The paper draws on quantitative evidence and case examples of city learning from both developed and developing countries to explore selected questions raised in the literature on learning and competitiveness.
Anecdotal and quantitative evidence suggests that a large shadow market for knowledge has already formed among cities around the world. Case observations reviewed here suggest that the best learners are deliberate and systematic, finding or creating new knowledge, converting it to use, and storing learning experiences that draw on collective memory.
Acquired knowledge resides in two main forms: one is hard data, stored in documents, computers, or specialized units of government. Another is soft data stored in professional and social networks that link a wide array of actors in the community—not just staff in the city bureaucracy.
The analysis leads to a number of propositions that deserve attention and testing: several kinds of learning systems can be observed, that the process of learning may be as important as the product in contributing to competitiveness, that policies can helpful to facilitate learning, and that a radical departure from customary policy, especially in donor institutions, may be needed to effectively meet requirements of institutional capacity building in cities of the developing world.