Blog

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.