Ongoing projects

Barcelona International Policy Action Plan: Converting Barcelona into a Hub for international policy sector organizations

Project's description and mission:

The International Policy Sector Project will provide Barcelona Global members, and Barcelona’s private sector in general, with the opportunity to contribute ideas and resources in support of the BCN International Policy Sector Action Plan.

The BCN International Policy Sector Action Plan aims to transform Barcelona into a global centre of reference in international public policy. It will do so by creating and marketing a strong series of incentives capable of attracting a critical mass of the world’s leading international public policy organisations, foundations, and think tanks to Barcelona. The incentives will be developed through a partnership of Barcelona’s public, private, and policy sectors.


Global cities like New York and London rank as international leaders not only because they are centres of finance, science and culture, but also because they are renowned centres of innovation on the world’s greatest policy challenges. This is one of the key features of their global brand and prestige and results from their hosting a critical mass of the world’s leading think tanks, research centres, and foundations. Barcelona can have a similar future.

The international policy sector is a particularly rich source of the world’s highly- skilled professionals. Any city hoping to capture global talent must be a leader in this field. International policy is also a mobile and multi-billion dollar industry, comprising hundreds of influential organisations, many of which have Boards of Trustees that include Fortune 500 corporate leaders and Nobel Prize winners.

Barcelona possesses remarkable geographic, financial, and cultural assets which can be leveraged to realise the city’s enormous potential for growth in the international policy sector. By capitalising on the global strength of the Barcelona brand, and by adopting a concrete action plan, there is every reason to believe that the city can become a centre of reference for the international policy sector.  

Proponents Partners or partner and team driver:

The project is led by Mark Freeman, Executive Director of the Institute for Integrated Transitions (IFIT) and a Barcelona Global member.

The steering committee includes Elisabeth de Nadal, Partner, Cuatrecasas and Barcelona Global member; Francesc Badia, Editor/Director, openDemocracy/democraciaAbierta; Joan Manuel Ribera, Managing Partner, JMR Partners, and Barcelona Global member; Javier Albarracín, Director, Socioeconomic Development Department, IEMED; Rafael Vilasanjuan, Director, Policy & Global Development, ISGlobal, and Barcelona Global member; and Annamie Paul, Strategic Adviser, IFIT, and Barcelona Global Collaborator. 


Project description:

Using Barcelona Global as a platform, the project’s steering committee led a one- year process of consultations with Barcelona’s international policy sector and other key stakeholders, including conducting a large-scale survey conducted in the fall of 2014. This process revealed a strongly shared conviction about Barcelona’s potential to become a leading hub of international policy work and culminated in the creation of the BCN International Policy Sector Action Plan. Ratified and endorsed by more than 30 of Barcelona’s most prominent international policy organisations, the plan was presented at a high-profile ceremony in July 2015.

The next step is rapidly to convert this plan into a reality. With this in mind, the Action Plan signals four key premises:

  1. Concrete incentives (e.g., office space and tailored landing services) are necessary in order to induce leading international policy actors to transfer some or all of their global operations to Barcelona.

  2. A well-marketed global “call for applications” is essential in order to incentivise international actors to take the proactive decision to opt for Barcelona. Stipulating a fixed deadline to apply, the call for applications would notionally be worded along these lines:

    The city of Barcelona is pleased to announce the Global Policy Invitation: a limited-time, open application process for international and regional policy organisations, think tanks, research centres, foundations, and multilateral organisations wishing to relocate all or part of their global operations to Barcelona.

    The Invitation will make available – free of charge for (x) years – up to (x) centrally located, high-quality office spaces as part of a new vision for the future of Barcelona.
    The application form can be accessed here (xx) and the application period runs from xx to xx. Details about Barcelona’s overall vision of the sector and about selection guidelines can be found here: xx. Interested organisations can contact xx for further information.

  1. The call for applications should reflect a combined partnership across the public, private and policy sectors.

  2. An independent and technically-specialised secretariat will be necessary to manage the call for applications, the selection procedure (including the creation of a high-profile international selection committee), and related follow-up. 

Expected results:

Rapid mobilisation of the necessary resources in order to establish the Action Plan secretariat and the offerings that will be included in the future global call for applications.

Successful launch of the call for applications, with the result of attracting a critical mass of the world’s leading international public policy actors to Barcelona.

A 'rebranding' of the international image of Barcelona, making it into a bona fide “city of global values” – an image that has proven effective in attracting today’s top global talent to other cities.

Expected benefits

Successful implementation of the Action Plan will bring concrete benefits to the full range of city stakeholders:

Benefits for the citizens of Barcelona and the public sector:

  •   The image of Barcelona will go beyond that of a tourist destination.

  •   The initiative will place the city in the spotlight of the international agenda.

  •   More international talent and high-level visitors will be attracted to the city.

  •   The city will gain an important new source of public revenue.

Benefits for the private sector:

  • The initiative will help fulfill the corporate social responsibility goals of any participating Barcelona-based company or investor (this could take the form of free office space, direct funding, pro bono services, collaborative projects, etc.).
  •   International prestige will accrue to the brands of participating companies.

  •   Participating companies will enjoy increased proximity to leading thinkers on issues of international policy.

Benefits for the current international policy sector in Barcelona:

  •   Opportunities to interact more frequently with the world’s leading organisations in similar sectors of specialisation.

  •   Enhanced possibilities for carrying out institutional collaborations and organising high-level international conferences in Barcelona.

  •   Improved international positioning and visibility. 


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