Skip to main content

Global Approach: Bloomberg Philanthropies initiatives that made a difference in 2014

From the mercados of Mexico to the coasts of Chile, from a coffee farm in Rwanda to a health clinic in Tanzania, from a hamlet in Bangladesh to a fishing village in The Philippines, and in the world’s great cities including Johannesburg, Barcelona, and Istanbul, Bloomberg Philanthropies worked across six continents in 2014 to create better, longer lives for the greatest number of people.

We used data to find some of the world’s most pressing problems, implement solutions, and monitor progress. Earlier this year, Fast Company named Bloomberg Philanthropies the #2 most innovative company of 2014, just after Google, citing our approach of “doing good, methodically.”

Here are a few highlights from 2014:

  1. In Mexico, on January 1, a new tax on sugary drinks went into effect. Mexico has the highest prevalence of obese and overweight individuals among the world’s most populous countries. Our three-year Obesity Prevention Program in Mexico helped fund the campaign to pass the new tax.
  2. In coastal Brazil, Chile, and The Philippines, in January, we launched a program to help small- and large-scale legal fishers reform fishing practices. This program works to ensure that there will be plenty of fish to catch so fishers can feed their families and earn a living for years into the future. Our five-year Vibrant Oceans Initiative will help revitalize 7% of the world’s fisheries.
  3. In Johannesburg, South Africa, in February, the C40 Mayors Summit brought together mayors from 67 cities around the world to commit to new actions in the fight against climate change and to welcome three new African cities as members: Cape Town, Dar es Salaam, and Nairobi. As former Chair of C40 and current President of the organization’s Board of Directors, Mike Bloomberg joined current C40 Chair Mayor Eduardo Paes of Rio de Janeiro and Johannesburg Mayor Mpho Parks Tau to lead this year’s C40 Summit and announce the new C40 “Climate Action in Megacities” report.
  4. In February, with a grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies, Sustainable Harvest launched the Relationship Coffee Institute, which will create economic opportunities for women in the Rwandan coffee trade. As part of the launch of the institute, Sustainable Harvest held Let’s Talk Coffee in Rwanda, bringing together 80 female coffee farmers from rural areas and offered trainings both on the entire coffee value chain and on mushroom and honey production. The event also brought together roasters, retailers, NGOs, and senior government officials to discuss challenges and strengthen opportunities for smallholder farmers to make connections in the value chain.
  5. In villages in Bangladesh, where drowning is a major cause of death, we are addressing two major factors in preventable child drowning deaths – the lack of adult supervision and easy access to water – by testing two potential interventions: daycare provided by village mothers and locally manufactured playpens for children. Our Drowning Prevention Program is identifying scalable solutions to help prevent drowning deaths worldwide.
  6. In remote parts of Tanzania, where the maternal death rate is among the highest in the world, we are upgrading health clinics, constructing operating rooms, and providing training for non-physicians to provide life-saving surgeries. In March, as part of our Reproductive Health Program and commitment to Family Planning 2020, we began providing advocacy grants in Nicaragua, Burkina Faso, Senegal and Uganda to strengthen reproductive health rights for women. We also helped launch a Rapid Response Mechanism in partnership with FP2020 and the UN Foundation to provide quick funding to fill urgent gaps and unforeseen opportunities in the 69 FP2020 focus countries.
  7. In Sub-Saharan Africa, in April, we made an impact investment in Little Sun, creators of portable, solar-powered lamps designed by artist Olafur Eliasson and engineer Frederik Ottesen. Today, seven out of ten people lack access to even the most basic electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa. The investment in Little Sun will help provide clean energy to homes, schools and local businesses, replacing toxic kerosene lamps.
  8. In June, we co-funded the Risky Business report, which measures the economic risks of climate change and helps push for action by government and the public sector to address those risks in the United States. The Risky Business Project, which is co-chaired by Mike Bloomberg, Bloomberg Philanthropies board member and former Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulson, and business leader Tom Steyer, is the first of its kind to quantify the economic costs of climate change by region and industry sector.
  9. In Turkey, China, India, and Uruguay this year, we continued to make progress on our long-term Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use in low- and middle-income countries. In June, Mike Bloomberg visited Turkey to support the country’s highly successful effort to reduce smoking. In China, Beijing adopted new anti-smoking measures for public places. Mike met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in September and discussed New Delhi’s new campaign against oral tobacco use – a major killer in that country. And in Uruguay, we continued to support the government and Health Minister Ricardo Varela in the country’s fight against the world’s tobacco industry.
  10. In Washington D.C. in August, we co-hosted the first-ever U.S.-Africa Business Forum with the U.S. Department of Commerce. This unprecedented event brought together heads of state and CEOs from Africa and American business leaders to forge new investment partnerships between Africa and the United States. Mike Bloomberg, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, Secretary of State John Kerry, former President Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama all participated in the forum and emphasized the importance of strengthening trade and financial ties between the United States and Africa.
  11. In September, we expanded and rebranded our Bloomberg Connects program in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Singapore for the development of technologies that make cultural institutions more accessible and help enhance visitor experiences. The expansion includes a new commitment to support the American Museum of Natural History, the Brooklyn Museum, the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay, and the Science Museum in London to produce innovative projects such as immersive rooms, interactive devices and mobile applications.
  12. We also announced Barcelona, Athens, Kirklees, Stockholm, and Warsaw as the winners of the 2014 Mayors Challenge in September, a competition that encourages cities to generate innovative ideas that solve major challenges and improve city life. As the grand prize winning city, Barcelona received €5 million toward its proposal to create a digital and community ‘trust network’ for each of its at-risk elderly residents. The four other European cities received €1 million each to support the implementation of their unique ideas on government efficiency, climate change, and transportation.
  13. In Los Angeles, in September, we co-hosted the annual CityLab conference with The Aspen Institute and The Atlantic, bringing together more than 300 of the world’s top mayors, urban experts, city planners, writers, technologists, economists, and designers to foster constructive dialogue and create scalable solutions for city leaders to share with their constituencies across the world.
  14. In September, we announced a new commitment to our Global Road Safety Initiative, which aims to reduce fatalities and injuries from road traffic crashes in low- and middle-income cities worldwide. The foundation invited select low- and middle-income cities with populations of over two million residents to apply for inclusion in the initiative, which will address road safety by improving pedestrian safety, and enhancing laws to combat drinking and driving, reduce speeding,  and encourage the use of motorcycle helmets, seat-belts, and child restraints. Since the start of our Global Road Safety Initiative in 2007, countries such as Brazil and India have made significant progress toward safer roads.
  15. In October, we announced a new Public Art Challenge inviting mayors in the United States with 30,000 residents or more to submit proposals for innovative temporary public art projects that demonstrate close collaboration between artists, or arts organizations and city government. At least three cities will be selected to receive up to $1 million each over two years. In bringing more art to communities, we also supported public art projects including artist Tobias Rehberger’s Dazzle Ship in London; We the People, Dahn Vo’s multi-site exhibition through the Public Art Fund; Dan Graham and Günther Vogt’s Roof Garden Commission at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Warm Up at MoMA P.S. 1 in New York City, and Doug and Mike Starn’s Big Bambú installation in Jerusalem.
  16. We announced a new College Access program in October designed to help high-achieving high school students from low- and middle-income families in the United States to apply to, enroll in, and graduate from our nation’s top colleges and universities. This new initiative aims to directly help as many as 65,000 students by providing support and guidance on the college application and financial aid process.
  17. In December, we selected 12 cities in the United States and two in Israel to participate in the expansion of our Innovation Teams program to develop and deliver bold new approaches to urban issues such as affordable housing, public safety, infrastructure finance, customer service, and job growth. The grants will go to the U.S. cities of Albuquerque, NM; Boston, MA; Centennial, CO; Jersey City, NJ; Long Beach, CA; Los Angeles, CA; Mobile, AL; Minneapolis, MN; Peoria, IL; Rochester, NY; Seattle, WA; and Syracuse, NY; plus Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv in Israel.