- Bloomberg Philanthropies announced its 35 Champion Cities in the 2018 U.S. Mayors Challenge. The national contest challenges cities to solve their problems with new, innovative solutions, and more than 320 applied to take part.
- The 35 cities, which vary in size from large metropolitan areas such as Boston and Denver to smaller cities including Danbury, CT and Vallejo, CA, will begin a six-month testing phase in March to conduct public prototypes of their ideas. Up to $100,000 will be available to each city in grant funding, with five winners selected in October. Of those, four cities will receive a $1 million prize and one will receive $5 million.
- Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies, said in a statement the 35 finalists "really stood out" among the hundreds of applicants. “The next six months are a great opportunity for the cities to test their ideas and make them even more innovative and effective."
Once again, Bloomberg is looking to flex his muscles in the policy arena, this time by encouraging cities to think differently about how they can solve old problems in new ways. Topics to be addressed this year by the Champion Cities will include climate change, health care and jobs, which will detail issues including reducing carbon emissions, creating renewable energy, confronting the opioid epidemic and preventing arrested young people from re-offending. A press release said this is “a snapshot of the top challenges faced by U.S. leaders.”
Previously, Bloomberg has called on cities to show “bold” leadership through his “American Cities Initiative,” of which this latest announcement is a part. And Bloomberg Philanthropies has announced other challenges for cities, including the annual Public Art Challenge and the What Works Cities certification, which recognizes how cities incorporate data and evidence into governance.
Having flirted with running for president after three terms as New York mayor, Bloomberg continues to look to have influence on city leaders, and uses his organization’s considerable donating power as direct action to effect change.
The onus is on the 35 Champion Cities to be as innovative as possible in solving some age-old problems. Having already performed well against the competition’s criteria: their idea’s vision; potential for impact; implementation plan; and potential to spread to other cities, the infusion of further capital is a tantalizing prospect.