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Bloomberg Philanthropies 2021 Mayors Challenge Names Top 50 Global Urban Innovations Emerging From Pandemic

As Mayors Challenge Innovation Competition Proceeds, 50 Finalist Cities Set to Strengthen Ideas with Residents in Coming Months

Grand Prize Winners to be Chosen Early 2022

NEW YORK — Bloomberg Philanthropies today announced the 50 Champion Cities, representing the boldest urban innovations of the past year that will advance to the finalist stage of the 2021 Global Mayors Challenge, a worldwide innovation competition that encourages and spreads the cities’ most promising ideas. This year’s program focuses on elevating the most important public innovations generated in response to the global Covid-19 pandemic.

The 50 cities named today hail from 29 nations on 6 continents. They emerged from a highly competitive applicant pool: Mayors from 631 cities in 99 countries submitted their most promising ideas for consideration which is nearly twice the number of cities that applied in Bloomberg Philanthropies’ last Mayors Challenge, held in the United States in 2018. The finalists were elevated based on four criteria: Vision, potential for impact, feasibility, and transferability.

The ideas provide a powerful snapshot of the innovation priorities of the world’s cities. At the global level, innovations focusing on improving health and reducing unemployment were most common. Racial justice emerged as the area of highest priority for U.S. cities, while social inclusion topped the European submissions. In Africa, where the world is experiencing its fastest rates of urbanization, infrastructure was dominant. Nearly half of the submissions were generated in part through participatory processes with residents.

“These 50 finalists are showing the world that in the face of the pandemic’s enormous challenges, cities are rising to meet them with bold, innovative, and ambitious ideas,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies and 108th mayor of New York City. “By helping these cities test their ideas over the coming months, we will have a chance to identify cutting-edge policies and programs that can allow cities to rebuild in ways that make them stronger and healthier, and more equal and more just.”

The 50 Champion Cities of the 2021 Global Mayors Challenge are:

Africa (16% of Finalists):

  • Cape Town, South Africa: Transforming soup kitchens into a sustainable food-distribution infrastructure
  • Danané, Côte d’Ivoire: Transforming mobility for vulnerable residents
  • Freetown, Sierra Leone: Incentivizing community action to combat urban deforestation
  • Kigali, Rwanda: Adopting proven rainwater-harvesting technologies in informal communities
  • Kumasi, Ghana: Training unemployed youth to create new household toilet technologies
  • Lusaka, Zambia: Incentivizing the repurposing of trash into needed products
  • Meru, Kenya: Using Black Soldier Fly larvae to fix an inadequate waste-collection system
  • Umuaka, Nigeria: Digital support for survivors of gender-based violence

Asia-Pacific (16% of Finalists):

  • Auckland, New Zealand: Calculating carbon emissions for infrastructure development
  • Butuan, Philippines: Leveraging predictive data to bolster local farmers
  • Daegu, South Korea: Digital permissioning to bring new life to urban spaces
  • Manila, Philippines: Building a 21st-century data infrastructure to improve city services
  • Pune, India: Building the foundation for an all-electric-vehicle future
  • Rourkela, India: Supporting solar-powered cold storage—plus women entrepreneurship—to reduce food waste
  • Taipei, Taiwan: Using virtual reality to promote safe, active lifestyles for seniors
  • Wellington, New Zealand: Leveraging a city digital-twin to encourage resident engagement on climate action

Europe (16% of Finalists):

  • Bilbao, Spain: Building a cybersecure city and citizenry
  • Glasgow, United Kingdom: Unleashing a neighborhood-level participatory approach to community wellbeing
  • Istanbul, Turkey: Creating a platform for individual philanthropy at a city-wide scale
  • Leuven, Belgium: Using ‘civic contracts’ to drive individual and organizational climate action
  • London, United Kingdom: Deploying rapid, upstream interventions to prevent chronic homelessness
  • Paris, France: Offering free climate-activism education for Parisian youth
  • Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Using digital tokens to incentivize social impact from the private sector
  • Vilnius, Lithuania: Building a resilient, post-COVID model for hybrid learning

South America (16% of Finalists):

  • Bogotá, Colombia: Creating “care blocks” to shift the gender inequity of care
  • Cartagena, Colombia: Pioneering a gender-aware approach to emergency response
  • La Paz, Bolivia: Co-designing nine new urban centers with residents to ensure equitable access to services
  • Recife, Brazil: Deploying a unique mix of services to foster women’s entrepreneurship at scale
  • Renca, Chile: Enlisting the wisdom of seniors to create community-development projects and reduce isolation.
  • Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Improving housing conditions in favelas using cutting-edge mapping technology
  • Rosario, Argentina: Formalizing and subsidizing informal waste collection
  • Tunja, Colombia: Transforming public space with a circular-economy lens

Middle East (4% of Finalists):

  • Amman, Jordan: Using “reachability maps” to improve the city’s emergency response and guide investments
  • Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel: Engaging youth to make the city’s cultural center more resilient

North America (32% of Finalists):

  • Akron, Ohio: Taking lessons from how we train medical students to support Black entrepreneurs
  • Baltimore, Maryland: Deploying a citywide, coordinated system to support Black owned businesses
  • Birmingham, Alabama: Investing in the next generation of food entrepreneurs
  • Columbus, Ohio: Providing last-mile Wi-Fi access to underserved neighborhoods
  • Durham, North Carolina: Building a team to help residents access untapped federal resources and support
  • Guadalajara, Mexico: Creating a “citizen-safety index” to combat violent crime
  • Hermosillo, Mexico: Providing new employment opportunities for women in the circular economy
  • Lansing, Michigan: Launching cross-sectoral partnerships to halt learning loss in children
  • Long Beach, California: Using the city’s power to bring transparency to the gig economy
  • Louisville, Kentucky: Creating the diverse tech workforce of the future
  • New Orleans, Louisiana: Bringing a trust-building lens to the delivery of public services
  • Newark, New Jersey: Reducing crime by focusing on the city’s most persistent offenders
  • Paterson, New Jersey: Providing proven, on-demand treatment to those struggling with opioid addiction
  • Phoenix, Arizona: Deploying “career mobility units” to support job-seekers
  • Rochester, Minnesota: Creating a pathway for women of color into the growing, high-paying local construction field
  • San Jose, California: Bolstering the college-support pipeline for marginalized families

The Mayors Challenge selection committee helped Bloomberg Philanthropies select the 50 finalists. The committee is co-chaired by Bloomberg Philanthropies board member Mellody Hobson, Co-CEO & President, Ariel Investments, and David Miliband, President & CEO, International Rescue Committee, and includes a wide range of global experts: Sir David Adjaye, OBE Founder, Adjaye Associates; Dr. Yogan Pillay, Country Director for South Africa and Senior Global Director for Universal Health Coverage, Clinton Health Access Initiative; Jagan Shah, Senior Infrastructure Adviser, Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, British High Commission, New Delhi; Linda Gibbs, Principal, Bloomberg Associates; Julia Gillard, 27th Prime Minister of Australia; Olafur Eliasson, Artist; Gael Garcia Bernal, actor and producer; Dr. Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, Professor of Economics and Director, Wellbeing Research Centre, University of Oxford; Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women; Federica Mogherini, Rector, College of Europe and Former High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy; Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, Director, Bloomberg American Health Initiative, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; Jennifer Pahlka, Founder and Former Executive Director, Code for America; and Mariana Costa Checa, Co-Founder And CEO, Laboratoria.

“The level of creativity and innovation among this year’s fifty Champion Cities is a clear sign that cities are continuing to step up amid even the biggest challenges,” said Mellody Hobson. “I look forward to seeing these ideas begin to come to life in the next phase of the competition.”

“With fifty Champion Cities come fifty exciting opportunities to foster innovative ideas,” said David Miliband. “The next Champion Phase will equip city leaders with critical tools to test, learn, and grow these solutions.”

The 50 finalist cities will now enter a four-month testing phase to refine their ideas with technical assistance from Bloomberg Philanthropies and its network of leading innovation experts. Fifteen of the 50 cities will ultimately win the grand prize, with each receiving $1 million and robust multi-year technical assistance to implement and scale their ideas.

“This is always an especially exciting phase of the Mayors Challenge, helping mayors push their innovations to even greater heights,” said James Anderson, head of Government Innovation at Bloomberg Philanthropies. “While 15 cities will ultimately take home grand prizes, all 50 cities receive world class coaching and support to improve their ideas and their potential to improve lives.”

Click here for more details on the Champion Cities’ proposals. Watch the announcement video here.

The 2021 Global Mayors Challenge builds on the success of four previous Bloomberg Philanthropies Challenges in the U.S. (2013 and 2018), Europe (2014), and Latin America and the Caribbean (2016). Previous Mayors Challenge grand prizewinners include Los Angeles, California’s tackling of the city’s homelessness crisis by making it easier and cheaper to build accessory dwelling units (ADUs); Stockholm, Sweden’s project to convert plant waste into biochar to encourage plant growth; and Barcelona, Spain helping senior citizens build community through technology. For more information, visit and @BloombergCities on Twitter and Instagram.

About Bloomberg Philanthropies
Bloomberg Philanthropies invests in 810 cities and 170 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: the Arts, Education, Environment, Government Innovation, and Public Health. Bloomberg Philanthropies encompasses all of Michael R. Bloomberg’s giving, including his foundation, corporate, and personal philanthropy as well as Bloomberg Associates, a pro bono consultancy that works in cities around the world. In 2020, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $1.6 billion. For more information, please visit or follow us on FacebookInstagramYouTubeTwitter, and TikTok.

Media Contacts:
Jennifer Wlach, Mercury,
Ty Trippet, Bloomberg Philanthropies,