Stories that sparked urban innovation

There’s no question that 2017 threw its fair share of curve balls—politically, economically, and environmentally. But city leaders and citizens hit it out of the park this year when it came to uncovering increasingly innovative ways to meet their always-growing demands.

From the 4,000 leaders who met in 308 city halls for the skills-building workshops that kicked off the U.S. Mayors Challenge, to the 50-plus cities whose work is included in the first-ever Global Atlas of Autonomous Vehicles in Cities, here are some of the standout moments from the past 12 months.

i-teams expand to 20 cities around the globe

The Innovation Teams (i-teams) program deepened its funding in the United States and Israel, and expanded to Canada, helping more cities build their innovation capacity and deliver better results for residents.

Mayors Challenge winner Providence, R.I., shows how to replicate its Providence Talks program

Providence won the Mayors Challenge for its project to address the “word gap” and prepare children in poverty for school — a breakthrough idea that is succeeding today and which other communities learned to imitate. The agenda at a convening of cities and funders included an overview of the idea, its impact to date, lessons from implementation and considerations for replicating the model.

Stockholm fights global warming with opening of its community-driven biochar facility

Stockholm celebrated the opening of an innovative new biochar facility that will dramatically strengthen the city’s effort to fight climate change. A first-of-its-kind project and community effort, the facility turns plant waste from parks and homes into carbon-capturing charcoal that Stockholm’s residents can use in their gardens to promote plant growth.

350-plus city leaders gather in New York City for the What Works Cities Summit

City leaders and front-line data and evidence practitioners learned from experts and shared their experiences with using data to improve governance and achieve better results for residents at the 2017 What Works Cities Summit.

Mayors Challenge winner Santa Monica shows other cities how to replicate its Wellbeing Project

Santa Monica’s Wellbeing Project not only provides a baseline understanding of all it takes for people to thrive, it also helps the city measure its residents’ wellbeing and apply that insight to city plans and policies — a new idea that 14 cities came together to discuss how to apply in their own communities.

Michael Bloomberg announces the $200-million American Cities Initiative

“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 Michael Bloomberg at the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Annual Meeting in Miami. The American Cities Initiative will incentivize and support the innovative efforts of those cities paving the way for America’s future.”

U.S. Mayors Challenges launches in Miami

Following the announcement of the U.S. Mayors Challenge, hundreds of mayors responded with a resounding, “I’m in!” within the first 48 hours.

Forty global mayors gather for first-ever Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative

The Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative equips mayors and their senior leaders with cutting-edge tools and techniques to more effectively tackle pressing management challenges faced in their cities. Bloomberg Philanthropies CEO Patti Harris, Harvard Business School Dean Nitin Nohria, and Harvard Kennedy School Dean Douglas Elmendorf discussed how the initiative got started and why it matters.

4,000 city employees in 308 U.S. cities join Mayors Challenge Idea Accelerator workshops

These one-day innovation workshops helped city leaders identify their communities’ most pressing challenges and gain new understanding of the root causes.

Mayors’ top staff convene for executive training

As part of the new Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative, the selected mayors’ top team members came to New York City for vital executive training of their own. Dayna Bennett, chief of staff to Gary, Ind., Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, and Jane Slusser, chief of staff to Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, discussed what they learned in this op-ed.

i-teams expands to France

Already a presence in the United States, Israel and Canada, the i-teams program expanded to France through a partnership with La 27e Région, a French not-for-profit public innovation organization that aims to make France’s public sector more inventive, agile, and suited to the needs of citizens.

Mayors and leading thinkers from around the world gather at CityLab Paris

City leaders and urban innovators from around the world convened in Paris for the Mayors Innovation Studio and CityLab, hosted by the Aspen Institute, The Atlantic, and Bloomberg Philanthropies, to discuss urgent challenges ranging from supporting art and culture to disruptive technology.

Bloomberg Philanthropies and The Aspen Institute launch first-ever global autonomous vehicles map

The Global Atlas of Autonomous Vehicles in Cities is a comprehensive, first-of-its kind map that shows how city governments around the globe are preparing for the transition to autonomous vehicles.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti shares his insight on creating a culture of innovation

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti spoke with Bloomberg Philanthropies’ James Anderson about how to cultivate and retain innovation in city hall in this special Bloomberg Philanthropies podcast, The Innovative Mayor.

Cities of Service launches the Engaged Cities award to recognize outstanding work with residents

This new recognition program will elevate city-led strategies that successfully engage citizens to help create and implement solutions to local challenges.

Latin America and the Caribbean Mayors Challenge winners and finalists gather in Santiago

Latin America and the Caribbean Mayors Challenge winners and finalists came together in Santiago to participate in capacity building workshops and share ideas.

Celebrating public sector progress and innovation in cities around the world. Run by @BloombergDotOrg’s Government Innovation program.

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