A successful city

It had been a long day at the Civic Action GTA Summit of, as Ursula Franklin calls it, “awfulizing.” Transit woes, labour market mismatches, social inequities.

Then the final speaker, Carol Colleta, the Chief Executive Officer of CEOs for Cities, arrived. Coletta is  a city builder a few times over, an advocate for the creative force of cities as described by Edward Glaeser and Richard Florida.

“With cities, there is no permanent success, and there are no permanent failures,” Coletta, in a rousing speech, told the 700 delegates who had been there since early morning.

The success of cities, she explained, is directly related to a city’s:

  • quality of talent
  • quality of place, and
  • quality of opportunity

Toronto, Coletta said, has to be a place where talent sticks, and to make talent stick, a city needs each of these.

Investments in quality of place last a very long time, and so, she reminded the crowd, it is important to get them right.

Opportunities have to be apparent and good, so that people see a future for themselves.

Getting all these things right means tapping into wider knowledge circles. This means finding creative ways to invite those who aren’t in the room to be part of city-building. She pointed to Give A Minute as an example of a new crowd-sourcing initiative already in a few American cities.

So how then to move towards success? Long-terms goals are not achieved without short-term behavioural changes. Colleta outlined three steps:

  1. Have a measurable goal. It drives behaviour;
  2. Have an achievable goal. It gets buy-in; and
  3. Have a short-term goal. That drives short-term behaviour.

All of this, Coletta explained, is propelled by a final element: quality of leadership. She left the crowd with a final question, “Does Toronto have the leadership in place to make this happen?”

CEO for Cities blog post on Carol Colleta’s speech: Relentless Incrementalism Drives Successful Cities

Calgary Mayor Nenshi’s video speech to the Canadian Club, a longer speech than he made at the Civic Action Summit.

3 Responses to “A successful city”

  1. Great summary of Carol’s speech Diane! I found her point re: the importance of short term goals especially rousing (“Im not concerned about 2015 – Im concerned about today”). We all tend to get inspired at events like these but long term goals are soon forgotten. If we have actionable steps we can take immediately it will lead to progress through ‘relentless incrementalism’.

    Hope today is just as exciting!


    Naqaash (@qaash)



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