International Turnaround Towns

The Turnaround Towns report (international), created by the Carnegie Trust, provides learning from eight international case studies of towns that have undergone dramatic transformations, in some cases from a starting position of responding to crisis or deprivation.

Date added 17 August 2021
Last updated 17 August 2021

During this global COVID19 pandemic, places are experiencing unprecedented problems affecting all aspects of the lives of people who live in them, invest and work in them, and who wish to visit them. While the Turnaround Towns report[1] was written in 2016 and is therefore not directly related to the challenges that our towns are facing today, we believe that there are many parallels that can be drawn with the stories of the towns that have been written up into 8 international case studies that examine the phenomenon of “turnaround towns”: places in difficulty that have undergone quite dramatic transformations.

The case studies in this report tell the stories of towns levelled by natural disasters; “no-go areas” rife with gang violence and drugs; places in dire economic crisis with high unemployment rates caused by the collapse of local industries and the closure of key employers; failing retail in downtown areas resulting in very high vacancy rates in deserted and unsafe neighbourhoods; the changing geographies of places as town centres become affected by out of town retailers; and changing usage of former industrialised areas. It is easy to see how the situations facing these Turnaround Towns are similar to the ones our towns and cities are currently facing.

This reader-friendly resource provides some background about what characterised the towns and cities in crisis to then showing what they have become and how they achieved this. The case studies also offer some insights into how Turnaround Towns have managed through stages of recovery that are directly comparable to the COVID19 Recovery Framework that the High Streets Task Force has adopted, specifically the Pre-Recovery and Recovery stages, and building capacity that is focused on getting people back to places. The end goal of the report is to focus on the final Transformation stage in our framework that these Turnaround Towns have achieved.

The case studies offer the stories from Tupelo and Haven Acres, Douglas, Duluth, Paducah, and Allentown in the USA, Newcastle in Australia, Oamaru in New Zealand, Altena in Germany, and Pori in Finland. While the report does not necessarily advocate “directly importing the approaches taken internationally to towns in the UK and Ireland”, Section 4 (the conclusion to the report), does focus on 6 key insights that could help place managers in the UK and Ireland move from Crisis through to Transformation. These insights are summarised under the following themes:

  1. Having a story that residents – and others – know
  2. Addressing economic challenges
  3. Local leaders driving change
  4. Cross-sector collaboration
  5. Being flexible and finding the right path to success
  6. Committing to the long term


[1] Kelly, J-F. (2016). Turnaround Towns: International Evidence. CarnegieUK Trust.

[2] Ntounis, N., Sonderland Saga, R., Loronõ-Leturiondo, M., Hindmarch, T. and Parker, C. (2020). The Time to Act is Now: A Framework for Post-COVID 19 Recovery for our Towns and Cities.