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Bloomberg Philanthropies Announces 15 Winners of the Global Mayors Challenge

Yearlong Competition Launched in 2021 Elevates the Most Promising Urban Innovations to Emerge from the Pandemic

The Winning Cities Receiving $1 Million and Multi-Year Technical Support are Amman, Jordan; Bogotá, Colombia; Butuan, Philippines; Freetown, Sierra Leone; Hermosillo, Mexico; Istanbul, Turkey; Kigali, Rwanda; Kumasi, Ghana; Paterson, New Jersey, USA; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Rochester, Minnesota, USA; Rotterdam, the Netherlands; Rourkela, India; Vilnius, Lithuania; and Wellington, New Zealand

New York, NY – Bloomberg Philanthropies today announced the 15 winning cities of the 2021-2022 Global Mayors Challenge, the fifth edition of the worldwide innovation competition that supports and spreads cities’ most promising ideas. These 15 winners are being recognized for designing the boldest and most ambitious urban innovations to emerge from the global COVID-19 pandemic. The winning ideas address one or more of four current issue areas in cities including economic recovery and inclusive growth; health and wellbeing; climate and environment; and gender and equality. Each city will be awarded one million dollars in addition to technical support and coaching over three years to bring their ideas to life.

“As the world works to address the profound public health and economic effects of the ongoing pandemic, cities can implement innovative ideas at a pace that national governments simply can’t match,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and Bloomberg L.P. and 108th Mayor of New York City. “Our fifteen winners offer bold, achievable plans to improve health, reduce unemployment, empower women, and more. Collectively, they have the potential to improve millions of their residents’ lives – and the most successful solutions will inspire cities around the world to embrace them.”

The 15 winners of the 2021-2022 Bloomberg Philanthropies Global Mayors Challenge are Amman, Jordan; Bogotá, Colombia; Butuan, Philippines; Freetown, Sierra Leone; Hermosillo, Mexico; Istanbul, Turkey; Kigali, Rwanda; Kumasi, Ghana; Paterson, New Jersey, USA; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Rochester, Minnesota, USA; Rotterdam, the Netherlands; Rourkela, India; Vilnius, Lithuania; and Wellington, New Zealand.

The 15 winning cities named today hail from 13 nations on six continents and collectively represent more than 30 million residents. They were selected from among 50 Champion Cities that spent the past four months working with residents to rigorously test and refine their projects. With the most applicants to date, mayors from 631 cities in 99 countries submitted their boldest ideas to the 2021-2022 competition, nearly twice the number of cities that applied to the last Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge in 2018.

The winners were selected based on four criteria: Vision; Potential for impact; Feasibility; and Transferability. The ideas provide a powerful snapshot of the innovation priorities of hundreds of the world’s cities. The most common themes of the winning innovations focus on reducing unemployment, improving health, and addressing climate change. Four of the winning city projects also have an explicit gender-equality lens. Cities developed new ways to deliver city services to residents and approaches to combat the opioid epidemic. All of the submissions were generated in part through participatory processes with residents.

The 15 winning projects are:

Africa (20% of winning cities)

  • Freetown, Sierra Leone: Create a vibrant new digital marketplace supporting tree maintenance and the urban canopy using digital technologies
  • Kigali, Rwanda: Introduce a smart-waste system that improves sanitation and water quality in the city
  • Kumasi, Ghana: Address waste-management and youth unemployment crises by training young people to install toilets

Asia-Pacific (20% of winning cities)

  • Butuan, Philippines: Strengthen local food production by empowering farmers to make smarter decisions through a new agri-business model
  • Rourkela, India: Provide cold-storage units to women co-ops to empower female food vendors, reduce food waste, and increase access to fresh foods
  • Wellington, New Zealand: Create a “virtual twin” of the city that helps residents to better understand climate change impacts, promoting resident action

 Europe (20% of winning cities)

  • Istanbul, Turkey: Foster city-wide mutual aid through a program that crowdsources contributions to meet basic needs for those in need
  • Rotterdam, Netherlands: Use digital tokens to create incentives for local businesses to hire vulnerable residents
  • Vilnius, Lithuania: Take lessons learned during Covid to create more resilient K-12 education models, especially those that tap the “city as a classroom”

South America (7% of winning cities)

  • Bogota, Colombia: Create “care blocks” that support female caretakers, shift more of the care burden to men, and shift more unpaid care work to paid care work

Middle East (7% of winning cities)

  • Amman, Jordan: Map available public assets and service infrastructure to improve the city’s emergency response and infrastructure investments

North America (26% of winning cities)

  • Hermosillo, Mexico: Create eco-friendly employment opportunities that benefit both the environment and underemployed women
  • Paterson, New Jersey:  Respond to residents struggling with Opioid Use Disorder by fulfilling requests for lifesaving medication within 90 minutes through a coordinated effort among police, first responders, hospitals, and pharmacies.
  • Phoenix, Arizona: Combat rising unemployment – especially among people lacking Internet access – by creating mobile units that provide job seekers access to resources, training, and opportunities
  • Rochester, Minnesota: Bring more women of color into high paying construction jobs by coordinating with contractors and facilitating trainings

The 2021-2022 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). Thirty-eight ideas have won the Mayors Challenge since its launch in 2013 and often yield such powerful results that other cities replicate them. This includes Providence Talks (2013, Providence, Rhode Island, USA), a project  that aims to increase the number of words children from low-income families hear each day in order to support healthy brain development and prepare them for school, that is currently being implemented in five additional U.S. cities; Biochar (2014, Stockholm, Sweden), a  project to convert plant waste into biochar to encourage plant growth, which will be replicated in 16 additional European cities; and Visor Urbano (2016, Guadalajara, Mexico), a program that decreases corruption by creating transparency in the permitting process for new businesses and buildings, that will be replicated by 61 additional cities in Latin America.

The Mayors Challenge selection committee helped Bloomberg Philanthropies select the 15 new winners. 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.

“When it comes to solving issues of equality and access, people need people,” said Mellody Hobson. “Each of the winning teams took a people-first, novel approach to improving their community. I am looking forward to seeing the long-term impact generated by these projects around the world.”

“At a time when the world needs ambitious solutions, these cities are delivering,” said David Miliband. “They stood out from the 631 applicants for their vision and leadership and will hopefully deliver real results for residents.”

The 15 winning cities will now enter a three-year implementation period with a $1 million grant and robust technical assistance. During this time, the cities will work diligently to evolve and scale their ideas into a real-life program to improve residents’ lives. Cities will also work to share their ideas with additional cities around the world to enable these tested innovations to spread.

“The Mayors Challenge shows that there can be a positive legacy to emerge from all the hardship of the past two years – and that it’s happening in our cities,” said James Anderson, who leads the Government Innovation program at Bloomberg Philanthropies. “Now we turn to help these mayors implement their ideas, evaluate, and spread the ideas that produce big impact.”

Click here for more details on the 15 winning Global Mayors Challenge ideas and visit and @BloombergCities on Twitter and Instagram.


About Bloomberg Philanthropies
Bloomberg Philanthropies invests in 941 cities and 173 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 2021, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $1.66 billion. For more information, please visit or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter

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