My internship is with the German Marshall Fund of the United States within their Urban and Regional Policy Program. Despite only being an intern, at the GMF I have the privilege of having a unique and interesting position. GMF is a large, international organization (with offices all across Europe) that focuses on foreign policy issues across North America, Europe, and the Middle East, and is therefore is part of an international network of policymakers, academics, and related NGOS.
In URP, however, I work with a much smaller team under the supervision of Casey Kuklick and the direction of Tamar Shaprio. We maintain a network of policymakers across North American and Europe that work mostly at the municipal level. These individuals range from prominent politicians (such as the mayor of Detroit) to individuals working in local planning boards and economic development corporations. We work in partnership with cities in the belief that knowledge diffusion will help them to address the fluid nature of the social, economic, and environmental challenges they have in common.
A daily question I face is how cities can learn from each other. In other words, how can cities that have implemented successful policies contribute to the international diffusion of knowledge? To answer this question, I must constantly analyze both similarities and differences between different policy environments, and the political, social, or economic challenges of individual cities. As a representative of the organization, I must also navigate the institutional constraints that are a natural consequence of the need to maintain the political relationships the organization has formed and seeks to maintain (this is perhaps the most challenging aspect for me, as I usually tend to prefer unconcealed criticism)
I will not bore you with a list of programs GMF and URP are currently undertaking. Nevertheless, one of the programs I find to be most fascinating is Cities in Transition. CIT seeks to connect deindustrializing cities in Europe and America. Here, the advantage for America is that many European cities (such as Barcelona and Torino) began to lose their manufacturing industries before many American cities. Thus, many of their policy makers have had time to react and implement policy measures. Some of these have been successful. Some of these have been failures and have suffered from a negative response from the local citizenry. Others, on the other hand, are not realistic and must be retailored to the unique conditions of American cities such as Detroit, Youngstown, or Cleveland. It is up to me and URP to navigate this precarious process, or at the very least, connect willing American politicians to their European counterparts to begin the discussion. What I have learned so far, however, is that success has required not only citizen involvement at each stage of the policy process, but also a long term policy commitment that extends beyond the demands of election cycles or the whims of popular opinion.
While there are several daily tasks I am able to perform, my favorite is serving as the primary writer for the organization’s blog. While I was initially hesitant of this role (if only because I believed that the internet has long been oversaturated with blogs), serving as a writer for the public realm under the umbrella of GMF and URP has allowed me to contribute to the national and international discussion in topics such as social and economic development and best practices for city sustainability.
The best part is that my role will probably continue to evolve and expand as my stay with the GMF continues through the fall, and the international network of policymakers that I have here will be absolutely invaluable as I begin my thesis work. I am excited to learn more from everyone here at GMF, and to continue to explore and enjoy everything that Washington, D.C. offers.
All my best,