Corporate Citizenship and Urban Problem Solving: The Changing Civic Role of Business Leaders in American Cities

July 01, 2004

Funding: The Brookings Institution

Summary: Historically, business leaders have played a major role in the building, rebuilding, and public policy of major American cities. However, recent urban literature has frequently asserted that there has been increasing disengagement of corporate leaders from civic efforts. In this study we identified and documented common patterns in the changes that have occurred in corporate citizenship and executive participation in civic affairs; analyzed factors that explain these changes in the structure, management, and organizational culture of firms; conducted two intensive case studies (Baltimore and Cleveland) that describe the responses of business leaders and their peak civic organizations to changes in membership, public leadership and agendas, and economic and social circumstances; and draw lessons that can be applied by business and political leaders seeking to establish and maintain public-private coalitions that are effective in resolving critical urban problems.