City Leaders attendees in L.A. at City Summit. Credit to: NLC.


The National League of Cities (NLC), an organization serving the interests of 19000 cities, towns and villages across the United States territory, has released, in a partnership with the Stanford Basic Income Lab (BIL), a basic income report to serve as guide to piloting UBI in cities. Framed as a toolkit, it is directed at city leaders and aims to guide policy rather than blueprint UBI pilots. It is intended to help cities considering introducing basic income experiments, providing historical background, prior experiment reports and results and present-day efforts in that regard.


The UBI is seriously contemplated by the NLC as a possible solution – although not a panacea – to growing automation, labour precariousness and peaking inequality. Basic income is also seen as an effective way to boost entrepreneurship, while providing a solid safety net. City leaders are conscient, though, that cities are limited in their ability to introduce basic income schemes, as they are part of wider nation-state organizations and governments. However, cities can act as experimental grounds to provide results and identify hurdles, both crucial aspects of an eventual nation-wide UBI implementation.


The basic income toolkit for cities is also meant to be a piece in what has been called a Theory of Change (ToC). A ToC is a study built as a roadmap to introduce meaningful change to a complex system such as a city. It is designed to help cities articulate their short, medium and long-term goals, and, within this context, draw important and already available outcomes from unconditional cash-transfer programs. Conversely, the ToC helps in calibrating the UBI experiment, informing on which data to collect, and when.


In a nutshell, the basic income report for UBI experiments in cities issues recommendations on identifying the goals (of the experiment), choosing those involved and when these should participate, defining the choice of recipients, specifying how to measure success and creating an effective communication strategy.



More information at:

Brooks Rainwater, “Yes, Cities Can Pilot Universal Basic Income”, National League of Cities, November 9th 2018

Juliana Bidadanure et al., “Basic Income in Cities – A guide to city experiments and pilot projects”, National League of Cities and Stanford Basic Income Lab, 2018

About Andre Coelho

André Coelho has written 367 articles.

Activist. Engineer. Musician. For the more beautiful world our hearts know it's possible.