Chicago’s Global Strategy: A model for electively engaging the world

Global cities are hubs of the urbanizing world and increasingly influential players on the world stage. Their banks and markets finance the global economy, and their corporations shape that economy. Their universities both imagine the future and train the next generations who will make it happen. Global communications and global fads radiate from global cities. They have the potential to promote their local interests in the world and act to enhance them. Yet to date, few cities have assembled a cohesive, coordinated plan to mobilize all their stakeholders to pursue their common, globally facing goals.

Chicago should be among the first.

Chicago is the gateway to America’s heartland, and its leaders regularly engage in simultaneous— but disconnected—international engagement e!orts across the four pillars of urban life: civic, commercial, education, and artistic and cultural. While many activities touch the same markets, too often they do so in isolation from one another. There is no coordination nor overarching plan. As a result, activities are transactional—tactical rather than strategic.

The attributes that got Chicago this far are no longer enough to push it forward on its own. What Chicago needs to thrive—indeed, what all global cities need—is an explicit global engagement strategy to promote and advance its interests in this increasingly competitive age of cities. Without one, Chicago risks falling behind other more ambitious, connected, and influential cities.