How will your city look like 20 or 50 years from now? Will our cities look like those as portrayed in a sci-fi movie? For us earthlings, it would be worthwhile understanding the planning processes of competent and futuristic cities. The vision and mission statements lay down the foundation for the city’s collective growth towards the future and project how the officials intend to design exceptional communities. They reflect where the city is heading and capture the spirit of the organisation. Vision and mission statements are the very starting points in the strategic planning journey. In principle, the statements are also the destination when all the strategic implementation efforts start maturing and yielding results.

The following article will share best practices in vision and mission statements of successful and award-winning local governments and municipalities in the world.

Definition of Vision and Mission for a City Council or Municipality

A vision statement presents the city council or municipality’s ambition for the future. It can be a short phrase or a single paragraph that clearly describes the long-term goals, dreams, and aspirations for the city and its communities. The vision statement sets the bar high in terms of how the city wants to be perceived by the world in the future.

A good vision statement is a self-fulfilling prophecy. When everyone shares the vision, employees will adapt the behaviors required to make the vision a reality. A vision statement’s purpose is to inspire and instill passion in employees and the wider community to achieve the common vision.

A mission statement is a statement of purpose and communicates the city council or municipality’s current key objective(s) and/or services to meet the needs of its citizens and communities. A mission statement should concisely explain who the target stakeholders are, how the needs of the stakeholders are being met (the services and city environment) and the distinctiveness of the offering (what makes the city special and/or the special values held to deliver the mission).

The mission statement should let citizens and communities understand your reason for being and act as a guide to your employees. The mission statement should inform strategy and decision making and incorporate the ethics and culture of the organisation. The statement is generally short, either a single sentence or a short paragraph.

Fundamental Differences Between Vision and Mission Statements:

  • The focus of the vision is the distant future (10 years, 20 years, 30 years); the outcomes of the mission are the near future or here and now.
  • Vision gives a broader perspective of the envisioned future state; the mission lays down the actions to attain the vision. A mission statement sometimes has a problem-solution link.

Characteristics of the Vision and Mission Statements:

  • The vision should have a personality of its own. It should define the peculiar facet/s of the city’s long-term success and what sets it apart from the rest of the world. Every city around the globe creating a vision statement saying “To be the best city in the world” would not help much.
  • Vision and mission statements must be unambiguous and bring clarity to the employees, citizens and community.
  • The values and belief systems of the organisation should be reflected in the statements.
  • The statements should be challenging and motivating at the same time.
  • The vision, mission, goals, and strategic objectives should be aligned and achievable.
  • The vision and mission statements can incorporate tangible, intangible, quantitative, or qualitative success indicators. And, sometimes all.

Characteristics of the Vision and Mission Statements:

  • Thirty cities from across the globe are presented. These cities have earned distinction as the present and past winners of international business excellence awards and cities indexes. These include winners of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, EFQM Global Excellence Award, and the 10 Most Liveable Cities in the World according to the Global Liveability Index 2021 by The Economist Intelligence Unit.
  • Included are small cities with a population of around 50,000 to megacities with a population of over ten million.
  • The downloadable document contains the detailed vision statement, mission statement/strategic highlights of the following cities along with their population, and recognition-awards won by the city:

Seven Common Themes in the Vision and Mission Statements of the Featured Cities

1. People First
The cities featured in this article have put people at the heart of their city’s vision with citizen-focused strategic planning efforts centered around the lifestyle and standard of living of their citizens. The vision and mission statements instill confidence and belief in the local government and city council, exude a sense of pride and ownership, and trust within the citizens. Emphasis is on education, hopes for a vibrant society, and community engagement. For example, the strategic planning process of the City of Germantown (USA), the 2019 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award recipient (Nonprofit), began with the appointment of a 30-member steering committee. These citizens led the development of the Germantown Forward 2030 vision statement.
Wellington (New Zealand) was ranked No. 3 ‘Happiest city in the world – Current Life Evaluation’ (World Happiness Report 2020). Its very first mission is to be a people-centered city that is healthy, vibrant, affordable and resilient, with a strong sense of identity and ‘place’. Auckland (New Zealand) ranked at No. 1 as the Most Liveable City in the World according to the Global Liveability Index 2021, aspires to become a place that Aucklanders love and are proud of, a place they want to stay in or return to, and a place that others want to visit, move to or invest in, as per their Auckland Plan 2050. Respect for heritage and protection of local culture are among the top priorities for many cities. Auckland too, in its mission for the Auckland Plan 2050 has emphasised preserving the Māori identity and well-being, the environment, and cultural heritage, among the other plans. Dubai (UAE) envisions a happy and sustainable city by planning, developing and managing an excellent city that provides the essence of success and sustainable living.

Amsterdam’s (the Netherlands) 2019 implementation agenda embraced its mission to ensure equality of opportunity, an open and tolerant city with nice neighborhoods and livable city, freedom and security, a healthy and sustainable city, and being participative and digital. It was one of the first cities in Europe to launch a smart city program back in 2009. Toronto (Canada), bustling with a population of 6,082,000 (2018) has a vision of a caring and friendly, clean, green and sustainable city that is dynamic and invests in quality of life.

Tarsus Municipality (Turkey) was the prize winner in ‘Leading with Vision, Inspiration & Integrity’ at the EFQM Global Excellence Award 2018. Under its strategic plan 2020-2024, Tarsus aspires to be a healthy city, recognized at a global level, attaches importance to science and art, is sensitive to people and the environment, has developed local economy, provided urban aesthetics, is unhindered, produces, educates, and protects its culture and history. One of the peculiarities of Lahti’s (Finland) mission for 2022 is for ‘Change in Communality 2022’ where Lahti is a child-friendly city of well-being. Lower Hutt’s (New Zealand) vision is ‘to make Lower Hutt a great place to live, work and play. That is, a city where our people are proud to live, where working and investing here is a smart choice, and where there’s always something for our families to explore’.

2. Inclusion, Diversity, and Equality

Some municipalities and city councils have incorporated the fundamental norms of human rights into their vision and mission statements for social integration and diverse, inclusive communities.

Geneva (Switzerland) stands at Rank 8 in the list of the 10 Most Liveable Cities in the World. To support its vision of ‘Geneva – inclusive, creative, ecological and showing solidarity’, it has a strong mission for human rights, social justice, ecological transition, culture, security, supporting the local economy and international Geneva, and actions for its human, financial and digital perspectives. Bristol’s (United Kingdom) Global City Vision has laid down one of its missions to be fair and inclusive by improving economic and social equality, pursuing economic growth which includes everyone, and making sure people have access to good quality learning, decent jobs and homes they can afford.

One of San José’s (United States) visions is to be an inclusive city and ensure all residents, businesses, and organizations can participate in and benefit from the prosperity and culture of innovation in Silicon Valley. Two of the strategic objectives of Melbourne (Australia) are to ensure everyone feels safe and included as they participate in city life, and reduce inequality by providing access to housing, core services and information. Tokyo (Japan) has a strategy for a diverse city where it will create a Tokyo full of kindness and warmth where everyone can lead vibrant lives and be active in society.

Perth (Australia) has an integrated vision of a vibrant, connected, progressive city, a friendly and beautiful place to be. One of the objectives of the city council is to make it liveable by ensuring a community that is safe, socially cohesive, inclusive and activated. Similarly, the City of Melville (Australia) holds the vision of ‘Engaging with our diverse community to achieve an inclusive, vibrant and sustainable future’.

3. Health and Well Being of the Community

Progressive municipalities across the globe are focusing more on health development by mobilization and allocation of maximum available resources to ensure equitable health for all, and create a healthier and happier society at large.

One of Bristol’s (United Kingdom) missions is the wellbeing of its citizens for which it wants to create healthier and more resilient communities where life expectancy is not determined by wealth or background. This belief reflects in the vision statements of many municipalities, such as Tokyo (Japan) which was ranked at No. 4 in the 10 Most Liveable Cities in the World (2021). Tokyo’s vision “Beyond 2020 — Toward Tokyoʼs Future”, envisages a future vision for healthcare, welfare, and education, among its other priorities. It has a strategic mission to have a Safe City by protecting the lives and assets of the Tokyo residents from all kinds of disasters and building a dynamic and bustling Tokyo.

Similarly, inhabiting a population of 8,804,190 (2020), one of New York City’s (USA) visions is that ‘Health care is a right for every New Yorker in 2050’. New York plans to achieve this vision by guaranteeing health care and ending the opioid epidemic. Here, the phrase ‘health care is a right for every New Yorker in 2050’ denotes that New Yorkers will be healthy because quality health care will be guaranteed, and their holistic approach means healthy lifestyles — good nutrition, clean air, nearby parks — available to everyone regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, or disability. New mothers, seniors, children with asthma, people struggling with substance misuse or mental illness — all will have access to care and treatment across the five boroughs. New Yorkers will interact regularly with their natural environment through an extensive network of trails and waterfront greenways.

4. Strategic Foresight and Future Shaping

Successful governments plan for the future. Not just the future which is one year or two years from now. Not even five years. They plan for the next generation and the generations after them. In 2019 the Mayor of New York City (USA) laid down the vision and strategies for ‘One New York City 2050: Building a Strong and Fair City’ to secure the city’s future against the challenges of today and tomorrow. Optimising its strengths, New York secured 1st Rank in both the 2019 and 2020 Global Cities Index.

The small city of Germantown (USA) with a population of 39,193 (2019) shares the ‘Forward 2030 Vision’ where ‘Germantown is a vibrant, modern community, the community of choice, offering outstanding quality of life for all generations. The government is fiscally sound and provides top-quality public safety and services responsive to community requirements. Engaged residents honor the past, treasure the present and responsibly shape Germantown’s future.

Richmond (Canada) has a mission to protect and enhance the City’s livability and economic well-being for current and future generations through visionary leadership and responsible decision making, accountable and sustainable fiscal practice, the development of a unique and beautiful city, product and service excellence and efficiency, and community consultation.

Brisbane (Australia), the 10th most liveable city in the world (2021 Index) under its Brisbane Vision 2031 has a mission to enable a thriving and sustainable city, for our current and future residents, businesses, and visitors. We proudly and passionately serve the communities in which they live by listening to them and understanding their needs. We want them to love and contribute to Brisbane, just as we do.

5. Green Economy – Sustainability and Climate Change

Future cities are focusing on the decarbonisation of their assets with a sense of accountability. Of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030 Agenda established by the United Nations in 2015, Goal 7 is about Affordable and Clean Energy, Goal 11 focuses on Sustainable Cities and Communities, and Goal 13 is about climate action. Goal 13 official statement is to “Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts”. Ecological balance is on the agenda of many award-winning urban cities and even megacities. This signifies that systematic system-driven environmental care is an attainable reality if the right decisions are taken at the right time under the pledge to commit to sustainable living and improve the lives of their citizens and communities.

Abu Dhabi (UAE) has a vision of supporting community happiness through the delivery of sustainable urban growth and municipal services. Its sister city, Ajman (UAE) envisions a happy society, which contributes to building a green economy, stimulated by a distinguished government, in harmony with the spirit of the Union. New York City (USA) has plans for carbon neutrality by 2050 for its vision ‘One New York City 2050’.

The 10 Most Liveable Cities in the World according to the Global Liveability Index 2021 by the Economist Intelligence Unit have all incorporated the SDGs into their vision and mission statements. Some examples:
Rank 1 – Auckland (New Zealand): ‘Auckland Plan 2050’ shares that Aucklanders will be able to get where they want to go, more easily, safely and sustainably by working on focus areas such as sustainable and resilient transport system, etc. ‘Low Carbon Auckland’ prepared by Auckland Council, together with key industries and partners, is a strategy for transitioning Auckland to a liveable, low carbon future.
Rank 2 – Osaka (Japan): The Osaka City Government aims to realize a vision of Osaka as an environmentally advanced city that contributes to the achievement of the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) by working to build a low-carbon society, form a recycling-based society, secure a comfortable urban environment, and contribute to the global environment through an approach that relies on the involvement and collaboration of all stakeholders.
Rank 3 – Adelaide (Australia): Environmental Leadership: Council will be a leader in responding to climate change and support our community and businesses to be resilient in the face of environmental challenges.
Rank 4 – Wellington (New Zealand): ‘Our vision for Wellington 2040 is an inclusive, sustainable and creative capital for people to live, work and play’. Eco-city – Taking an environmental leadership role as the capital city of clean and green New Zealand.
Rank 7 – Zurich (Switzerland): “2000-Watt Society”. To achieve its vision by 2050, the city of Zürich is making commitments in areas of energy efficiency and renewable energies, sustainable buildings, mobility for the future, awareness, and consumption.
Rank 8 – Melbourne (Australia): Vision 2026: In 2026, Melbourne will be a sustainable, inventive and inclusive city that is vibrant and flourishing.…… Act immediately to reduce our emissions and waste, and adapt to climate change.

6. Innovative, Smart, and Digital Cities

Sustainability with radical innovation is at the core of smart cities. To enhance the daily lives of the citizens, cutting-edge, next-generation technologies incorporating artificial intelligence (AI), 5G, machine learning (ML), the Internet of Things (IoT), big data, etc., are deeply rooted in the infrastructure of many futuristic and forward-thinking cities. Local governments across the world are paying closer attention to systematically planning their cities to transition into Smart cities. According to the United Nations, by 2030, urban areas are projected to house 60 percent of people globally and one in every three people will live in cities. Understanding the projected key trends in urbanization is crucial to the implementation of smart, inclusive, safe, and resilient cities suitable for human settlements.

Keeping in line with this approach, the emirate of Ajman (UAE) is motivated by its mission to build a diversified and sustainable economic growth, develop human capital, motivate innovation, improve infrastructure and public services, and make Ajman a modern and integrated city. London (United Kingdom) was declared the smartest and most sustainable city in the world, according to the IESE Cities in Motion Index 2020; it further holds a mission to enhance digital leadership and skills. Serving as one of Malaysia’s centres of innovation and a vital part of Malaysia’s digital economy ecosystem, Iskandar Puteri’s (Malaysia) Iskandar NEXT, seeks to develop and implement Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technology ecosystems.

San José (USA), the capital of Silicon Valley, holds a Smart City Vision by leveraging technology to make San José the safest big city in America, and a user-friendly city by creating digital platforms to improve transparency, empower residents to actively engage in the governance of their city, and make the city more responsive to the complex and growing demands of its community. Singapore (Singapore) secured 8th Rank at the 2021 edition of the Global Innovation Index (GII) and has several visions for the future from the government of Singapore, including its Green Plan 2030 and Singapore’s Smart Nation Plan.

In alignment with the national ‘Smart City Mission’ that aims to drive economic growth and improve quality of life through comprehensive work on social, economic, physical, and institutional pillars of the city, Surat’s (India) Smart City won ‘Best Performance’ in implementation of the Smart Cities Mission at the India Smart Cities Awards 2020. Tokyo (Japan) was named the Most Innovative City in 2018 as part of the annual Cities Innovation Index supported by its Smart City mission that as a global megacity and Japan’s capital and engine driving the economy, it will create a sustainable Tokyo that can solve the challenges facing the megalopolis and continue growing to emerge victorious in the international competition between cities. The Center for Digital Government (USA) announced the City of Virginia Beach (USA) (250,000 – 499,999 population category) as the first-place winner of the 2020 Digital Cities Survey that recognizes leaders in advanced analytics use, digital inclusion, and COVID-19 response. The mission of Virginia Beach states that it exists to enhance the economic, educational, social, and physical quality of the community and provide sustainable municipal services which are valued by its citizens.

7. Prosperous Economy and International Recognition

The contribution of cities to their local and national economic growth has become evident with the rise in urbanisation. City councils and municipalities are directed towards maximization of their economic potential, innovation, and resilient financial management to secure for themselves an influential place in the regional and global scheme of events. Seven out of ten cities from the 10 Most Liveable Cities in the World in 2021 have elements of economic planning in their vision and mission statements and strategic objectives. Striking a healthy balance between the parameters for social and economic prosperity is the underlying agenda for many urban cities and megacities.

Makati (Philippines) was ranked 4th in the Highly Urbanized Cities category of the 2020 Cities and Municipalities Competitiveness Index. Makati City Government aims to be the model for world-class local governance, providing for the well-being of its citizens through the delivery of the highest level of basic, social and economic services with breakthrough technologies, sustainable financing, and competent, responsible and professional civil servants. One of the ways how Richmond (Canada) has endeavored to fulfil its mission to protect and enhance the city’s livability and economic well-being for current and future generations is through accountable and sustainable fiscal practice. In 2020, Richmond’s 2018 Annual Report was honored with the Canadian Award for Financial Reporting for the 17th consecutive year, and the Award for Outstanding Achievement in Popular Annual Financial Reporting for the 10th year.

The City of Toronto (Canada) with a mission to serve a great city and its people, received global recognition as Runner Up in the Public Sector Category of the 2019 Circulars Awards, presented at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum. One of the identified outcomes of Adelaide’s (Australia) mission is to have strong economies with the council championing a robust and diversified economy where innovation and low costs support growth and investment.

Global megacity Tokyo’s (Japan) Smart City mission has plans to continue growing while Brisbane (Australia) Vision 2031 hopes for a Brisbane that will be respected for its strong international relationships, particularly with its Asian neighbours, for its boundless innovation and growing economic prosperity. Tarsus (Turkey) has a vision of maximizing the national and international recognition of the historical and cultural values in the city.


The vision and mission statements of municipalities and city councils are built around the city’s assets and acknowledge challenges whilst proposing solutions for the future. They help to communicate what needs to be done so that the interests and strategies of  employees, citizens, and the wider community can be aligned.

According to the United Nations, Tokyo (Japan) was the world’s largest city in 2018 with the highest population. In 2020, its population was 37,393,000. And yet, it Ranked 4th in the list of the 10 Most Liveable Cities in the World according to the Global Liveability Index 2021. At the same time the City of Germantown (USA), with a population of 39,193, were winners of the 2019 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award recipient for its progressive vision and city management. These findings indicate that a city’s vision and mission and ability to deliver to these are crucial, irrespective of the population size.

A city’s vision and mission statement can drive amazing achievements if constructed and implemented after thorough research on local and regional needs and global trends, keeping its citizens at the core. These statements should be the most important reference checks to not only periodically review the strategic action plans but to keep the employees and the leadership motivated. And, if needed, the city should be ready to realign itself to the vision and mission with the same conviction with which the two were created.

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Author:Dr. Almas Tazein
BPIR Category : 15.6.1 Vision/leadership processes
15.6.2 Strategy development & deployment
2.2.3 Develop vision and/or mission
8.1.1 Leaders develop/manage org culture,vision&values
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