Michael Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies, has announced a new suite of investments over the next three years totalling US$200 million through grants, technical expertise, and opportunities for city leaders to share insights and best practices with one another.
The former three-term mayor of New York City outlined the American Cities Initiative to 250 mayors gathered in Miami Beach for the US Conference of Mayors Summer meeting. A further US$600,000 will be given to the Conference to help elevate mayors’ voices through the media.
“We are in the middle of a political era defined by Washington impotence, but as Washington has grown more dysfunctional, cities have begun to play a vital role in determining our nation’s reputation as a global superpower,” said Bloomberg.
Part of the initiative includes the Mayors’ Challenge which for the fourth edition returns to the US after versions in Europe and Latin America. For the first time the challenge is open to smaller cities–those with a population of more than 30,000–and up to US$17.5 million will be given in grants and technical assistance to participating cities.
“There’s a lot to learn from the creative approaches that smaller cities are taking to address their challenges,” James Anderson, Head of Government Innovation Programs at Bloomberg Philanthropies, told Cities Today. “There’s nothing like seeing a group of cities sitting around in a room and talking about what’s working and what’s not working.”
As part of the challenge, innovation experts will visit each of the first 300 cities that sign up to deliver one-day city hall training sessions. Thirty-five ‘champion cities’ will win up to US$100,000 to test and refine their ideas, and five Mayors Challenge Winners will be selected based on the idea’s vision for tackling an urgent challenge, and its potential to spread to other cities, with grants totalling US$9 million.
“Cities need flexible funding so that they can test new ideas combined with world-class, top-notch training and coaching to build capacity within their organisations,” added Anderson. “This is the moment to stand up for cities, to invest in cities and to support their capacity to help them solve their problems.”
Although the initiative is only open to US cities, Anderson emphasised that Bloomberg Philanthropies will continue to work with cities from around the world.
“American mayors don’t just look to US cities for inspiration and good ideas,” he said. “Increasingly they will follow the best ideas around the globe. We see a lot of strength in that global community of mayors and we will continue to invest in it.”