Urban Transformation

Future of cities and local economies at Davos 2024: Key takeaways 

Image: Damien Markutt/Unsplash

Jeff Merritt
Head of Centre for Urban Transformation; Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum
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This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting
  • As talk of AI filled the media, business leaders in private sessions underscored a more nuanced message: we have the technology and expertise needed to change the world today; but are we effectively putting it to use?
  • With cities generating more than 80% of global GDP and hosting the majority of the global population, they will be key to bolstering sustainability, resilience and affordability for growing urban populations.
  • Davos 2024 underscored the critical role of cities in shaping our shared future.

Each year as I return from the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, I am greeted with a predictable flurry of questions, inquiring about key takeaways and insights. The challenge – which I believe is not unique to me and my experience – is that with each passing year, the quantity of takeaways and insights increases almost exponentially.

This is not necessarily a positive thing. Rather, to ensure that these collective insights lead to real action and impact on the ground, discipline and focus are more critical than ever.


How is the World Economic Forum supporting the development of cities and communities globally?

Old tech, new impact

As talk of the power and risk of AI filled the media and billboards on the Promenade in Davos, business leaders in private sessions underscored a more nuanced message: we have the technology and expertise needed to change the world today; but are we effectively putting it to use?

Fewer coalitions, more alliances

Nearly 3,000 leaders from government, business and civil society from more than 125 countries, including 350 heads of state and government, and ministers, participated in this year’s Annual Meeting, spurring new commitments towards collective action. Convenings in Davos also highlighted the increased need to build bridges across siloed efforts and communities.

Think locally, act globally

Amid rising geopolitical tensions, cities and local communities have become a vital proving ground for public-private collaboration and essential means for scaling impact. In parallel, cities across the globe are actively reinventing and redefining themselves to capitalize on new opportunities associated with increased office occupancy, leisure travel, and retail spending.

  • Deloitte, UpLink and the World Economic Forum’s Centre for Urban Transformation announced plans to scale the ”Yes SF” model of place-based innovation challenges, building on efforts underway in San Francisco while also bringing this model to new cities across the globe.
  • Mastercard teamed up with the World Economic Forum to launch a new global competition for cities, bringing together public and private sector leaders to explore how the activation of communities after dark can help address pressing urban challenges and bolster local economies.
  • The Alliance for Urban Innovation announced the opening of applications for its first cohort of pioneer cities that will be working with World Economic Forum partners and world-leading innovators to advance more sustainable communities while also helping to bolster the resiliency of local economies.

To learn more about these efforts and how you can contribute, visit http://www.weforum.org/cities.

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