatives in a way that is less context-bound. These scenarios are brief narratives woven together from key elements of real initiatives. They are written in an abstract style so that readers can better imagine how the case could come to life in their city.

Curious? Here are all ten scenarios for you to browse:

Community of Practice key insights

In small groups, participants were asked for their feedback on the scenarios as a tool for sharing knowledge between cities. Here are some key points that will help develop the scenarios in the future:

  • The scenarios are generally a good idea, their originality and brevity was appreciated.
  • They are well-linked back to the original example and offer themes to discuss and be inspired by.
  • Inclusion of challenges and critical points in the cases were appreciated, this could be included more often.
  • The scenarios should either be more abstract and inspirational, or provide more tangible, specific information (e.g. on governance configurations), but avoid the zone in-between.
  • It remains challenging to generalise the initiative to other contexts.
  • More friendly language and visuals would be important.

If you have any further thoughts on governance scenarios as a written tool for knowledge-sharing, we want to hear from you! Send an email to

Want to get in touch with the UrbanA Community?

Check out our upcoming events and join our dedicated chat on the LinkedIn group or simply send an email to You can also subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and Youtube. There’s also our podcast series. If you want to know more generally what the UrbanA Community of Practice is all about, read our CoP blog.



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