An increasing number of cities are joining forces in so-called Transnational Municipal Networks (TMNs) to cooperate and facilitate action on climate change and urban environmental issues. In this paper, I set out to explore the governance structures of TMNs in order to enhance our understanding of these emerging institutions, their institutional set-up and their display and positioning of power. Where existing studies of the subject offer an understanding of how TMNs operate across scales, sectors and actors, the literature continues to offer a limited understanding of how the governance tools offered by TMNs are adopted and institutionalised in member cities. Through an qualitative study of four different cities, Vejle (Denmark), Porto Alegre (Brazil), Chennai (India) and New York City (USA), I explore how their membership of one particular city network, 100 Resilient Cities, creates value for city administrations across the four locations. The study builds on 60 interviews and an extensive documents analysis carried out from 2015-2018 in the four selected cities.
The paper argues that we need to broaden our understanding of how TMNs, like the 100 Resilient Cities, govern. On the one hand, the membership model offered by 100 Resilient Cities is experienced as top-down, hierarchical and authoritative by member cities. This suggest a need for a more sensitive and complex understanding of what constitutes a ‘network’ as well as critical reflections on who and what influences key decisions in TMNs. On the other hand, cities experience a large degree of wriggle room in their membership: memberships is characterised by local interpretation and application of network tools and activities, which makes transnational networking meaningful in a local setting.