Bloomberg Philanthropies has announced a $200 million initiative designed to spur innovation in city halls issues across the country.
Announced at the United States Conference of Mayors' annual meeting in Miami by former New York City mayor and Bloomberg Philanthropies founder Michael R. Bloomberg, the American Cities Initiative will focus on three areas — promoting bold leadership and effective problem solving in city halls; advancing critical policies and legislation in areas ranging from education to climate change to opioid abuse; and empowering citizens to solve problems and strengthen social cohesion. To that end, Bloomberg Philanthropies will invest more than $200 million over three years in grants, technical assistance, and opportunities aimed at making it easier for city leaders to share insights and best practices from their own work.
Initial investments include $17.5 million in grants and technical assistance for the 2017 Mayors Challenge, a competition aimed at helping cities with at least thirty thousand residents develop, test, and implement bold solutions to urgent challenges. The first three hundred cities to sign up will receive one-day training sessions in idea development, with as many as thirty-five cities receiving up to $100,000 each to test and refine their ideas. From that pool, Five Mayors Challenge Winners will be selected, with one city receiving a $5 million grand prize and four runners-up receiving $1 million implementation grants.
The foundation also announced a $600,000 grant to the U.S. Conference of Mayors in support of efforts to ensure that the voices of mayors are part of the national conversation with respect to policies and budget priorities. In addition, pro bono consultancy Bloomberg Associates, which has worked with the cities of Los Angeles, Oakland, Nashville, Detroit, Houston, and Kansas City, will add five additional cities to its portfolio over the next three years. Over the next six months, the foundation will announce additional new or expanded initiatives aimed at helping city leaders address climate change, gun violence, and obesity and catalyzing new opportunities for artists and volunteers to work within their communities to solve problems.
"We are in the middle of a political era defined by Washington impotence, but as Washington has grown more dysfunctional, cities have begun to play a vital role in determining our nation's reputation as a global superpower," said Bloomberg. "The American Cities Initiative will incentivize and support the innovative efforts of those cities paving the way for America's future."