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555 Cities Join Bloomberg Philanthropies’ U.S. Mayors Challenge to Tackle Urgent Urban Problems and Improve City Life

Record-setting number of participants enter competition to help cities innovate and address urban challenges, representing nationwide interest in finding unique approaches to governing

Competition is part of Mike Bloomberg’s American Cities Initiative; Foundation hosting workshops in 300 cities across 45 states

NEW YORK, September 6, 2017 — Bloomberg Philanthropies today announced that 555 cities – from all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico – have entered the 2017 Mayors Challenge, a nationwide ideas competition for U.S. cities. This represents the highest-ever number of entrants for the Challenge, underscoring an urgency from city leaders to identify and solve the most critical issues of the day.

The Challenge returns to the U.S. this year as the first investment in the $200 million American Cities Initiative, a recently announced suite of new and expanded offerings from Bloomberg Philanthropies that will strengthen U.S. cities through bold leadership. The 2017 Mayors Challenge builds upon the success of previous Bloomberg Philanthropies-sponsored Challenges in the U.S. (2013), Europe (2014), and Latin America and the Caribbean (2016).

The 555 cites that entered have the potential to impact nearly 100 million citizens. Cities of every size, geography, and political affiliation are involved, representing an increased interest in finding creative solutions to urban challenges.

Trends emerging in the applications include:

  • Participating cities are split nearly evenly between Red and Blue states, based on the 2016 national elections, with 49.4 percent in states that voted Democratic in the presidential election and 48.8 percent in states that voted Republican.
  • More than 4 in 10 of eligible cities in the South chose to RSVP. While participating mayors represent cities from across all regions of the U.S., the South is the most robustly represented.
  • There was a 50 percent increase in RSVPs from smaller cities (defined as cities with between 30,000 and 100,000 residents) as compared to the number of small cities that applied in the 2013 U.S. Mayors Challenge.
  • Ninety of the 100 largest U.S. cities have entered the competition.
  • States with the highest rate of participation from eligible cities are: Vermont with 100 percent; Nevada with 83 percent; Maryland with 78 percent; West Virginia with 75 percent; and Mississippi and Maine, each with 67 percent.

“The incredible response to this year’s Challenge really shows how cities are taking the reins to drive our nation forward – and how eager mayors from both parties are to collaborate and try new things,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and three-term Mayor of New York City. “We’re looking forward to seeing the great ideas that cities propose and develop through the Challenge.”

Bloomberg Philanthropies Hosting Workshops in 300 Cities:

To help spur actionable ideas, Bloomberg Philanthropies is hosting local “Idea Accelerator” workshops in each of the first 300 cities that signed up for the Mayors Challenge. The full-day sessions are designed to provide municipal officials with cutting-edge strategies and tools to identify and address their most pressing concerns. By October 1, the workshop series will have included 2,000 hours of skill-building lessons delivered to more than 3,000 city leaders in 45 states.

In January 2018, Bloomberg Philanthropies will award 35 “Champion Cities” $100,000 each to prioritize issues facing their cities, develop homegrown solutions, and bring these ideas to life. This funding will give each city the chance to test and refine its idea, creating a coast-to-coast laboratory for civic innovation. In October 2018, five Mayors Challenge winners will be selected based on each idea’s vision for tackling an urgent challenge, promise for impact and successful implementation, and potential to spread to other cities. One city will win the $5 million grand prize; four others will receive $1 million implementation awards.

“The Mayors Challenge is an innovation process that cities can use to develop, test, and scale new approaches to the most pressing challenges they face – from fostering economic development to repairing aging infrastructure to encouraging social inclusion. It’s competitive and collaborative all at once, as cities work together to build better solutions we all can benefit from,” said James Anderson, the head of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Government Innovation program. “From what we’ve seen to date, the issues cities are focusing on offer an incredible snapshot of America at this particular moment in time – both our challenges and our bottom-up optimism that we can move forward in exciting new ways.”

To learn more about the Mayors Challenge, visit and @BloombergCities on Twitter and Instagram.

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 FacebookInstagramSnapchat, and Twitter.

Media Contacts
Bloomberg Philanthropies, Rebecca Carriero, (212) 205-0182 |