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Bloomberg Philanthropies Announces 2017 Mayors Challenge Selection Committee Co-Chaired by Former Ambassador Caroline Kennedy and Former Xerox Chairman & CEO Ursula Burns

4th Mayors Challenge Will Invest $17.5 Million in American Cities to Test and Implement Innovative Solutions to Urgent Local Issues

 Applications From More Than 320 Cities Reveal Common Challenges Related to Opioid Crisis, Job Growth, and Resident Engagement

Bloomberg Philanthropies today announced the selection committee for the 2017 U.S. Mayors Challenge, a nationwide competition that encourages city leaders to think big, be bold, and uncover inventive ideas that confront the toughest problems U.S. cities currently face. More than 320 cities are taking part in this year’s competition, the fourth Mayors Challenge Bloomberg Philanthropies has held since 2013. Former U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy and Former Xerox Chairman and CEO Ursula Burns will co-chair the selection committee, which is comprised of distinguished policy experts, artists, academics, business executives and social innovation leaders, that will choose the winning cities.

“We’re glad to have such a dynamic set of experts from around the United States making up this committee. Determining the winning ideas won’t be easy, but I know this group will help us ensure a successful competition,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and three-term Mayor of New York City.

The Mayors Challenge returns to the U.S. as the first investment in the American Cities Initiative, a suite of new and expanded programs from Bloomberg Philanthropies to strengthen cities. The 2017 edition of the U.S. Mayors Challenge features a six month testing phase for 35 “Champion Cities” who will receive up to $100,000 to refine their idea. In October 2018, five Mayors Challenge winners will be selected. One city will win the $5 million grand prize and four others will receive $1 million awards.

“It is incredibly exciting to see cities embracing technology and innovation to address today’s most pressing challenges,” said Ursula Burns, former Xerox Chairman and CEO. “I am honored to co-chair this year’s selection committee, and eager to explore the proposed approaches to improving cities across the country.”

“Innovation and creative problem solving requires bold leadership. Each of the mayors who have applied to the U.S. Mayors Challenge have the vision and initiative needed to develop, execute, and sustain ideas to make their cities even stronger,” said Caroline Kennedy, former U.S. Ambassador to Japan.

The selection committee was chosen by Bloomberg Philanthropies for their diversity in expertise and experience across multiple sectors. Each member brings unique insight into the evaluation process that will ensure that the most innovative proposals are advanced through each round of the challenge. Among the prominent individuals that comprise the selection committee are playwright and actress Anna Deavere Smith; former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy; Founder & CEO of Black Girls CODE, Kimberly Bryant; and HuffPost Founder, Arianna Huffington.

The 324 Mayors Challenge applications offer a snapshot of the top issues facing U.S. city leaders. The top three issues are related to Health (15 percent), Youth (13 percent), and Citizen Engagement (10 percent). Combined, these represent nearly 40 percent of applications. Responses to the nation’s opioid epidemic represent the biggest concern for all health-related applications, while city leaders are evenly prioritizing issues related to early childhood development, and job training and skills development for youth. In addition, nearly a third of cities are turning to technological solutions, including mobile apps, for engaging their residents.

Compared with the 2013 U.S. Mayors Challenge – the first year the challenge was held –  several issues surfaced more prominently this year, including health, housing, and income inequality. Other key insights include:

  • Smaller cities need infrastructure support: Of cities proposing ideas related to infrastructure, the vast majority – 79 percent – were small cities.
  • Climate change is top of mind for the American West: Of cities proposing ideas related to climate change, 37 percent were located in the West.
  • The housing crisis is hitting medium-sized cities particularly hard: Of cities proposing ideas related to housing, 58 percent are medium-sized cities.
  • Jobs are a top concern beyond the coasts: Of cities proposing ideas related to job creation, 33 percent of applications came from Midwestern cities.

The 2017 Mayors Challenge builds on the success of previous Bloomberg-sponsored Challenges in the U.S. (2013), Europe (2014), and Latin America and the Caribbean (2016). Previous Mayors Challenge grand prize winners include: São Paulo, Brazil with a program to increase farmers’ income and reduce urban sprawl; Barcelona, Spain for work to create digital trust networks that support at-risk elderly citizens; and efforts in Providence, RI to measure and reduce the “word gap” among low-income children during pivotal brain development years. For more information, visit and @BloombergCities on Twitter and Instagram.

Selection committee members include:

  • Kimberly Bryant, Founder & CEO of Black Girls CODE, a non-profit dedicated to introducing girls of color (ages 7-17) to technology and computer science. Prior to starting Black Girls CODE, Kimberly spent more than 20 years as an Engineering Manager for Fortune 50 companies such as Genentech,Merck, and Pfizer.
  • Ursula Burns is the retired Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Xerox Corporation. Burns is the Chairman of the Board of VEON Ltd and a director of American Express, Exxon Mobil, Nestle, Datto, and Diageo. Burns also provides leadership counsel to the Ford Foundation, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Corporation, Cornell Tech Board of Overseers, the New York City Ballet, and the Mayo Clinic. Burns is a member of the National Academy of Engineers and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
  • Anna Deavere Smith, Actress, playwright, and professor. She is a University Professor at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Smith has received the National Humanities Medal presented by President Obama, the MacArthur Award, a George Polk Award in Journalism, The Ridenhour Courage Prize and the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Award.
  • Manny Diaz, Former Mayor of the City of Miami, Florida, and former President of the United States Conference of Mayors. Diaz transformed Miami and launched nationally innovative programs in urban design, sustainability, and education. He is on the Board of Directors of Bloomberg Philanthropies.
  • Shaun Donovan, former Director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget under President Obama. Donovan previously served as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (2009-2014). He also served as Commissioner of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development, worked in the private sector on financing affordable housing, and was a visiting scholar at New York University.
  • Rosanne Haggerty, President and CEO of Community Solutions. An expert on homelessness, she is also a MacArthur Fellow, Ashoka Senior Fellow, Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneur and recipient of the National Design Award and Jane Jacobs Award.
  • Arianna Huffington, Founder of HuffPost and Founder and CEO of Thrive Global. Her last two books, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder and The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night At A Time, both became instant international bestsellers.
  • Caroline Kennedy, Former Ambassador to Japan. Caroline Kennedy is an attorney who served as the United States Ambassador to Japan. Kennedy is the author or editor of eleven New York Times best-selling books on law, civics, and poetry. She is Honorary President of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and Honorary Chair of the Senior Advisory Committee of the Harvard University Institute of Politics. Kennedy also served as Vice Chair of the Fund for Public Schools.
  • Mukti Khaire, Girish and Jaidev Reddy Professor of Practice at Cornell Tech. and the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business. Prior to joining Cornell Tech, Mukti taught entrepreneurship at Harvard Business School and was visiting faculty at Brown University. Her recent book, ‘Culture and Commerce: The Value of Entrepreneurship in Creative Industries,’ was published by Stanford University Press.
  • Vijay Kumar, professor, author, consultant and advisor to Fortune 500 companies, small businesses, social organizations, and governments. Kumar is a professor at the IIT Institute of Design in Chicago. For more than 12 years he was the chief methodologist at Doblin (now a member of Deloitte) a leading global innovation firm.
  • Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, 19th Surgeon General of the United States. As the Vice Admiral of the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, he launched the TurnTheTide campaign, catalyzing health professionals to address the nation’s opioid crisis. An internal medicine physician and entrepreneur, Dr. Murthy has co-founded a number of organizations: VISIONS, an HIV/AIDS education program in India; Swasthya, a community health partnership in rural India; software company TrialNetworks; and Doctors for America.
  • John Minor, President and Chief Investment Officer at JobsOhio. John has 14 years of investment banking experience, advising companies on strategic and capital raising transactions. John was a Managing Director at Evercore Partners and a senior Vice President in the Financial Institutions Group at Lehman Brothers and Barclays Capital.
  • Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, Inaugural Director of the Bloomberg American Health Initiative, Professor of the Practice, and Associate Dean for Public Health Practice and Training at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. He previously served as the Health Commissioner of Baltimore, as the Health Secretary of Maryland, and as the Principal Deputy Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

About Bloomberg Philanthropies
Bloomberg Philanthropies works in over 120 countries around the world to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people. The organization focuses on five key areas for creating lasting change: Arts, Education, Environment, Government Innovation, and Public Health. Bloomberg Philanthropies encompasses all of Michael R. Bloomberg’s charitable activities, including his foundation and his personal giving. In 2016, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $600 million. For more information, please visit or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter.

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