For the first time in his­tory, more of the world’s pop­u­la­tion lives in cities than in rural areas. More­over, nearly all the pop­u­la­tion growth over the next 30 years is expected to happen in urban areas, according to the World Health Organization.

As a result, the needs of cities are about to become more pressing than ever. For­tu­nately, an orga­ni­za­tion cur­rently relo­cating from the Boston Foun­da­tion to North­eastern Uni­ver­sity is already tack­ling these challenges.

City to City, which began in 1997, works to create a strong net­work of com­mu­nity and busi­ness leaders, iden­tify best prac­tices that achieve social and eco­nomic change in urban areas across the globe, and bring those ideas back to Boston to share them with the world.

At North­eastern, City to City’s work will be sup­ple­mented by the research being done by the university’s World-​​Class Cities Part­ner­ship, says Michael Lake, the partnership’s exec­u­tive director, and the future exec­u­tive director at City to City. The World-​​Class Cities Part­ner­ship develops long-​​term rela­tion­ships with busi­ness, civic and aca­d­emic leaders in cities world­wide to explore solu­tions for com­plex social issues, such as job cre­ation and eco­nomic development.

Offi­cials hope the syn­ergy cre­ated by City to City and the World-​​Class Cities Part­ner­ship will lead to the cre­ation of “inno­va­tion dis­tricts” in Boston neigh­bor­hoods, which attract new busi­nesses, grow jobs and serve as anchors in the com­mu­nity. Get­ting the busi­ness com­mu­nity engaged in this endeavor will be a crit­ical com­po­nent, Lake says.

North­eastern seeks to expand the meaning and the impact of its engage­ment in the world,” he says. “Both the World-​​Class Cities Part­ner­ship and City to City do that. It’s urban engage­ment, it’s research and it’s global.”

City to City, which is co-​​chaired by North­eastern pres­i­dent Joseph Aoun, Boston mayor Thomas Menino, and State Street pres­i­dent and CEO Ron Logue, is “an exciting oppor­tu­nity,” says Lake. “It cer­tainly builds on the long­standing rela­tion­ship between North­eastern Uni­ver­sity and the city.”

One major City to City suc­cess story came in 2003, when the Boston Children’s Chorus was formed, bringing chil­dren together to unite Boston com­mu­ni­ties and inspire social change through music. A 2001 visit to the Chicago Children’s Choir pro­vided the inspi­ra­tion for the Boston chorus.

A City to City trip to Haifa, Israel, is cur­rently being planned for the fall. Israel, Lake explains, has more patents per capita than any other country in the world, and is second only to the United States in the number of com­pa­nies listed on the NASDAQ.

Israel has cer­tainly har­nessed the power of inno­va­tion,” Lake says. “This is a great oppor­tu­nity for us to sup­port Mayor Menino’s lead­er­ship and vision with global research.”