Empowering Cities and Citizens

Learning and co-creating in an urbanising world

About the conference

The ‘Empowering Cities & Citizens’ conference gravitates around cities and their dwellers. In a constantly urbanising world, many challenges and opportunities arise at every step. To answer these challenges, we strive to make cities vital, well-managed, liveable, sustainable and fair. We can only achieve that with professionals equipped to handle complex urban challenges. As urban specialists, we constantly aim to learn and achieve synergies through co-creation. We strive for better outcomes to wicked urban problems by fostering collaboration and cross-fertilising ideas. We are curious as to how cities and communities learn and co-create knowledge to meet current demand, and we also look into how that might support the implementation of the SDGs.


The conference took place on 6-7 November 2018 at Maassilo and Erasmus University Campus. The first day featured a full-day programme which included keynote presentations, plenary panel discussions and breakout sessions, whereas the second day ended at noon. Besides keynote speeches from members of the academia and local governments, we organised two-panel talks on: ’Solving Wicked Urban Problems’ (e.g. housing, social inclusion, mobility, migration etc.) and ‘Sustainable Development Goals implementation. You could also choose from various breakout sessions, which run on three threads: PEOPLE, PLACES and KNOW-HOW.


‘Empowering Cities & Citizens’ is a celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies (IHS). After six decades of empowering urban specialists and making cities work, we wanted to connect the dots between our achievements and future ambitions, which are well-anchored in the needs of the urban world. This event was part of the 105th anniversary of Erasmus University Rotterdam and marked the first year of activity for the "Vital Cities and Citizens" (VCC) Erasmus initiative. The conference was organised in collaboration with Robbert Nesselaar, Founder and Managing Director of Citymar Consultancy, with the support of Erasmus Trustfondsthanks to the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations.

Our partners

Sharing our dedication to empowering cities and contributing to citizens’ wellbeing are our partners: EUR and the Erasmus Initiative “Vital cities and citizens”, as well as Robbert Nesselaar, Founder and Managing Director of Citymar Consultancy. IHS has existed as a self-standing institution since 1958. However, in 2002, our strong commitment to academia, teaching and researching brought us closer to the Erasmus University Rotterdam. We became a part of EUR more than ten years ago and continue our solid collaboration, striving to deliver top-level education and research opportunities to our students. 

  • Vital Cities and Citizens is an initiative of the Erasmus University Rotterdam. Through this initiative, the university wants to help improve the quality of life in cities, which is a goal IHS also contributes to. In this Erasmus Initiative, researchers from different disciplines work closely together to identify the conditions for equal opportunities in life, safe living environments and harmonious co-existence for an increasingly diverse population.
  • Citymar Consultancy specialises in city marketing, providing advisory services to cities, regions and countries on both strategic and more practical topics. This is done in a pragmatic, interactive way, using clear language. The founder of Citymar Consultancy is Robbert Nesselaar, who has more than 15 years of experience in city marketing. He has worked on the marketing and branding of the city of Rotterdam in the Netherlands and was involved in the strategic marketing development of various cities.
  • The Erasmus Trust Fund has been working since 1913 for the growth and prosperity of Erasmus University Rotterdam. It does this by offering financial support to projects and activities that contribute to better education and research or that support student and staff in their professional development. 
  • The Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations (BZK) is one of the eleven ministries of the Dutch central government that safeguards the core values of democracy. They are effective public administration and public authorities that the public can trust and help people live in affordable, safe, energy-efficient homes in pleasant neighbourhoods where everyone counts and takes part.


In a true urban spirit, the "Empowering Cities and Citizens" conference took place in the Maassilo, a 100-year-old reconverted grain silo in Rotterdam South. The 7th of November programme happened at IHS, in the Erasmus University Woudestein Campus, Mandeville (T) building, 14th floor.

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