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Bloomberg Philanthropies Announces Mayors Challenge Winners Providence, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, and Santa Monica

Bloomberg Philanthropies today announced the winners of the Mayors Challenge, a competition to inspire American cities to generate innovative ideas that solve major challenges and improve city life – and that ultimately can be shared with other cities to improve the well-being of the nation. More than 300 cities competed in this inaugural competition. Providence was presented the Mayors Challenge Grand Prize for Innovation and a $5 million implementation award for its cutting-edge early education initiative. Mayors Challenge innovation prizes also were awarded to Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, and Santa Monica, all of which will receive $1 million to support implementation. Sculptures created by world-renowned designer Olafur Eliasson were created to commemorate the Mayors Challenge winners.

“The Mayors Challenge is dedicated to the idea that cities are the new laboratories of democracy. If an innovative program or policy can work in one city, it can spread across the country and even across the globe,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, philanthropist and Mayor of New York City. “Too often, great ideas don’t get the support—or the funding—they need. The Mayors Challenge helps eliminate those obstacles by elevating and funding the most promising and innovative ideas. In the months ahead, we look forward to seeing these ideas implemented, take root locally, and then hopefully spread across the nation to improve the lives of all Americans.”

The winning cities were selected based on four criteria: vision, ability to implement, potential for impact, and potential for replicability. A selection committee, co-chaired by Ron Daniel, Bloomberg Philanthropies board member and Former Managing Partner at McKinsey & Company where he is still active, and Shona Brown, Senior Vice President and head of, selected the winners. The five winning ideas highlight the diverse array of complex and common challenges facing cities:

  • Providence, RI (Mayor Angel Taveras): Providence Talks – Combines a revolutionary approach with proven technology to measure vocabulary exposure for children in low- income households and help parents close the word gap. Selected for its direct, simple, and revolutionary approach to early childhood education.
  • Chicago, IL (Mayor Rahm Emanuel): The Chicago SmartData Platform – Partners with leaders in data and computer science to build the first open-source, predictive analytics platform – aggregating information in one place to help leaders make smarter, faster decisions and prevent problems before they develop. Selected for creating an open-source platform to harness the power of data to understand underlying trends and better direct limited resources.
  • Houston, TX (Mayor Annise Parker): One Bin For All – Creates an innovative public- private partnership to combine existing technologies to achieve the ultimate goal in waste management – a one-bin, high-recovery system that will aim to recycle 75% of all waste. Selected for its huge leap forward in recycling/recovery and potentially transformative impact on cities’ sustainability practices.
  • Philadelphia, PA (Mayor Michael Nutter): Philadelphia Social Enterprise Partnership – Launches a new procurement process that enables entrepreneurs and social innovators to respond to RFPs and help generate solutions to the most pressing city problems. Government procurement processes are often cited as chief barriers to innovation. Selected for its novel approach to reforming city procurement, a key obstacle to local government innovation.
  • Santa Monica, CA (Mayor Pam O’Connor): The Wellbeing Project – Establishes Santa Monica as the first city in the nation to measure wellbeing and formally embed it in policy-making – via a sophisticated index focused on economic vitality, social relationships, health, education/care, and local environment. Selected for its data-driven approach to measuring and managing wellbeing in a local context.

In addition, Houston has emerged as the winner of the “Mayors Challenge Fan Favorite Selection,” launched in partnership with The Huffington Post ( challenge). The competition allowed citizens to learn more about the bold and innovative ideas of the 20 finalists and vote for their favorite. Houston will receive a $50K in-kind grant from IBM to support the implementation of its One Bin For All idea as well as featured coverage and promotion from The Huffington Post, including a monthly front page column for a year and an interview with Arianna Huffington on Huff Post Live. Milwaukee – whose idea is to repurpose foreclosed homes and vacant lots into urban agricultural assets – was recognized for its close second-place finish and also will receive special coverage and promotion from The Huffington Post.

“We are delighted to award the Fan Favorite prize to Houston, and excited to see so many people inspired to vote,” said Arianna Huffington, president and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post Media Group. “More than 58,000 people voted – engaging in robust conversation about the power of cities and local leaders to solve pressing problems. Houston and Milwaukee, finishing a close second, were the clear Fan Favorites. We look forward to showcasing their progress with our readers across the world.”

Accompanying the prize money, which will be used to implement their ideas, each of the five cities will receive a trophy specially designed by world-renowned artist Olafur Eliasson, known in New York City for his public art project, The New York City Waterfalls. The Mayors Challenge Prize for Innovation award is a spherical sculpture formed by three concentric circles – square, circle, and dodecagon – encircling a hanging compass. The compass indicates steadily north, uniting the prize winners and assisting viewers in imagining their collective responsibility to navigate towards the greater good for all. “What inspires me about the Mayors Challenge is that while it honors what has been achieved in the past, it focuses on how to fuel a better tomorrow. For me, the award is about showing confidence in the future of cities,” said Eliasson. The Public Art Fund provided critical assistance in facilitating the artist’s participation.

The Mayors Challenge is a competition to inspire American cities to generate innovative ideas that solve major challenges and improve city life. Mayors of U.S. cities with 30,000 residents or more were eligible to compete, with 305 cities representing 45 states submitting applications last September. Twenty finalists were selected and, in November, teams from each of these cities attended Bloomberg Ideas Camp, a two-day gathering in New York City, to help refine and strengthen their ideas. After Camp, finalists received individualized coaching to prepare their final submissions in January 2013.

The Mayors Challenge is the latest initiative of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Project, which aims to spread proven and promising ideas among cities. Other Mayors Project investments include Cities of Service, Innovation Delivery Teams, and Financial Empowerment Centers.

About Bloomberg Philanthropies

Bloomberg Philanthropies is on a mission to improve and lengthen lives. We focus on five key areas to create lasting change: Public Health, Environment, Education, Government Innovation, which includes the Mayors Challenge, and Arts & Culture. Bloomberg Philanthropies encompasses all of Michael R. Bloomberg’s charitable activities, including his foundation and his personal giving. In 2012, $360 million was distributed.