The Closer Cities project is a non-profit initiative, based on partnerships and cross-border collaboration: with knowledge institutions, NGOs, municipalities, governmental institutions and the private sector.

Founding partners

The Closer Cities project was established by four founding partners: the Erasmus Initiative 'Vital Cities and Citizens’ and 'Dynamics of Inclusive Prosperity' (Erasmus University Rotterdam), the Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies, the Leiden-Delft-Erasmus Centre for BOLD Cities and Nesselaar Urban Consultancy. Alongside the founding partners, Closer Cities is always open for collaboration with other organisations and individuals. Please do not hesitate to contact us, we are happy to explore possible opportunities.

EUR logo

Erasmus University Rotterdam

In today’s rapidly changing world, society expects engagement with universities to tackle complex societal challenges together. Erasmus University Rotterdam is committed to being fully engaged with society, taking responsibility and proposing solutions for the society of the future. Our mission is: to create positive societal impact. We do it 'the Erasmian way'.

Vital Cities and Citizens

Erasmus Initiative Vital Cities and Citizens

With the Erasmus Initiative ‘Vital Cities and Citizens’, Erasmus University Rotterdam wants to help improve the quality of life in cities. In vital cities, the population can achieve their life goals through education, useful work and participation in public life. The vital city is a platform for creativity and diversity, a safe meeting place for different social groups. “Cities can be seen as interesting living labs to study the complexity of today’s societal challenges. Vital Cities and Citizens demonstrates that scientific knowledge and societal relevance can go hand in hand.” Professor Victor Bekkers, Dean Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences.

Erasmus Initiative Dynamics of Inclusive Prosperity

The Erasmus Initiative ‘Dynamics of Inclusive Prosperity’ focuses on enabling as many people as possible to benefit from increasing prosperity, whilst minimising the negative consequences. Increased prosperity requires constant coordination of the changing needs and values of governments, businesses, citizens and entrepreneurs. In order to chart this dynamic field, scholars from Erasmus School of Law, Rotterdam School of Management and the Erasmus School of Philosophy entered into a multidisciplinary partnership.

Logo IHS

Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies (IHS)

The approach of IHS is based on the cross-fertilization of our main three activities: education, advisory services and applied research. By being involved in different core activities at the same time, IHS urban specialists are able to create strong links between theory and practice. IHS staff members spend a substantial amount of time working in the field and they possess applicable expertise within the context of different countries they have worked in. This way, they provide support, training and services that are relevant for course participants and clients. Inputs drawn from the advisory and research activities are reflected also in the classroom, where course participants benefit from the rich knowledge and professional background of the lecturers.

logos Universiteit Leiden TU Delft EUR Centre Bold Cities

Leiden Delft Erasmus Centre for BOLD Cities

The Centre for BOLD Cities is a research collaboration between Leiden University, Delft University of Technology and Erasmus University Rotterdam. It focuses on the possibilities and challenges of using big, open and linked data for urban governance. Looking into both the perspective of urban citizens and citymakers, the Centre for BOLD Cities connects researchers from various disciplines, such as data science, sociology and public administration. In addition, the Centre collaborates with societal and governmental partners on a regular basis. As such, the Centre for BOLD Cities aims to help transform the ‘smart city’ into the ‘shared city’, in which concerns and ideas of all stakeholders are equally considered.

Nesselaar Urban Consultancy

Nesselaar Urban Consultancy

Nesselaar Urban Consultancy is specialised in city marketing and creative urban ideas. We are committed to contributing to the development of more attractive and liveable cities. We are passionate about cities. The common thread that runs throughout our work is the creation of positive impact through sharing - sharing expertise, sharing inspiration, sharing creative formats. We are inspired by the Sustainable Development Goals. We connect with SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities) and SDG 17 (partnerships for the goals).


Prof. Dr. J. (Jurian) Edelenbos

I am professor of interactive urban governance and academic director of the Erasmus Initiative Vital Cities and Citizens. I have completed my PhD in 2000 at Delft University of Technology. I have developed expertise in the fields of governance, citizen participation & self-organization, boundary spanning, trust, network management, and democratic legitimacy. I conduct research in the following domains: urban management & planning, integrated water management & sustainable energy. My research interests: community-based initiatives, boundary spanning, trust, governance networks. More about Jurian Edelenbos

Dr. Jan Fransen

I am a Senior Expert and Assistant Professor Urban Economic Development and Resilience at IHS. I hold a PhD and MA in development studies. I am also the former Head of Education & Training. I am a member of the advisory committee of the Africa Research Institute in Leiden and visiting scholar at POLIS University in Albania. I coordinate the course on urban theory in the master programme on Urban Management and Development and co-coordinate a short course on Sustainable Local Economic Development. In a previous position, I worked for the International Labour Organisation (ILO) of the United Nations based in Eastern and Southern Africa. More about Jan Fransen

Dr. E. (Ellen) Minkman

I am a researcher and lecturer at the section of Organisation & Governance at TU Delft. In my research, I focus on decision-making and governance of water management. I completed a PhD on policy transfer and translation in 2021 in which I investigated the conditions for effective translation of ideas so that they fit other contexts. Currently, my work concentrates on water and delta management, especially in relation to decision-making for future-proof urban deltas as well as governance transitions in water management and related policy fields (e.g. agriculture, energy). Learning and international cooperation are key themes in my research.

Dr. Peter Scholten

I am a governance and sustainability expert with a background in Social and Political Sciences of the Environment. As a steering committee member of the DE-RISC project, I lead research on Data communities, data stakeholders and data owners in the processes of data sharing. I hold a PhD in water governance and specialize in governance, integrated planning and leadership strategies in complex decision-making environments. I collaborate with a large variety of academic and societal organizations across the globe.  Furthermore, I teach and supervise PhD’s in the Erasmus Graduate School of Social Sciences & Humanities of Erasmus University Rotterdam and in the Radboud Global PhD program on Sustainability Challenges. More about Peter Scholten

Robbert Nesselaar, MSc

I have over 20 years of experience in working for cities and regions, mostly in the field of city marketing and place branding. Between 2001 and 2016, I worked for the city of Rotterdam. Since 2016, I have worked as a consultant for various cities. In addition to city marketing, I am fascinated by the topic of co-creating and sharing urban knowledge, and achieving positive societal impact in doing so. As a non-profit activity, I developed the Generation Games, a do-it-yourself, open-source sport event organized by and for the community.

Dr. Negar Noori

As a Smart City Tech & Policy researcher and prior to that an Innovation and  Technology Manager in the ICT industry, my role is to establish a collaborative atmosphere between all stakeholders from different disciplines as an intermediate between practitioners and policymakers. A few years ago, I left the industry for new adventures on the fascinating and trendy subject of Smart Sustainable Cities development. In 2017, I started my PhD research project “Smart City Policy Transplantation” which focused on how Smart City initiatives can learn from pioneers, transfer the lessons, and transplant the Smart City policies from the good practices to their own context. Currently, as a postdoc researcher, I examine how Smart Cities can be more inclusive. 

Vera Safronova

After graduating Cum Laude from Leiden University BSc International Relations and Organisations, I pursued a master's degree in Urban Management and Development at Erasmus University, with a specialization in Strategic Planning and Policy. I combined a full-time masters degree with working at LDE Centre for BOLD Cities researching drones, urban air mobility and factors that affect citizens’ acceptance of these technologies. Currently I work as a Research Assistant at the Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies of Erasmus University. Here I am conducting advisory and research activities related to governance in informal settlements, governance of digitalization, public finance, local economic development and capacity building.

Loulou Leupe

I am primarily engaged in communications and project management at Closer Cities. I have a background in International Business and Languages (BBA) from the Rotterdam Business School and hold a Master's degree in Public Policy and Governance (Political Science) from the University of Amsterdam. I am particularly drawn to the fields of urban development and governance, public policy, armed conflict and human rights. 

Dr. Jiska Engelbert

Jiska Engelbert, former Closer Cities team member, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Media and Communication and the Erasmus Research Centre for Media Communication and Culture (ERMeCC). She currently works on projects at the Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences (Leiden-Delft-Erasmus Centre for BOLD Cities and Erasmus Institute for Public Knowledge). She co-leads the smart cities and communities theme within the Erasmus Vital Cities and Citizens Initiative, is Strategic Director at the Centre for BOLD Cities, and the Academic Lead for the Master Honours Programme "Tackling Inequalities". Jiska’s research focuses on the discursive construction of public issues under neoliberalism and the political economy of smart cities.

Interested to partner with us?

If you would like to become a partner of the Closer Cities project, or would like to know more about the possibilities and benefits of a partnership, please get in touch by filling out the form on the contact us page or by sending an e-mail (