The Oxford Programme for the

Future of Cities

The Oxford Martin Programme for the Future of Cities was established in 2009 and the grant from the School ended in 2015. Although the programme no longer receives funding from the Oxford Martin School the Lead Researcher, Professor Michael Keith, is involved with other Oxford Martin School programmes.

the project

The Oxford Programme for the Future of Cities aims towards rethinking the city as a flexible and dynamic space that better responds to evolving circumstances.

Cities all over the world face complex and rapidly evolving challenges, such as climate change, global migration flows, transnational governance demands, financial volatility, and expanding social inequalities.

Existing political, socio-economic and technical lock-in and path dependencies involve high switching costs that reduce innovation in decision-making. Addressing these challenges requires ingenuity and versatility, whether in policymaking, investment decisions or everyday livelihoods. Yet, mainstream understandings of cities and how to transform them often derive from rigid concepts, models and practices about the urban environment.

Our focus on the ‘flexible city’ presents scholars, policymakers, investors and the public at large with an interdisciplinary perspective and multi-faceted approach to question contemporary concepts, methodologies and policies towards urban change.

Future of Cities concentrates on four key themes – city-to-city learning, emergent governance, everyday urban life, and infrastructure and technology. Current projects include:

  • The New Climate Leaders: looks at whether global city mayors provide a strategic leadership for global governance, researching how how can major cities influence international relations.
  • Electric Urbanism: the Governance of Electricity in Urban Africa: examines innovative energy practices adopted in rapidly urbanizing areas of Sub-Saharan Africa, looking at the prepaid electricity system in Maputo, Mozambique.
  • Urban Informality and Property Rights in Istanbul: explores urban policy implementations on the housing market in Istanbul.
  • Global Cities in Theory and Practice: Focusing on the evolution of global city research and on the pathways to global city formation, this project seeks to unpack and analyze the evolution and governance of contemporary global cities.