The World Cities Culture Forum (WCCF) on Wednesday announced the selection of 18 global cities to participate in its Leadership Exchange Program, designed to support culture and the "global creative economy." The program is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies and Google Arts & Culture.

The selected cities will participate in seven collaborative exchanges to address a range of cultural challenges that have been exacerbated by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Such challenges include providing equitable access to creative space; supporting democratic participation; addressing at-risk cultural venues and identifying new avenues of cultural funding.

WCCF's inaugural Leadership Exchange Program supported four exchanges between nine cities in 2018-2019, resulting in a number of tangible outcomes and lessons learned for the 2020-2021 program. And while many of the participants in this new program round were also members of the inaugural exchange, the cities face entirely new challenges to address in the wake of the global health pandemic.

Tracey Knuckles, a member of the cultural assets management practice at Bloomberg Philanthropies, said several of the the topics of this year's exchange "seek to address the inequities that COVID has amplified" in regards to cultural access, particularly for vulnerable communities.

As cities struggle to patch budget deficits that resulted of "painful reductions in revenues" amid COVID-19, some may not see culture as a leading issue — and officials involved in this program hope to change that.

Read the full article about creative economy by Kristin Musulin at Smart Cities Dive.