About Us

The Global Cultural Districts Network (GCDN) is committed to improving the quality of urban life through the contribution of the arts, culture, and the creative industries.

Initiated in 2013 by AEA Consulting, GCDN brings together policymakers, planners, and executives from widely diverse international contexts, all working at the intersection of culture and sustainable urban development through convenings, research and collaboration.

By fostering knowledge-sharing among those responsible for planning and managing creative and cultural districts, quarters, precincts, and clusters, GCDN stimulates the promotion of urban development with culture at its core across four fundamental areas: operational realities, the environment, society, and the economy.

Broken down into fourteen themes, they form the intellectual framework of GCDN presented on this page.

GCDN has no hard-edged definition of what is or isn’t a cultural district beyond the presence in a particular geographic area of a significant concentration of cultural activity, organizations and/or infrastructure. Instead, it is that intellectual framework that federates the network. A common agenda that is formed by, with, and for members… and a trusted forum to examine issues that matter.


The GCDN intellectual framework: 4 fundamental areas – 14 themes


Governance and operating models

Synergies, collaboration, and partnerships

Programming strategies

Opportunities and challenges of (digital) technology


The role of culture in mitigating the climate crisis

Adapting to the climate crisis

Sustainable leadership




Responsibilities of anchor institutions

Equity and inclusion

Skills, leadership, and pipeline development

Civic wellbeing and community development



Sustainable development, tourism, and equitable growth

Business models, investment, and financing




Cultural Districts operate in a wide range of geographies and operational realities. However they all need to devise the optimum governance and operating models that respond to their mission and vision. By definition they interact with a broad range of local, regional and international actors and this provides significant opportunities to maximise impact through partnerships and synergies. Program content and formats and their relationship to mission and audiences are a core area of research. Even more so because technological innovation, especially in the digital sphere, constantly modulates expectations with respect to the production, consumption, and communication of the content that Districts produce.

Environmental challenges are impossible to ignore. Cultural Districts play an important role at two distinct levels. Through their own operational practices, their programming, and their public advocacy they can make a difference across a range of environmental topics, from emissions to circularity or urban biodiversity, thus contributing to the mitigation of the climate crisis. At the same time, in the face of existing and forecasted climate change, they need to take measures to adapt their infrastructure and procedures in order to protect assets of all kinds and increase the resilience of their local communities.

The profile of Cultural Districts within their local and regional societies is significant and, over the past years, expectations that they will rise to the multiple crisis and challenges the world faces have grown. Consequently, districts must ensure that they are systemically aware of the perspectives of all their stakeholders, including those whose voices are not often represented, and that they devise ways to understand, measure, and act upon their impacts on stakeholders and their broader communities. Reflecting their significant urban footprint, they have the opportunity to be drivers of civic wellbeing and neighbourhood development. These responsibilities are mirrored within their own hierarchies: ensuring the cultivation of relevant skill sets, fostering a culture of leadership responsibility, and ensuring that access to leadership positions is as open as possible are of of paramount importance.

The contribution of culture to economic growth is widely recognised. Cultural districts are well positioned to inflect this growth in ways that have sustainability at their core, by stimulating innovation, proactively confronting the pressures of tourism or land value, or by ensuring that benefits are equitable and accrue to local communities as well as the broader economy. At the same time, the funding environment in which they operate is becoming more and more challenging, requiring them to navigate complex combinations of investment, financing, and public subsidies whilst developing specific business models that both support and respect their values and missions.

GCDN provides a unique forum for a diverse group of leading professionals to openly and frankly exchange innovative ideas and inspire action across the range of critical issues framed by its intellectual agenda.

GCDN annual meetings have been held in: BarcelonaBrooklyn, Dallas, DubaiLondon, Lugano, Montreal, Providence, and Singapore. The next annual convening will be held in Athens, May 20-23, 2024.