By James Anderson, Bloomberg Philanthropies Government Innovation program lead
The past year has been like no other, placing mayors at the frontline of compounding crises the likes of which we’ve never seen before. Yet, as the surging pandemic, a plummeting economy, and cries for social justice tested them — and their residents — again and again and again, city leaders did much more than stand vigil. They fought back in ways we never could have imagined just 10 months ago.
Mayors responded by innovating like their residents’ lives and livelihoods depended on it — because, of course, they did. In the decade that Bloomberg Philanthropies has been investing in local governments’ capacities to solve problems in new ways, we’ve never seen so much innovation in such a concentrated period of time. …
The Bloomberg Philanthropies Mayors Challenge will be back for a fifth run beginning next month — and this round will be bigger and bolder than ever before. The Mayors Challenge is an ideas competition for cities to create the biggest and boldest solutions to their toughest problems. Winning cities receive $1 million to put their breakthrough idea into action, as well as expert coaching to support implementation.
As we look forward to next month’s launch of the newest Mayors Challenge, we look back on the winners of the previous Mayors Challenges and dig further into some of the most impactful ideas of the bunch. …
For local government leaders, 2020 has been the leadership challenge of a lifetime — a powerful and sobering journey through a global pandemic, economic collapse, and a nearly constant churn of crisis.
While most are happy to see this difficult year come to a close, it wasn’t all bad. In fact, for city leaders looking to boost innovation, collaboration, and racial equity, there were positive developments that they can look forward to building on in 2021. As Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and three-term Mayor of New York City told city leaders in September, “You’re doing a great job. …
Name: Ivari Rannama
Title: Director of geomatics, Urban Planning Department
City: Tallinn, Estonia
When it comes to urban planning, residents of Estonia’s capital face one of the same challenges as city dwellers do everywhere: It’s sometimes hard to provide feedback — on new buildings or neighborhood changes — in a way that you know you’re being heard.
Ivari Rannama is experimenting with ways to change that. He and a team from Tallinn’s Urban Planning and IT departments are participating in a Bloomberg Philanthropies program that’s training European city leaders in digital innovation methods. The team started out by learning more about what residents think. …
By Cristina Cacciato, Bloomberg Philanthropies Government Innovation Team
Earlier this month, Governor Enrique Alfaro of the Mexican State of Jalisco (pictured above) announced that a groundbreaking program that is reducing corruption in the city of Guadalajara will expand to at least a dozen more cities across the state. The endeavor, launched with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies, represents not only a critical step for good governance in Mexico but also an evolution in the foundation’s thinking about how best to spread solutions to big urban challenges from one city to another.
The successful program — a winner in the 2016 Mayors Challenge — is called Visor Urbano. It’s a website that handles construction and business permits — transactions where bribes and special favors can easily come into play when handled face-to-face. A study in Guadalajara found that moving these processes online reduced bribe requests by municipal agents by 74 percent. This impact is garnering interest from cities across Latin America looking to adopt the program. Alfaro, who launched the program as mayor of Guadalajara before he became governor of Jalisco, brought the city’s implementation team along with him to his new Office of Innovation. …
When Amy Asselbaye took charge of Honolulu’s new Office of Economic Revitalization in July, she had no time to lose. COVID-19 cases in Hawaii were surging, small businesses were suffering, and she needed to make progress quickly on both fronts.
Then she read a Bloomberg Cities article on a program aimed at helping businesses reopen safely in Durham, N.C. That program, called “Let’s Get Back on the Bull,” used tools from behavioral science — like a safety checklist and rewards — to encourage local businesses to comply with COVID protocols. Asselbaye liked the sound of Durham’s carrots-not-sticks approach to engaging businesses on safety. …
Name: Elena Bolbolian
Title: Director of Innovation, Performance and Audit
City: Glendale, Calif.
Elena Bolbolian’s first job with the city of Glendale came in middle school, when she worked clearing brush as part of a youth employment program. She’s more or less stayed with the city for all 23 years since then, first supervising youth workers, then moving into a variety of analyst and management roles, and, three years ago, becoming the city’s first chief innovation officer.
One of Bolbolian’s main goals is to spread an innovation mindset across City Hall. So she was thrilled that Glendale could join a new innovation training program offered by Bloomberg Philanthropies. Through it, she’s leading a 12-person team, a mix of managers and frontline staff from seven city departments who she calls “positive-minded individuals.” Together, they are learning how to use human-centered design to come up with innovative solutions to a state mandate to slash the amount of organic waste going to landfills. …
Name: Haley Kadish
Title: Performance & Innovation Officer
City: Albuquerque, N.M.
Now more than ever, city governments want to spend their money with local firms in order to boost struggling local economies. Haley Kadish has some advice for them: Get the data first.
That’s what supercharged the Buy Local initiative she leads in Albuquerque. Kadish built a data dashboard that allows city departments to see their local spend in real time. Having these numbers readily available is igniting friendly competition between departments to buy more from local firms. It’s also busting some myths about procurement.
For example, to Kadish’s surprise, the data showed that local vendors are doing just fine when it comes to competing on big procurements that require submitting complex proposals. Where there’s more room for local businesses, it turned out, is on smaller deals. That’s where departments have more discretion and can easily fall into a pattern of using the same vendor over and over, even if they’re out-of-state. …
Among public-sector innovation circles, Beth Simone Noveck is well known as the head of The GovLab at New York University, a hub of knowledge and experimentation in using technology to improve governance. Two years ago, Noveck put on an additional professional hat when New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy asked her to join his cabinet as the state’s first-ever Chief Innovation Officer.
Since then, Noveck has built a 17-person Office of Innovation tasked with improving the lives of residents by solving public problems in new ways. It’s one of a number of state-level innovation teams — including those in California, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island — that, along with an expanding network of City Hall innovation teams seeded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, are at the core of the expanding public-innovation movement. …