On Tuesday, Bloomberg’s foundation is starting an ambitious response, the American Talent Initiative. As some readers may know, this issue is a passion of mine, and I consider the project very promising.
It has a clear goal: The number of Pell Grant recipients (who tend to come from the bottom two-fifths of the income distribution) attending the 270 colleges with the highest graduation rates should rise 50,000 within 10 years. That would be an increase of more than 10 percent.
To get there, Bloomberg is creating a coalition of colleges that publicly commit to become more diverse.
Kelly Henning, who leads public health efforts for Bloomberg Philanthropies, said in an interview that the new donation will help expand its previous work, such as getting countries to monitor tobacco use, introduce strong tobacco-control laws, and create mass media campaigns to educate the public about the dangers of tobacco use. The program includes 110 countries, among them China, India, Indonesia and Bangladesh.
It comes out to less than a dollar a person: Since 2006, Bloomberg Philanthropies’ investment of more than $600 million to reduce tobacco use has helped protect nearly 1.7 billion people from smoking’s health hazards, primarily in low- and middle-income countries. The bet—while risky—offered a strong opportunity for philanthropy to play a role. Despite data indicating tobacco’s danger to public health as well as evidence about high-impact policies, “no one had really taken the evidence base on to implement it,” says Dr. Kelly Henning, Program Lead for Bloomberg’s Public Health program.
The City of São Paulo, Brazil will receive $5 million for winning the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Latin American and Caribbean Mayors Challenge, a competition in which city leaders propose ambitious solutions to combat some systemic urban problem within the region.
Shanghai has proven its commitment to reducing road traffic fatalities and injuries by addressing road safety issues and implementing solutions that have proven effective. In 2015, Shanghai was selected as one of 10 cities to be a part of an elite global network to reduce road traffic fatalities and injuries. The network is part of the Bloomberg Philanthropies Initiative for Global Road Safety, a five-year program working to reduce fatalities and injuries around the world.
“Money will only go so far to fixing individual buildings,” says Kate Levin, the former New York City cultural affairs commissioner who oversees Bloomberg’s arts program. “This is potentially of much greater use because it’s creating a high level of conversation and focusing interest on something.”
Bloomberg Philanthropies has announced a $10 million grant to the Relationship Coffee Institute to expand its women’s economic development program in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Announced during the U.S.-Africa Business Forum, the grant will enable an additional twenty thousand women to benefit from and participate in Africa’s economic growth through training programs and access to the region’s coffee market.
In June 2015, the Bloomberg Philanthropies Public Art Challenge awarded four cities up to $1 million over two years to create new ways to highlight and solve civic problems. The winners are Los Angeles, Gary, Indiana, Spartanburg, South Carolina, and a tri-borough team of Albany, Schenectady, and Troy, New York
Road safety isn’t sexy, but it’s a pretty big deal, and it’s interesting to see the different moving parts of Bloomberg’s approach to the problem, which was reflected by the participants in the Bangkok meeting. Working with governments and other stakeholders is key, and the initiative aims to pull various levers, including policy, law, and marketing. The foundation reports that since 2007, as a result of its work, “nearly 2 billion people have been covered by strengthened road safety laws, 65 million people have been exposed to hard-hitting media campaigns promoting road safety, close to 30,000 professionals have been trained on road safety tactics and governments have committed $225 million towards infrastructure improvements that will make roads safer.”
The initiative will be a collaboration between Harvard Business School and the Harvard Kennedy School’s Executive Education program, with input from Bloomberg’s consortium of philanthropic efforts.
According to a joint press release and interviews with officials, the new City Leadership Initiative seeks to serve up to 300 mayors and 400 mayoral aides in the next four years. The “curriculum” will consist of training and research programs, mentorship, and best-practice sharing among participants, though specifics are yet to be determined.