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Five Cities Selected As Winners in Bloomberg Philanthropies 2014 Mayors Challenge

Grand Prize Winner Barcelona Aims to Create Digital and Community ‘Trust Network’ for Each of its At-Risk Elderly Residents

Athens, Greece; Kirklees in Yorkshire, UK; Stockholm, Sweden; and Warsaw, Poland Also Win Funds for Innovative Solutions to Pressing Urban Challenges

Bloomberg Philanthropies today announced the winners in its 2014 Mayors Challenge, an ideas competition that encourages cities to generate innovative ideas that solve major challenges and improve city life and that have the potential to spread to other cities.

Barcelona will receive the Mayors Challenge Grand Prize for Innovation and €5 million toward its proposal to create a digital and community ‘trust network’ for each of its at-risk elderly residents. Mayors Challenge innovation prizes also were awarded to Athens, Greece, Kirklees in Yorkshire, UK, Stockholm in Sweden, and Warsaw in Poland. Each of which will receive €1 million to support implementation of their unique ideas. The winners proposed solutions that address some of Europe’s most critical issue areas: unemployment, energy efficiency, obesity, aging and improving the overall effectiveness and efficiency of government. The ideas are further described below.

“To meet the biggest challenges of the 21st century, city leaders must think creatively and be unafraid to try new things – and the Mayors Challenge is designed to help them do that,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies. “We received great proposals from all over Europe, and the competition over the past year has been fierce. The decision for our selection committee was not easy, but the five winning ideas we announced today represent the best of the best, and all have the potential to improve lives. Cities are shaping the future of our planet, and Bloomberg Philanthropies is committed to helping mayors pioneer new innovations – and to helping their most promising ideas spread around the world.”

More than 150 top cities from 28 nations entered the 2014 Mayors Challenge. The winning cities were selected based on four criteria: their idea’s vision and creativity, potential for impact, transferability, and viability of implementation. Their evolving ideas reflect a diverse array of complex and common challenges facing cities today:

• Barcelona, Spain: Collaborative Care Networks for Better Aging
More than one in five Barcelona residents is over 65, and by 2040, one in four will be. As lives grow longer, Barcelona – like many cities globally – is grappling with new health problems and debilitating social isolation. To address this growing problem, Barcelona will use digital and low-tech strategies to create a network of family members, friends, neighbors, social workers, and volunteers who together make up a “trust network” for each at-risk elderly resident. This will help identify gaps in care, enable coordination of support, and promote quality of life.

• Athens, Greece: Synathina, a Public Platform for Engaged Citizens
The devastating economic crisis has affected employment, infrastructure, as well as life in urban centers in Greece. Athens will create an online platform that will connect the new dynamic input of civil society with local institutions and local government to collaboratively devise solutions to local problems, ensuring solid foundations and sustainable policies for the revival of Athens’ neighborhoods.

• Kirklees, United Kingdom: Kirklees Shares
Budget cuts in Kirklees are eating into government programs and services. The city will embrace the sharing economy to make use of untapped local resources so it can do more with less. Kirklees will pool the idle assets of the government and non-profit sectors – from lawnmowers to trucks, unused space to citizens’ skills and expertise – and make these assets available through an online sharing platform that will allow for borrowing, bartering, and time-banking.

• Stockholm, Sweden: Biochar – for a Better City Ecosystem
Stockholm, like many global cities, is confronting the effects of climate change. Stockholm will create a citywide program that activates citizens as front-line change agents to curb this escalating problem. Together, the city and its residents will produce biochar, an organic substance that increases tree growth, sequesters carbon, and purifies storm water runoff. Citizens will bring their green waste to locations across the city for conversion to biochar and, ultimately, redistribution.

• Warsaw, Poland: Virtual Warsaw – Urban Information System for Visually Impaired
The blind and visually impaired are too often cut off from their peers and forced to spend huge amounts of time getting around cities. To facilitate mobility for the visually impaired, Warsaw will place thousands of beacons around the city that communicate with users through mobile apps. These tools promise to transform lives, saving the visually impaired hours of travel per day and allowing them greater self-sufficiency.

“The Mayors Challenge is about surfacing and spreading the best ideas among cities,” said James Anderson, head of Government Innovation programs for Bloomberg Philanthropies. “These winning ideas embody key themes that will increasingly define the way cities work: engage citizens, leverage technology, never accept the failed status quo.”

The 2014 Mayors Challenge is Bloomberg Philanthropies’ first in Europe after a successful inaugural competition in the United States. Cities that entered have resident populations ranging from fewer than 250,000 residents to more than 1 million, and represent 28 countries across Europe. Finalists were selected from 155 applicants and their proposed solutions illustrate both complex challenges and common urban issues across cities and regions. The selection committee is comprised of experts in innovation and urban policy who also are from 11 countries across Europe.

In addition, three leading European organizations supported the Mayors Challenge: EUROCITIES, which helped to engage its membership of Europe’s largest cities and partner cities that collectively govern 130 million citizens across 35 countries; LSE Cities, who provided research from its international center at the London School of Economics and Political Science; and Nesta, the United Kingdom’s innovation foundation, which served as an implementation partner for the competition.

Accompanying the prize money, each of the five cities will receive a trophy specially designed by world-renowned artist Olafur Eliasson. 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.

The Mayors Challenge is an ideas competition for cities. It exists to encourage cities to develop powerful new approaches to major urban challenges – and to help the best of those ideas spread. Over the course of the competition, cities are supported in a process of “stretching, strengthening, and refining” their innovations. Accompanying their prize money, the winning cities receive expert coaching and technical assistance as they bring their ideas to life. The Mayors Challenge is part of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Government Innovation portfolio, which is focused on promoting innovation and spreading effective ideas among cities.

Further detail and related elements for this year’s Mayors Challenge can be found via:

More information about the Mayors Challenge competition is available through

About Bloomberg Philanthropies
Bloomberg Philanthropies’ mission is to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people. The organization focuses on five key areas for creating lasting change: Public Health, Environment, Education, Government Innovation and the Arts. Bloomberg Philanthropies encompasses all of Michael R. Bloomberg’s charitable activities, including his foundation and his personal giving. In 2013, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $452 million. For more information on the philanthropy, please visit or follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @BloombergDotOrg.