How Does Your City Stack Up?

Most people live in cities, and most probably think their city is the best. A new research project is helping planners figure out just who's on top.

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If your city has been feeling more crowded lately, it’s probably not just your imagination. Today, the majority of our population lives in cities, and this trend is continuing to grow.

All over the world, we are struggling to find information to guide city policies and management in the face of their rapid growth. Most of our statistical data is gathered on a national level, which means that information on a local level is lacking.

Patricia McCarney, Director of the Global Cities Institute and professor at the University of Toronto, is working to change that by creating international standards that will standardize the way that cities report their data.

Data should drive change, it should drive improvements in the cities. It should lead to better living,” says McCarney.

Without standardized reporting, it is impossible to compare apples to apples. Each city might use different names or categories for the same services, or they might calculate their numbers in different ways.

McCarney’s Global Cities Indicators Facility (GCIF) provides the framework for standard reporting, allowing cities to learn from one another through direct comparison.

“What are we doing wrong? How can we learn? How can we improve our city to have better safety, better emergency response?” says McCarney.

“If you are travelling to Amman, Jordan next week, you can actually log on and see what’s the status – what’s the homicide rate, what’s the quality of life around city services. If you are moving to the city, you can look into the level of education quality. So we have student-teacher ratio, we have higher ed degrees. If you are thinking of setting up a company, you can see the level of academic training skills, safety, health.”

These data will enable cities to understand better understand their demographics, identify local needs and gaps, and build improved services for citizens.

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Prof. Patricia McCarney received her Ph.D. in International Development and Planning from M.I.T. in 1987. She has served as Associate Vice President, International Research and Development at the University of Toronto and is currently a Professor of Political Science and Director of the Global Cities Institute at the University of Toronto. She is also the President and CEO of the World Council on City Data (WCCD).

Before joining the University of Toronto, between 1983 and 1994, Prof. McCarney worked as a professional staff member in a number of international agencies, including the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) in Ottawa, the World Bank in Washington, and the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (UN-HABITAT) in Nairobi.

In addition to seven books – Cities and Global Governance: New Sites for International Relations (2011); Peri-Urban Water and Sanitation Services: Policy, Planning and Method (2011); Creating Knowledge, Strengthening Nations: The Role of Higher Education (2005); Governance on the Ground: Innovations and Discontinuities in Cities of the Developing World (2003); Cities and Governance: Asia, Africa and Latin America in Comparative Perspective (1996); The Changing Nature of Local Government in the Developing World (1996), An Urban Problematique: The Challenge of Urbanization for Development Assistance Policy (1992), Patricia McCarney is the author of numerous articles and papers on these subjects. Her most recent contributions are two chapters in Climate Change and Cities: First Assessment Report of the Urban Climate Change Research Network (Cambridge University Press 2011) and titled: “Cities and climate change: The challenges for governance” and “Urban Land and Climate Strategies”. Her two newest books nearing completion (2014) are tentatively titled, Global Cities, Global Prosperity: Measuring Risk and Opportunity; and, Building Resilient Cities: Planning, Management and Governance.