The United State Studies Centre at the University of Sydney has provided a focus on the intersection between urban planning and the environment, leveraging US and Australian resources since 2009. This effort has been supported by Honorary Professor in Urban Planning, Professor Ed Blakely; the DOW Sustainability Program, led by The Hon. Professor Robert Hill AC, Adjunct Professor in Sustainability at the United States Studies Centre; and the NSW Government.

The Future Cities Collaborative is an initiative of the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney. It has the primary role of promoting sustainable urban development by supporting city leaders with leadership and strategic management tools, creating a forum in which mayors can share ideas and information, and assisting in the development of skills and knowledge in building sustainable cities.

The efforts of the Future Cities Collaborative began in 2013, when the United States Studies Centre invited local communities in New South Wales to participate in the Delivering a Sustainable Future City Program, a collaborative program based on the Mayors’ Institute on City Design. Conducted in the United States, the Mayors’ Institute on City Design invites like-minded leaders to work with experts in developing innovative solutions for re-designing precincts so they are great places. In the United States, the Mayors’ Institute has helped transform communities through design by preparing mayors to be the chief urban designers of their cities, and it is towards this aim of capacity-building that the Future Cities Collaborative works.

We quickly realised that the Future Cities Program, our annual urban development program for city leaders, provides a unique method for innovation and progress in sustainable urban development. It was also clear that there was a need for a forum for city leaders to continue the collaboration and peer-to-peer learning surrounding issues of sustainable urban development. The concept of a continuing city network of the Future City Program alumni was developed and the Future Cities Collaborative was created.

The Future Cities Collaborative supports the implementation of strategic urban policy devised during the Future Cities Program, facilitates the continued capacity building of program participants, and creates a mechanism to support the transfer of learning to other elected leaders and senior officers within the city, thereby creating a cultural shift in approaches to and thinking about sustainable development.

The Future Cities Collaborative is working with communities of all sizes across Australia as they change their planning and urban development templates to recognise the need to create more interesting, liveable, resilient, innovative, and sustainable environments in which people can live, work, and play.

The Future Cities Collaborative has coalesced as a force for sound development and growth in the Sydney metropolitan region and our member cities are emerging as strong supporters for innovative approaches to their urban planning and local governance issues. In 2015 alone, the member cities have come together to produce a policy communiqué on housing affordability; participated in an international city exchange on finance mechanisms and contributed to the report Funding Australia’s Future providing policy recommendations based on their learnings; and have continued to champion for better outcomes for their communities, based on strategic urban design and international best- practice planning principles, looking at issues from implementing green infrastructure, to value capture for light rail, to design guidelines, placemaking, nighttime economy generation, and smart city initiatives.

The Future Cities Collaborative is led by the founder and chair, Professor Edward Blakely, and hosted and supported by the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney. The Collaborative will act as an advisory body, think-tank, and resource centre for member cities, and help them craft new strategic directions and resource efforts to create, build, and mantain better, more sustainable, productive cities for people to live, work, and play.

Prior to the establishment of the Future Cities Collaborative, the United States Studies Centre hosted the City of the Future: Australian and U.S. Perspectives conference 2010. During this landmark urban-planning conference, the future of cities in the United States and Australia was explored at Brisbane’s Parliament House. The conference was co-hosted by the US Studies Centre and the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland.

Following the successful City of the Future Conference held in 2010, the US Studies Centre joined with the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning at the University of Sydney to host the International Urban Planning and Environment Association’s 10th Symposium (UPE10). The Symposium was held in Sydney, Australia from 24-27 July 2012.