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Follow the Data Podcast: Facilitating Learning: A Bloomberg-Harvard Education

The skills needed to be a mayor are many, and few have the time to pause and learn something new.

The Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative was developed in response to the need for leadership and management training specifically tailored to city leaders. Bloomberg Philanthropies and Harvard University are uniquely qualified to develop such a program, combining resources to facilitate learning for city leaders currently holding office.

Josh Skolnick of the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Government Innovation team spoke to the program’s director and faculty co-chair for executive education, Jorrit de Jong. Jorrit is also a Senior Lecturer at Harvard’s Kennedy School; he and Josh discuss the program’s nearly 99% recommendation rate, the use of data, experimentation and innovation and cross-sector collaboration.

Explainer: What is prototyping?

Whether it’s the car you drive or the smartphone in your pocket, most of the products and services you use today went through many rounds of prototyping, testing, and iterative development before they made it to market.

And while that’s not always been true for the things local governments produce, that’s beginning to change.

What every data-driven mayor needs

By Beth Blauer, Executive Director, Johns Hopkins University Centers for Civic Impact

On a visit to Louisville a couple of years ago, I overheard a very brief conversation between Mayor Greg Fischer and a city employee. It’s left a big imprint on the work I do helping city governments bring data into their decision-making processes.

Follow the Data Podcast: The Innovative Mayor, Naheed Nenshi

In this episode of Follow the Data, Mayor Nenshi and James discuss how his experience as a professor and business consultant have informed his approach to the job of being mayor, the “simple social movement” happening in Calgary that’s improving the city’s schools and neighborhoods, and why it’s important for political leaders to talk about pluralism. Additionally, they discuss Calgary’s participation in the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative and the “life-changing career moments” it’s created for a number of Calgary’s civil servants.

From Plans to Progress: Catalyzing Climate Action through the American Cities Climate Challenge

By Kelly Shultz and Anne Emig of the Bloomberg Philanthropies Environment and Government Innovation teams

Last week, the Bloomberg American Cities Climate Challenge brought together more than 100 of the country’s foremost city sustainability leaders for a three-day convening in Austin. Participants represented a robust network of world-class partners, dedicated city officials, and leading policy experts who all share one common goal: fight climate change on a local level to create healthier, more resilient, and more sustainable communities for city residents.

5 Women Mayors to Watch for Climate Leadership

Today in Paris, Mayor Anne Hidalgo is convening mayors, business leaders, and others to bring attention to a troubling problem: While women globally are more impacted by climate change than men, they’re underrepresented at decision-making levels in government. The good news is, that’s changing. The Women4Climate gathering in Paris is part of a C40 Cities effort to empower and inspire a new generation of women leaders taking on this issue around the world. A report released this month outlines strategies for boosting women’s leadership in climate action and identifies data gaps that need to be filled to better understand the gender dimensions of climate change in cities. Meanwhile, in the U.S., some of the boldest leadership on climate is coming from women mayors. Here are five who recently won the Bloomberg American Cities Climate Challenge because of their efforts to reduce climate pollution from the transportation and buildings sectors.

New report: What American cities learned from last year’s Mayors Challenge

By James Anderson, head of the Government Innovation program at Bloomberg Philanthropies

American cities are in a unique and powerful position to uncover innovative, scalable, and impactful solutions to today’s biggest concerns—including everything from homelessness and opioid addiction to climate change and mobility. And that’s why, after successful runs in the United States, Europe, and Latin America & the Caribbean, Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge returned to the U.S. last year: to empower the kind of optimistic and entrepreneurial problem-solving city leaders are ready to deliver.

Follow the Data Podcast: Insights from the Digital Republic: A Conversation with the President of Estonia

Estonia is a leader in the field of digital government. In a conversation between Bloomberg Philanthropies Government Innovation lead James Anderson and President of the Republic of Estonia Kersti Kaljulaid, the president describes her country’s dedication to providing streamlined services, protecting citizen’s privacy, and taking proactive steps to get people the information they need.

Building city hall capacity to fight climate change: 6 takeaways from U.S. cities

This year, we’ve been able to get an inside look at an important question: How ready are American cities to fight climate change? The answer is important to the future of our planet. Globally, cities are the source of 70 percent of all greenhouse-gas emissions, particularly via the cars urban dwellers drive and the energy required to heat and cool their buildings. U.S. cities are responsible for a disproportionate share of the total.

Our inside look came through the Bloomberg Philanthropies American Cities Climate Challenge. It’s a $70 million effort aimed at accelerating work already happening on the ground in U.S. cities to reduce carbon pollution. More than 50 cities applied, and as co-leaders of the initiative, we visited almost 40 of them.

Advice for new mayors — from some of the best at the job

Hundreds of new mayors across the United States and around the world are settling into their new role as “city CEO.” It’s one of the toughest jobs in public service, and — as most people who hold the job will quickly point out — one of the most rewarding. That’s because mayors are uniquely situated to not only know many of their constituents by name, but also, by providing better services, to directly impact their lives.

All Eyes on the Heartland

By James Anderson, Bloomberg Philanthropies Government Innovation program lead

Whether it’s drone-based pizza delivery in San Francisco or cutting-edge cancer advancements in Boston, innovation-related news often focuses on what’s happening in our country’s biggest cities — places with lots of investment, the most people, and an undeniable abundance of bright ideas. I get it, many of these projects are worthy of the headlines. And, speaking of drones, this father of toddler twins can’t wait for the day when clean diapers can be dropped from the sky.

Follow the Data Podcast: The Innovative Mayor, Karen Freeman-Wilson

Mayor of Gary, Indiana, Karen Freeman-Wilson believes resident engagement is integral to effective governance. Highlighting the important role residents play in helping Gary care for public spaces, Mayor Freeman-Wilson seeks to collaborate with the community:

“Not only tell citizens what you’re doing but make them a part of it.  We’ve seen that with our comprehensive city plan which we’re engaged in right now.  We’re allowing citizens to plan it with the guidance of the professionals… But, by the end of the process, it will be the citizens of Gary’s comprehensive plan.”

Follow the Data Podcast: The Innovative Mayor, Greg Fischer

This episode of Follow the Data presents a conversation with Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and James Anderson, who leads Government Innovation at Bloomberg Philanthropies. Mayor Fischer is serving in his second term and says that to be a good mayor, you need the “head of a CEO, but the heart of a social worker.”

How to Win the American Cities Climate Challenge

By Antha Williams and James Anderson

Last week, Bloomberg Philanthropies announced a $70-million Challenge aimed at helping cities across America grow their economies and protect human health by taking action to fight climate change. Mike Bloomberg will be emailing the mayors of the 100 largest U.S. cities about it — so keep an eye on your inbox, or tell your mayor to!

Here’s what it’s all about: When it comes to climate change, cities are both the problem and the solution. Globally, they’re the source of 70 percent of the emissions that are leading to climate change. But they’re also where creative solutions, combined with bold leadership from mayors, can make a real difference.

What’s Ahead for What Works Cities

Mike Bloomberg announced an additional $42 million investment in the What Works Cities program to enhance cities’ use of data and evidence to improve resident outcomes and address the most pressing local issues. The investment, part of Bloomberg’s American Cities Initiative, is one response to what the former New York City mayor says is a mounting disdain for facts, which is making it difficult to tackle some of the country’s toughest challenges.

4 strategies that are defining the future of city communications

Last week, Bloomberg Philanthropies brought 54 communications leaders from city halls in the U.S. and the U.K. to New York City to discuss these topics and more. In panel conversations, workshops, and one-on-ones, they traded tips on social media and storytelling, considered the changing media industry, and learned the latest and best practices for organizing a comms shop. Here are four strategies that emerged last week that are likely to reflect where the field of city-government communications is headed.

Innovation coaches offer their top tips to city leaders

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.

3 Ways to Promote a Culture and Practice of Collaboration

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.

Follow the Data Podcast Episode 16: The Innovative Mayor, Michael Hancock

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.

Five ways U.S. cities are solving America’s biggest challenges

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.

The Mayors Challenge: Unleashing the Power of Public Prototyping

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.

Data-driven women to watch

By Beth Blauer, Executive Director and Founder of GovEx at Johns Hopkins University, and Simone Brody, Executive Director of What Works Cities

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.

Follow the Data Podcast Episode 15: The Innovative Mayor, Jan Vapaavuori

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.”

The mayor behind Kansas City’s data revolution

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.

Cities Collaborate with Citizens to Make an Impact

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.

324 Mayors Challenge applicants tackle America’s most pressing concerns

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.

Follow the Data Podcast Episode 13: The Innovative Mayor

The 13th episode of Follow the Data presents a conversation with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti about how to cultivate and retain innovation in city hall. LA is unique in that the city appointed a Deputy Mayor for Budget and Innovation, and the city continues to illustrate impressive capacity to take risks and experiment for the sake of innovation.

Recasting Free Financial Counseling as a Public Service

By Jonathan Mintz, CEO of Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund

Local leaders know that individual and family financial security isn’t just a personal issue – it affects all of us.  Many of us in New York City learned that the hard way in 2008, when the city lost over 100,000 jobs and unemployment went up by 133%. Residents and families were suffering, and this was reflected in neighborhoods across the city.

How Cities Can Keep Stride with the Rapid Pace of New Technologies

This week city leaders and urban innovators from around the world convened in Paris for CityLab 2017, hosted by the Aspen Institute, The Atlantic, and Bloomberg Philanthropies. On Sunday, October 22, nearly 40 mayors gathered to address an issue that is top of mind for city leaders: new, disruptive technologies—from driverless cars to drones—and how cities can harness this tech to improve life in cities.

City leaders discuss disruptive tech at the Mayors Innovation Studio

By James Anderson, Bloomberg Philanthropies Government Innovation Team

At Bloomberg Philanthropies, we work with thousands of city leaders in hundreds of cities around the world—and yet there is one topic that comes up time and time again: Disruptive technology. That’s because mayors understand that new technologies are shaping our future. They also know that if they want a stake in the game, they first have to get in the game.