In the hope of moving towards a better world, Bloomberg philanthropists established a $200 million effort called, American Cities Initiative in June 2017 to fund the revolutionary visions of cities that can improve lives.
Tailoring and executing metro-level changes can be quite challenging nowadays, but we can’t deny it has become an unshakeable need. City officials may choose to make a step towards solutions for raising minimum wages, gun control or any typical city policies. The changing world has also contributed to reduce the efficiency of once-well-working fundamental services like transportation. With all these, still federal government appears to disown their responsibility in funding basic health and social services, as well as clearly brushing off the apparent issues regarding climate change.
Thus, Bloomberg makes a move. To solve the innumerable issues that cities face today, Bloomberg funded 2018 Mayors challenge. It’s one of the funder’s long-time running global programs that ask city leaders to compete for funding by submitting plans and solutions that can solve the most critical issues today.
Winner of the competition will receive $5 million to implement the most-fitting idea, while four runner-ups will also get an additional $1 million. From 320 applicants, Bloomberg has narrowed down the list to 35 so-called “Champion Cities,” who will all be given a grant up to $100,000 to turn their world-changing visions into prototypes.
The competitors will be given 6 months to create, test, and alter their applications before Bloomberg announces the grand prize winners in October.
Bloomberg probably didn’t see it coming, but they are the ones who are learning from this program. While reviewing the applications of the leading candidates, they are made aware of the issues and solutions of different cities. Head of Bloomberg’s Government Innovation programs, James Anderson, says the applications are an “incredible snapshot” of city leaders’ “priorities and what’s keeping them up at night.” Together with, of course, what can be the cure for their sleepless nights.
Most of the top candidates laid out solutions battling climate change, specifically, about the increased risks of natural disasters. One of these nearly one-third applicants, are officials in Charleston, South Carolina, who believe there’s a need for a uniquely tailored alert system when coastal floods soak up the city.
Healthcare is also a top priority, especially in Huntington, West Virginia, where opioid overdose is 10 times more common than any other city. According to Bloomberg’s compiled proposals, city leaders desire to incorporate mental health workers to emergency crews, so they can provide help to drug addicts, as well as to those who are suffering from “compassion fatigue” due to dealing with a lot of possible crises.
One of the attention-grabbing applications is Los Angeles’s novel plan to incentivize homeowners to build “accessory dwelling” units, which homeless folks and other people receiving support services, can rent for three years after construction.
“When you read these 35 applications, mayors are saying data matters, mayors are engaging citizens, and they are very focused on collaboration,” says Anderson. Those are three messages that I think America really needs to hear right now.”
The competition had already taken place in the US, and during that time, leaders have developed concepts, which other cities have expressed interest in, or have already copied. Included in those plans is Santa Monica, California’s Well Being Index, which grades residents if they feel “happy, healthy, and connected to the community” in their daily lives. It drives reforms that can target issues to improve the quality of life.
Another concept was from Providence, Rhode Island, which encourages parents with low-income to converse more with their young children that can patch verbal and word recognition gaps, which can be a hindrance in the kids’ learning curve. This project involved an actual word counting device that can determine the flow and recedes of conversation.
Throughout the program, Bloomberg learned to worry less about the city leaders walking away with prototypes in hand. They focus more on a “stretching and strengthening phase” which can fill the theoretical gaps in the implementation of concepts. Eventually, it crafted a learning-by-doing mentality among everyone involved in the program.
“Part of our goal here is to make sure that even those cities that don’t win the million dollar implementation award have a rock-solid proposal that they’ve field tested and prototyped with key constituents,” says Anderson. “So that they are well positioned to begin finding additional support.”