CEOs for Cities: An Organization that Wants to Help You Solve Your City's Problems

CEOs for Cities: An Organization that Wants to Help You Solve Your City's Problems


Want to Change your City?  Start with Great Leaders

Today, a city’s future relies upon engaged organizational leaders from across sectors with a shared agenda and a coherent voice. With more than 250 partners from over 40 cities, CEOs for Cities is a civic innovation lab and network of urban leaders and change agents from diverse sectors, including business, higher education, economic development, cultural and creative sectors, foundations and government- dedicated to building, advancing, and sustaining the next generation of great American cities

Our customers are Civic CEOs. Rather than be self-limited by our name, CEOs for Cities’ inclusive definition of CEO means not only Chief Executive Officers but also Chief Entrepreneurial Officers, Chief Education Officers, Chief Economic Officers, Chief Experience Officers, and Chief Exploration Officers. In other words, our customers are urban leaders, and we honor leadership where it happens, regardless of rank or sector. 

Want Great Leaders? Start with Connecting Them to Each Other and to Great Ideas in a Great Network

Our theory of change is that at a time when more than half of the world lives in urban areas, strong, successful American cities are more essential than ever to a strong America. And at a time when our federal and state governments too often are dysfunctional, cities are the best scale at which to organize to tackle critical issues. Cities are big enough to make a difference but small enough to make things happen quickly and effectively.

Cities must be connected and engaged - the connective tissue that links and leverages the human, social, and physical capital of a city is the key to its success. Cities must always be thinking ahead and learning from the best ideas and practices from all sectors, leaders at all levels, and cities, regions, states, and countries throughout the world.  The world is coming at us a lightning speed, so this will require constant learning, change, and adaptation.

Our value proposition is that we are a platform that serves as a connected, cross-sector, cross-generational, collaborative infrastructure for making cities better and more successful places to live and work - places where you can build your business and love your life. We area a cross-sector, cross-generational learning network that facilitates online and face to face interaction through national, regional, and city convenings; research; and the collection and communication of smart ideas and practices for making cities successful. Our learning network is a delivery mechanism for cutting edge ideas, smart practices, and lessons learned.

Our Mission and Purpose


Our mission is to be a strong, deep, and broad global, cross-sector, cross-generational, inter-connected network that serves as a cutting edge online and face to face platform and collaborative infrastructure for making American cities more vibrant, sustainable, and economically competitive and successful, with a focus on investing in the distinctive assets of cities.

Our Vision

To be the premier online and face to face cross-sector, cross-generational learning network in the world for creating and sharing smart ideas to make American cities more successful.

Guiding Principles/Values

  • Cutting-Edge – We identify first-look trends and opportunities that represent the best opportunities for cities and their residents to succeed.
  • Asset- Based -We take an asset-based approach to cities, because we believe that cities are the solution to a stronger America.
  • Cross-Sector – We engage urban leaders across all sectors at all levels because we know that none of us is as smart as all of us
  • Cross-Generational- we honor leadership at all levels, including both established and emerging leaders
  • Inter- Connected -We connect cross-sector urban leaders to powerful ideas and to each other
  • Multi- Dimensional- We recognize that there is no single recipe for city success and that each city must find its own unique combination of approaches for achieving success
  • Research-Driven- We provide data-driven research with a return on investment approach that can be translated into action
  • Action-Oriented - We mobilize urban activists to execute real change in cities, and we do not insist on elusive perfection to the neglect of the achievable good.

How We Organize our Work

FACING Challenges and Opportunities

We help cities and regions FACE (Frame, Act, Connect, & Engage) their opportunities and challenges:

  • We Frame and measure work in a way that is easy-to-understand, remember, and use
  • (City Vitals- Connections, Innovation, Talent, Your Distinctiveness)
  • We Act by motivating, mobilizing, focusing, and accelerating action on memorable  short-term goals that demonstrate measurable progress (City Dividends and Dividend Prizes)
  • We Connect with the latest, up-to-date, cutting edge information from throughout the world about how to make cities more successful, and with the people creating and implementing those ideas (Our Learning Community/Partnership Network)
  • We Engage by harnessing and connecting cross-sector, cross-generational talent within and between  cities for the purpose of improving their city  (Our City Clusters)

Our Framework

City Vitals is our signature research framework. We benchmark city/regional performance in the four areas most vital to CITY success: Connections, Innovation, Talent, andYour distinctiveness.  We believe that given the complex, interconnected problems that cities and regions face, it is critical to first research, frame, and organize work that puts a focusing lens on the city and region, and helps to see and understand the critical levers for city and regional success. We believe that framing is critically important, because, as Wayne Dyer has noted, “if you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

Our Action Agenda

We also believe that once the issues are framed and the levers of success are identified, it’s equally important to motivate, mobilize, focus, and accelerate action that can show demonstrable and measurable progress on the critical success levers. City Dividends is our signature action agenda. We focus our action agenda on City Dividends and Dividend Prize competitions, premised on our research and experience that measurable progress, or “moving the needle,” on targeted work reaps huge economic growth dividends for cities, and accelerates movement on important goals. City Dividends is based on what Harvard Professor Teresa Amabile calls the “progress principle”- the single most important motivator and catalyst of positive action is making progress and showing forward momentum in meaningful work.

How We Connect and Engage

Finally, we believe that it is important not only to frame and act but also to connect and engage. Cities must always be thinking ahead and learning from the best ideas and practices from all sectors, leaders at all levels, and cities, regions, states, and countries throughout the nation and the world.  The world is coming at us at lightning speed, so this will require constant learning, change, and adaptation. As a 2012 McKinsey Global Institute report noted, “Be connected. Rather than seeing each other city as competition, building strong connections to other cities can become a collective strength…There are potentially large benefits from being able to tap into the experience of other cities.” The cities that will win in the new networked economy are those that make their boundaries porous to new ideas and talent and demonstrate the humility to understand that there is always something more to learn from someone else, somewhere else.

Learn more about CEOs for Cities

GOOD Ideas Toolkit

About Us

  • charter brand transp blue mediumCharter for Compassion provides an umbrella for people to engage in collaborative partnerships worldwide. Our mission is to bring to life the principles articulated in the Charter for Compassion through concrete, practical action in a myriad of sectors.


  • Charter for Compassion
  • PO Box 10787
  • Bainbridge Island, WA 98110
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