Most people now live in cities and this trend is set to continue and accelerate. Unfortunately, many cities are neither good for their populations nor for the planet. The environment we live in affects how we live our lives and the quality of the lives we lead. However, rather than promoting nature, health, and equity our urban environments often do the reverse. Green space is frequently undervalued and, in many cases, remains a preserve of the wealthy. The design of towns and cities commonly encourages unhealthy behaviours and a lack of social cohesion. And public spaces can be unengaging or even unwelcoming. 

The power to shape urban spaces is too often held in the hands of a few and neglects the wants and needs of many urban residents. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many of these issues into the mainstream and a global conversation is beginning about rethinking the urban contract. 

The Emerging Urban Leaders program pushes that conversation forward and outward. It brings together a diverse, cross-sectoral, and international cohort of practitioners and changemakers who together will implement innovative, practical interventions to tackle the problems facing our urban environments and to help build the quality cities of the future.


The experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic show that physical distance does not need to result in a decrease in social connectedness. More people in more places are more comfortable developing meaningful relationships with those they have never met in person than ever before. This is a great moment for online networks to support change in many different contexts.

One of the most powerful things about effective, purpose-driven networks are the ways in which members can draw energy from them; emotional (through connection), spiritual (through shared purpose), and mental (through stimulation and collaboration) energy levels can all be replenished and renewed though engagement and participation. This is a core part of the reason the network is at the heart of the Emerging Urban Leaders program.



Salzburg Global Seminar is an independent non-profit organization founded in 1947 to challenge current and future leaders to shape a better world. Our multi-year programs bridge divides and expand collaboration to transform systems. 

We have a long history of driving forward new initiatives in the conservation and urban futures spheres. Notably, SCUPAD was founded by Salzburg Global Fellows in 1965 as the result of a program on urban planning. Throughout the following decades Salzburg Global regularly ran programs focussing on the role of nature in the city, environmental protection in urban environments and beyond, and issues of urban development and design. Examples include Urban Problems and Planning in 1970, Divided Cities and Managing Environmental Risk both in 1987, and Protecting the Environment in Urban Areas in 1992. Recent multi-year series such as Parks for the Planet, Climate and the Future of Food, and Building Healthy Communities have continued to create dialogue between diverse stakeholders while ensuring best practice and innovation are shared in an international setting. 

All our programs in the urban futures, well-being and nature conservation spheres are grounded in leadership, vision and values. We build networks for innovation and social change to fulfil our mission of leadership for a better world. Connecting and nurturing human capital through dynamic networks lies at the heart of our theory of change. 

Our commitment to leadership networks is demonstrated by our ongoing work in several successful partnerships in different sectors, all of which can generate insights and relationships relevant to the Emerging Urban Leaders program. For more information about our network-building programs please see: 


Public Sector Strategy Network

Sciana – The Health Leaders Network 

Japan-India Transformative Technology Network

Education Policymakers Network