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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 cities will receive $1 million each, 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-Teams 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 40 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.

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.

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