The sister city relationship is an important one to the City of Palo Alto. With six sister cities around the world, the City is always looking for new and innovative ways to strengthen those relationships. One way the City is doing that is by welcoming its first visiting scholar from sister city Enschede, the Netherlands.
"This is one of the most successful sister city relationships we have ever had," said Vice-Mayor Liz Kniss. “Such a great experience of growth has taken place from what used to be a cultural exchange to now what is really a business exchange. It's a chance to really mix it up.”
Carlijn Soer, an undergraduate student studying Commercial Economics at Saxion University in Enschede, has been in Palo Alto since March working on a project sponsored jointly by the City of Palo Alto, the City of Enschede, Saxion University and Kennispark Twente, a regional system for innovation also in Enschede.
After watching a Dutch documentary about Silicon Valley, Soer said her interest in the technology capital of the world was piqued and she knew she had to find a way to get here.
“I’ve always been curious and interested in everything,” said Soer. “I’ve always wanted to do things a bit differently than other students. Something out of the box like this is really cool.”
While in Palo Alto, she will be visiting local start-ups and businesses to research her project, which is looking at ways the soft-landing concept of Kennispark Twente can be applied to U.S. start-ups and how the economic strategy of the City of Enschede can contribute.
Palo Alto and Enschede, which is in the eastern Netherlands, have been sister cities since 1980, and in many ways there are a lot of similarities between the two. Enschede is a forward-thinking city that is home to two top universities, Saxion and the Twente University of Technology. It is also a leading electronics and manufacturing center, and is home to a large Dutch scientific institute.
In 2013, a delegation from Palo Alto, which included City Manager James Keene, traveled to Enschede to learn more about the city and find ways to make their sister city relationship more contemporary.
“Once we got there, we saw what was happening and the attitude of the leadership and the people we met, and it quickly become very tangible and real for their mayor and myself to think there really are things that we can do here,” said Keene. “And it’s reciprocal. It’s not just what Palo Alto can give to Enschede, but what Enschede can give to Palo Alto.”
Keene said that the sister city relationship is one that requires each partner to be committed to going further or changing, and with the Palo Alto/Enschede relationship, that has clearly been demonstrated.
“We are thinking about how we transform this sister city relationship into more of a smart city partnership that adds another layer to this relationship of how are cities actually more connected economically, intellectually, and technologically,” said Keene.
Palo Alto’s sister cities include Linkoping, Sweden; Albi, France; Palo, Leyte, Philippines; Oaxaca, Mexico; Tsuchiura, Japan; and Enschede. The City’s sister cities program is operated by Neighbors Abroad, a volunteer community organization that operates under the City and promotes international and intercultural understanding.