This week, teams from 35 city halls across the United States are getting a crash course in how to take a good idea and test, learn, and adapt to make it better.
They’re the Champion Cities — finalists in the 2018 Mayors Challenge to find bold ideas for solving cities’ toughest problems, including everything from climate change and homelessness, to public health and infrastructure. We awarded each of them up to $100,000 to develop their ideas over a six-month testing phase. One city will win a grand prize of $5 million in October, while four others will win $1 million.
By Patricia E. Harris, CEO of Bloomberg Philanthropies
Mayors often come into office with bold ideas for tackling the toughest issues – whether it’s gun violence, school readiness, homelessness, or workforce development. And if they don’t know it before they get to city hall, one of the first things they learn upon arrival is that they can’t go it alone.
The truth is that the most successful and sustainable solutions demand the buy-in, brainpower, and resources of stakeholders across a city, including universities, nonprofits, businesses, foundations, and neighborhood groups.
Collaboration across these sectors was key to all that Mike Bloomberg accomplished in his 12 years as mayor of New York City. It has also been key to our work at Bloomberg Philanthropies, where we’ve sought partnerships with other foundations and helped city leaders in hundreds of cities tackle major challenges – often by tapping wisdom, creativity, and resources from citizens, community groups, and businesses.
The 16th episode of Follow the Data presents a conversation with Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and James Anderson, who leads Government Innovation at Bloomberg Philanthropies. Mayor Hancock is a native Denverite, serving his second term. He is known as a “mayor’s mayor,” surrounding himself with a talented team, and concentrating on efforts to make government more effective, to better serve its citizens.
At Bloomberg Philanthropies, we’ve been fortunate to work with Mayor Hancock and the City of Denver in a variety of ways. Denver was an early member of What Works Cities, our initiative committed to helping cities better manage data to improve people’s lives. Mayor Hancock is one of the first 40 mayors to participate in our collaboration with Harvard University to give mayors high-quality executive coaching and training that rivals what is available to their CEO peers in the business world.
By Anne Emig, Bloomberg Philanthropies Government Innovation team
Thirty-five U.S. cities, from as large as Los Angeles, Calif., and as small as Ithaca, N.Y., are about to launch into an unprecedented experiment to solve some of our country’s biggest challenges. Each of these finalists—or “Champion Cities”—in the 2018 Mayors Challenge will spend the next six months testing and refining their big ideas for tackling everything from opioid addiction to climate change. And while only five cities will win prizes later this year—including one $5 million prize and four $1 million prizes—all will walk away winners, and that much closer to solving some of our cities’ toughest concerns.
By James Anderson, Bloomberg Philanthropies Government Innovation team
Just about every successful business prototypes new solutions before bringing them to market. Amazon, Apple, Walmart, CVS Health, Ford, and Tesla—to name just a few—have successfully launched new products or entered new markets by tapping this tried-and-true product development technique.
Yet it’s a concept that is virtually unknown within the public sector, where the stakes for innovation are highest. Just ask any police chief. Actual lives depend on cities’ ability to constantly innovate new and better approaches.
One of the biggest misconceptions about the field of data science is that it’s all about the numbers. But, as anybody in our business will attest, statistics and spreadsheets don’t mean a whole lot if you don’t also understand the people, the problems, and the promise they represent.
Our work has never been “all about the numbers.” It is, however, increasingly about the number — and the diversity — of life experiences our teams bring to the table that deliver big and important impact in cities. Currently, women represent only 25 percent of the data scientists in the public and private sectors. But as two women who lead What Works Cities — Michael Bloomberg’s investment to help 100 U.S. cities expand upon the data and evidence work he pioneered in New York City Hall — we can tell you that there is a growing number of women at the table.
The 15th episode of Follow the Data presents a conversation with Helsinki Mayor Jan Vapaavuori and James Anderson, who leads Government Innovation at Bloomberg Philanthropies. Mayor Vapaavuori is a former member of the Helsinki City Council and served in Finland’s Parliament for more than a decade.
The Mayor took office last June during Bloomberg Philanthropies’ work with Helsinki as part of an effort to help cities better determine the future of autonomous vehicles and harness the technology to address urban challenges. He is the first person to lead the city in the wake of a significant set of reforms to Helsinki’s organizational structure. Additionally, he has an ambitious goal: to make Helsinki the world’s “most functional city.”
By Sly James, Mayor of Kansas City, Missouri
When I became Mayor of Kansas City in 2011, residents were eager to see local government become more efficient, accountable, and responsive to their needs. They didn’t want rhetoric. They wanted facts. And they deserved to see progress.
That’s why we started KCStat that December. It’s a data-driven strategy for improving city services. Each month, City Manager Troy Schulte and I hold a meeting during which staff in charge of different services—from public safety to economic development to transportation— present metrics on what’s going well and what’s not going so well. We ask tough questions, demand good answers, and expect to see progress by the next meeting.
By Myung J. Lee, Executive Director, Cities of Service
If there’s one thing my work with city leaders around the world has taught me, it’s that the challenges cities face are as diverse as the cities themselves.
There’s no question that cities are confronted with mounting pressures, including everything from income inequality and homelessness to failing infrastructure and climate change. What was less clear was – if presented with the shot at $5 million to help them tackle their top concern – what America’s mayors would target.