The Joslyn Institute for Sustainable Communities was selected by UN–HABITAT for an extraordinary opportunity: Our Urban Thinkers Campus was held November 16–17 in Omaha as part of the World Urban Campaign initiative The City We Need. Our conference report is intended to contribute to Habitat III's New Urban Agenda next year in Quito, Ecuador. The JISC proposal is one of 28 selected worldwide, and one of only two selected from the United States.

Our proposal, The City We Need: The Role and Opportunities in Urban Sustainability for Small and Mid-Size Cities, centers on the understanding that more than 70 percent of the world’s population lives outside urban areas of more than 500,000 residents. While ample attention has been paid to the expected enormous growth of the world’s mega cities and global urbanization, comparatively scant attention has been focused on the enormously relevant small- to medium-sized urban centers during this period of transformative urbanization, as well as on the rural areas that are significant sources for this growth.

These non-urban areas are wellsprings from which we derive myriad resources. From Alaska’s vulnerable commercial and subsistence fishing, to loss of farmland in Nebraska, underutilized farmland in Colombia, and loss of both farming and fishing habitats to pollution in China’s Pearl River delta, it has become abundantly apparent that urbanization is inextricably linked to the health of rural communities and their natural resources.

With local governments leading the vanguard of climate change policy, small- to medium-sized (up to 3 million in population) cities are uniquely positioned to explore, promote and exemplify policies supporting sustainable urban-rural interconnections, such as regional food systems and integrated planning, while mitigating the effects of a changing climate.

JISC’s focus was on the role and opportunities for sustainable planning and policy for small and mid-size cities—from urban centers of fewer than 100,000 people up to 3,000,000, and focus on the rural-urban synergy and necessity of sound natural resource conservation management in a time of unprecedented growth. It was the only Urban Thinkers Campus to focus on small to mid-sized cities.