On 29 March 2023, the Strong Cities Network hosted a transatlantic dialogue on City-Led Support for Community-Based Prevention Programmes, offering cities the opportunity to learn from promising practices for and challenges with investing in community-based efforts to addressing hate, extremism and polarisation. The event, which was co-hosted by the London Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC), and supported by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), convened more than 40 representatives from local governments and civil society in Europe and North America. This included officials from the cities of Aurora, Houston and New York City in the US; Toronto, Canada; Berlin and Essen in Germany; Birmingham, Liverpool, London, Luton and Portsmouth in the UK; Mechelen, Belgium; Strasbourg, France; and The Hague in The Netherlands.
Participants identified a number of key challenges related to the operationalisation of city-led support for community-based prevention programmes. They commented on the challenges posed by limited budget for local prevention (which, in some cases, is due to the above-mentioned disconnect between national and local perspectives of the threat). This makes the sustainability of city-led support for community-based prevention particularly challenging and can impact the future of supported projects and organisations. Further, it was noted that this creates challenges for investing in the M&E of prevention programmes, as many cities would need to extract budget for evaluation out of their already limited budget for delivering programmes. To this end, there was general consensus on the pressing need for more funding and that this should be multi-year in scope.
Further, participants commented on challenges with sustainability that come with changes in city leadership. For example, if a sitting mayor invests in prevention programming, their successor, particularly if from a different political party, may not necessarily continue these efforts. Some participants suggested that securing community buy-in and empowering them to deliver prevention programmes were critical for sustaining impact beyond a mayor’s time in office.
Participants remarked that forums such as this, where cities are brought together to share practices, are an important step in learning how counterparts in other contexts have addressed these challenges and pursued and sustained a role for their city in prevention. In this context, participants also welcomed the announcement of two Strong Cities guides – one for mayors and the other for local government practitioners – which will provide a series of actionable steps that cities can take to enhance and sustain their role in prevention.