Cities of Service

FOSTERING INNOVATION AND ADDRESSING CITY NEEDS THROUGH IMPACT VOLUNTEERING

Every day, millions of Americans generously donate their time to help make a difference in their communities. Unfortunately, good intentions don’t guarantee positive outcomes. Occasional days of volunteering can be helpful, but they rarely provide deep impact for children struggling to read, families lacking access to fresh food, and students navigating the difficult pathway to graduation and beyond.

 

In a time of scarce revenues, cities must take advantage of all available resources. At the same time, many issues are best addressed using the power of citizens, and there is inherent value in involving the public in solving problems.  Nevertheless, few cities work strategically to engage residents in defining or solving pressing community needs.

 

Cities of Service is dedicated to finding new and innovative ways to do just that. It provides assistance and support to a coalition of nearly 200 cities to help them use strategy, targeting and measurement to ensure citizen volunteers have the greatest possible impact.

 

Cities of Service provides a new mechanism for citizen participation in local governance. When local officials begin to see residents as assets, rather than clients or voters, tremendous potential is unlocked. Citizens are repositioned as tools in the municipal arsenal, not just passive targets of policy. Citizen service provides a powerful mechanism for bottom-up problem solving, enabling coalition cities to gain traction on tough problems.

APPLYING THE BLOOMBERG PHILANTHROPIES APPROACH TO HIGH IMPACT CITIZEN SERVICE

  1. PARTNERSHIPS

    Cities of Service partners with coalition cities to identify specific challenges within priority areas set by the cities. It works to ensure that citizen volunteer efforts target major community needs, and encourages cities to identify the range of partners needed to increase reach and impact.

  2. SPREADING SOLUTIONS THAT WORK

    Cities of Service helps local governments leverage proven strategies in citizen service to achieve measurable impacts on pressing local challenges, by providing technical assistance, programmatic support, planning resources, funding opportunities, and a platform for coalition cities to share best practices and lessons learned.

  3. FOCUS ON DATA

    Cities of Service is committed to the proposition that what gets measured matters – and citizen engagement and the value it creates matter a lot. Cities must therefore measure impact by developing specific metrics for each service initiative. Measuring outcomes allows cities to understand results, learn where successes and challenges exist, and improve initiatives for future implementation.

Impact Volunteering in Practice – Baltimore

TRANSFORMING VACANT LOTS INTO VIBRANT COMMUNITY SPACES IN BALTIMORE

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(Photo Credit: Algerina Perna/Baltimore Sun / April 18, 2012)

CITIES ARE FACING UNPRECEDENTED CHALLENGES - CITIZENS CAN HELP

 

Cities across the country and around the world face a multitude of serious challenges. Many communities have low-performing schools, major public health and environmental concerns, and neighborhoods in need of revitalization. They are ill-equipped to handle unforeseen emergencies and struggle to reintegrate veterans into their communities.

 

Although service has long been a hallmark of the American civic tradition, municipal governments have not always used citizens as part of a serious strategy to solve important problems and drive local innovation.

 

With increasing needs and diminishing resources, mayors and other city leaders are finding new ways, including citizen volunteers, to expand their ability to generate and provide solutions. The Cities of Service model equips mayors with tools to engage citizens in community problem solving, rather than viewing them solely as service users. This generates new approaches — and creates new resources — that have historically been beyond the reach of local governments.

Impact Volunteering in Practice – Nashville

RESPONDING TO DISASTER WITH CITIZEN SERVICE IN NASHVILLE

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(Photo Credit: © Hands On Nashville and Michael Krouskop)

LEVERAGING CITIZEN SERVICE TO ACHIEVE MEASURABLE IMPACT ON PRESSING LOCAL CHALLENGES

 

Cities of Service was founded in 2009 by Michael R. Bloomberg and 16 mayors from around the country. Its efforts focus on “impact volunteering” — volunteer strategies that target community needs, use best practices, and set clear outcomes and measures to gauge progress.

 

PROMOTING TESTED STRATEGIES

Cities of Service offers technical assistance and tools to members, including playbooks, blueprints, and other ready-to-use tools available for cities to read and download. These strategies address city needs in areas including education and youth, health, neighborhood revitalization, preparedness and safety, sustainability, and veterans.

 

SPREADING A PROVEN IDEA

The Cities of Service coalition is nearly 200 cities strong and growing, representing nearly 50 million Americans. In 2014, it expanded internationally to the United Kingdom. There are Chief Service Officers serving in over 25 cities, over 30 mayors have launched high-impact service plans, and Cities of Service blueprints have been implemented in more than 50 cities.

 

ADVOCACY

Cities of Service is helping to ensure that cities’ voices are heard in federal legislative, policy, and program discussions related to service, and working with local, regional, and national organizations to help cities gain the recognition and resources they need to serve their communities well.

Impact Volunteering in Practice – NYC

PAINTING ROOFTOPS WHITE TO REDUCE CARBON EMISSIONS IN NEW YORK CITY

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HIGH-IMPACT SERVICE STRATEGIES ARE MAKING A MEASURABLE DIFFERENCE IN CITIES ACROSS AMERICA

 

Cities of Service is a growing movement among mayors, as demonstrated by the size, breadth, diversity, and impact of the coalition. Coalition cities are seeing positive outcomes from using citizen service to address key challenges in education, health, neighborhood revitalization, preparedness, safety, and sustainability.

 

HIGHLIGHTS OF RECENT PROGRESS INCLUDE:

  1. 87% of event waste was diverted from landfills during the Philadelphia marathon as part of Mayor Nutter’s Waste Watchers Initiative.
  2. Under the leadership of Mayor Dayne Walling, volunteers in Flint, Michigan have revitalized 75 city blocks; cleaned and maintained 200 blighted properties; removed 2 million pounds of yard waste and trash; created 40 green spaces and community gardens; and cleaned 17,000 square feet of graffiti through the Love Your Block initiative.
  3. Through its Change for Chestnut initiative, Nashville volunteers provided energy efficient upgrades in more than 100 homes of low-income residents in the Chestnut Hill neighborhood, reducing annual energy use and costs by an average of 4,619 kilowatt hours and $454 per home. The initiative also reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 4,185 pounds per home per year.

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Impact Volunteering in Practice – Quotes

WHAT MAYORS ARE SAYING ABOUT USING SERVICE AS A STRATEGY TO TACKLE PRESSING CITY ISSUES

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(Photo Credit: Catie Wolfgang, City of Philadelphia)