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// Dissertation


Question & approach

// As the power of nation states as engines of social progress withers, local levels of organizing play an ever-increasing role in solving the grand challenges of our time, from climate change and public health to labor relations and migration. City administrations worldwide have shown a capacity to act purposively and collaboratively; they set autonomous agendas, propose ambitious strategies to pursue their goals, and implement their plans in alliances with other cities. Yet not all municipalities are ‘in action.’ Why do cities differ so greatly in their capacity to act?


In my dissertation, I advance the argument that this variation is due to the interplay of the local organizational ecosystem – including universities, movements, unions, and businesses – and a city’s embeddedness in a larger institutional and political environment – including an emerging inter-city network. Two longitudinal, comparative studies of the diffusion of sustainability-related administrative practices provide evidence for this claim; they combine quantitative data on 360 global cities and 1,500 U.S. municipalities from 2000 to 2015 with qualitative interviews with city and city association leaders.

A peek at the data

// This map shows the prevalence of sustainability-related practices among 1,500 municipalities in the United States, based on a survey conducted by the International City and County Management Association (ICMA) in 2008. It also includes information on the density of organizational life in each place, as well as the innovativeness of each state (from Boehmke and Skinner 2012), showing a tendency for these properties to covary.

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