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Government InnovationSpurring Innovation in Cities

Spurring Innovation in Cities

Solutions to many of the greatest challenges we face can be found in cities. Local governments are uniquely positioned to bring about change and get things done, but they also face unprecedented challenges. Some of those challenges are within their control, while others are not — but no matter what local leaders face, creativity, flexibility, and innovation hold the key to unlocking the full potential of their cities.

The Government Innovation team’s mission: give city governments the support they need to do that. The team promotes the latest in public – and private – sector innovation, while introducing and spreading proven and promising solutions among cities around the world. Bloomberg Philanthropies’ work helps mayors and local leaders develop and test big ideas, understand what works and what doesn’t, and provides them with the tools and support they need to transform their cities and prepare them for the future.

Mayors Challenge

Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge is a competition designed to spark innovative, replicable ideas for improving cities, and the lives of people living in them, by encouraging leaders to think outside the box about how to confront the most difficult challenges they face. Following four successful regional competitions, the first Global Mayors Challenge launched in 2021, with a focus on identifying and accelerating the most ambitious ideas developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fifteen winning cities each received $1 million, along with robust multi-year support to implement their award-winning ideas. Previous challenges focused on cities in the United States (2013), Europe (2014), and Latin America and the Caribbean (2016), before returning to the U.S. in 2018.

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South Bend, Indiana’s Mayors Challenge project Commuters Trust is a public-private partnership between the City and select employers to provide subsidized commuting options to employees through a Ride Guarantee program.

I-Team and Innovation Programs

City governments face a constantly changing list of challenges, from meager federal funding to shifting needs and are finding that innovative thinking is vital in confronting them. Now, Bloomberg Philanthropies is funding innovation teams to help mayors deliver better results. After a successful test in five cities, over 50 cities around the world have participated, using the teams to address issues like sustainability and poverty reduction. Bloomberg Philanthropies also provides training to cities around the world on the latest, most impactful innovation tools.

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The I-teams in Louisville, Kentucky host a Wi-Fi hackathon.
The I-teams in Louisville, Kentucky host a Wi-Fi hackathon.

Youth Climate Action Fund

Through technical assistance and funding for 100 mayors around the world, the Youth Climate Action Fund will activate tens of thousands of young people ages of 15 – 24 years to design, produce, and govern urgent climate solutions in their cities.

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Bloomberg Initiative for Cycling Infrastructure

The Bloomberg Initiative for Cycling Infrastructure (BICI) helps cities around the world design streets that increase biking rates, revitalize neighborhoods, and promote the health and well-being of communities.

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Bike riders in Bogotá, Colombia. Credit: Courtesy of the City of Bogotá, Colombia.

Bloomberg Cities Idea Exchange

The Bloomberg Cities Idea Exchange will accelerate the spread of successful civic solutions between cities around the world. The first-of-its-kind initiative will turbocharge the efforts of thousands of local governments to adapt and replicate ideas from other cities that address their most acute challenges.

Through a $50 million investment, the Bloomberg Cities Idea Exchange will provide a unified program for local governments to source proven ideas across a range of emerging issues, transfer implementation knowledge between cities, adapt effective solutions for their local contexts, and measure the impact of their interventions.

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Illustration: Carolina Moscoso/Bloomberg News

City AI Connect

In collaboration with the Center for Government Excellence at Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg Philanthropies launched City AI Connect, a new global learning community and digital platform for cities to trial and advance the usage of generative artificial intelligence to improve public services.  To maximize the potential and expand the availability of generative artificial intelligence learning for local governments, City AI Connect will offer officials a single destination to ideate, develop, and test new utilizations with peers across cities. Its purpose is to strengthen the human effort necessary to manage and deploy generative artificial intelligence in city halls, not to replace it.

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City AI Connect was launched during the Mayors Innovation Studio during Bloomberg CityLab 2023

Cities of Service

In 2009, Michael Bloomberg and 16 mayors from around the country founded Cities of Service, a coalition of nearly 200 cities dedicated to finding new ways to engage their residents in crucial volunteer work. Cities of Service allows citizens to have agency in the municipal process, creating a mechanism for problem solving by helping to ensure that volunteer efforts target problems.

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Mayor Byron W. Brown joins citizen volunteers for a Love Your Block neighborhood revitalization project. Photo credit: city of Buffalo
Mayor Byron W. Brown joins citizen volunteers for a Love Your Block neighborhood revitalization project. Photo credit: City of Buffalo, New York

Financial Empowerment Centers

More than 65 million people in the United States do not have a bank account, while 55% of households lack enough savings to replace a month of their income. By offering financial counseling as a free city service, Financial Empowerment Centers (FEC) offer an effective strategy for helping those most in need. Through a partnership with the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund, Bloomberg Philanthropies is helping implement this innovative model. With Bloomberg Philanthropies’ support to date, the FEC initiative has helped more than 108,000 clients reduce $150 million in debt and build over $23 million in savings nationwide.

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Photo credit: Shutterstock
By offering financial counseling as a free city service, Financial Empowerment Centers (FEC) offer an effective strategy for helping those most in need. Photo credit: Getty

Bloomberg Cities Network

For Local Government Innovators

Visit the Bloomberg Cities Network, created in partnership with Johns Hopkins for city leaders and innovators full of resources, learning opportunities, and connections to peers around the world. Join the network to receive exclusive resources, including access to world-class training and events, peer networking opportunities, powerful city solutions, and more.

Top photo: Chief Innovation Officers and their staff from cities across the country gather during CityLab for the Bloomberg Chief Innovators Studio ahead of CityLab, Miami.