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Bloomberg Philanthropies Selects 20 Finalist Cities for Mayors Challenge

Cities will compete for $5 million grand prize; Four runner-up cities to receive $1 million each

NEW YORK, Nov. 5, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Bloomberg Philanthropies today announced the 20 cities selected as finalists for the Mayors Challenge, a competition created to inspire American cities to generate innovative ideas that solve major challenges and improve city life – and that ultimately can be shared with other cities across the nation.

The ideas include an urban homesteading initiative that transfers foreclosed properties to community members who put the land into productive use, a citywide effort to close the word deficit of children born into low-income households, and an online system that streamlines city permitting processes in the way that online tax software streamlined filing personal taxes. The grand prize winning city will receive a $5 million prize, while four runner-up cities will receive $1 million each.

"The response to the Mayors Challenge was extraordinary. Bold and innovative ideas were submitted from every corner of the country. I've always believed that cities are America's new laboratories of democracy and this competition provided clear proof of the talent and creativity in city halls from coast to coast," said James Anderson, who directs the Government Innovation program at Bloomberg Philanthropies.

305 cities submitted their boldest ideas for consideration. The 20 finalists being named today are: Boston, MA; Chicago, IL; Cincinnati, OH; Durham, NC; High Point, NC; Hillsboro, OR; Houston, TX; Indianapolis, IN; Knoxville, TN; Lafayette, LA; Lexington, KY; Milwaukee, WI; Philadelphia, PA; Phoenix, AZ; Providence, RI; Saint Paul, MN; San Francisco, CA; Santa Monica, CA; Springfield, OR; and Syracuse, NY.

The 20 finalist ideas were rated on four key criteria: vision / creativity, ability to implement, potential for impact, potential for replication. A selection committee, co-chaired by Shona Brown, Senior Vice President and head of, and Ron Daniel, Bloomberg Philanthropies board member and Former Managing Partner at McKinsey & Company where he is still active, helped select the finalist cities.

The ideas from the 20 finalists highlight the diverse array of complex and common challenges facing cities:

  • Boston, MA: Accelerating student achievement by empowering parents to manage and share information more easily with educators and entrepreneurs, spurring the creation of the next generation of educational tools
  • Chicago, IL: Building the first open-source analytics platform that identifies real-time patterns for city agencies—allowing decision makers to anticipate problems and craft solutions
  • Cincinnati, OH: Reducing infant deaths through an intervention that reaches 100% of new mothers
  • Durham, NC: Creating entrepreneurship hubs in three distressed neighborhoods to generate new solutions and partnerships to strengthen communities
  • High Point, NC: Adapting evidence-based CeaseFire approach to gang violence for domestic violence reduction
  • Hillsboro, OR: Integrating public and private suburban transportation options to provide greater choice and access and create a more sustainable community
  • Houston, TX: Tapping game-changing technology for new "one bin for all" plan that makes recycling easier and captures 75% of all waste
  • Indianapolis, IN: Ensuring access to a research-based, top-tier education for every child in the city, by creating 30,000 high-quality seats through charter and district partnerships
  • Knoxville, TN: Eliminating food deserts through a comprehensive local food system that addresses land, farming jobs, processing, transit, sale, and composting
  • Lafayette, LA: Encouraging community-wide gaming for social good
  • Lexington, KY: Building a new citizen engagement platform focused on civic problem solving
  • Milwaukee, WI: Transforming foreclosed properties into community assets that improve public health and spark economic opportunity
  • Philadelphia, PA: Reimagining the RFP process to better enable civic entrepreneurs to solve city problems
  • Phoenix, AZ: Customizing smart-energy districts in 15 urban neighborhoods in Phoenix to become "smartest energy city in the world"
  • Providence, RI: Closing word deficit of children born into low-income households through home visitations and increased vocabulary exposure
  • Saint Paul, MN: Streamlining online permitting process for residents, developers, and businesses inspired by personal tax preparation software
  • San Francisco, CA: Promoting workforce development and experience-based training through opportunities to volunteer on city projects
  • Santa Monica, CA: Becoming first U.S. city to establish a wellbeing index to spur improvements for the entire city
  • Springfield, OR: Revolutionizing EMS through mobile primary care delivery units
  • Syracuse, NY: Creating "international village" to attract immigrant (especially refugee) populations and promote development of microenterprises

Teams from each of these cities will attend Bloomberg Ideas Camp, a two-day gathering in New York City on November 12 and 13. City teams will work collaboratively to improve one another's ideas and a range of innovation, program, and implementation experts will help the teams refine and strengthen their ideas to ensure the greatest impact. After Camp, finalists will receive individualized coaching to prepare their ideas for final submission in January 2013. Winners will be announced in spring 2013, with a total of $9 million going to five cities to jumpstart implementation.

"Bloomberg Philanthropies is focused on spreading good ideas among cities – and that's what the Mayors Challenge is all about," continued James Anderson. "Cities are powering critical solutions to our most pressing challenges and we're honored to bring these 20 cities together at Ideas Camp as they work to make their great ideas even better."

Mayors of U.S. cities with 30,000 residents or more were eligible to compete in the Mayors Challenge. 305 cities representing 45 states submitted applications by September 14.

The Mayors Challenge is the latest initiative of Bloomberg Philanthropies' Mayors Project, which aims to spread proven and promising ideas among cities. Other Mayors Project investments include Cities of Service, Innovation Delivery Teams, and Financial Empowerment Centers.

To learn more about the Mayors Challenge, visit

About Bloomberg Philanthropies

Bloomberg Philanthropies works primarily to advance five areas globally: the Arts, Education, the Environment, Government Innovation, which includes the Mayors Challenge, and Public Health. In 2011, $330 million was distributed. For more information, please visit

For more information on Bloomberg Philanthropies, media should contact Ty Trippet, [email protected], 212-205-0176.

Media Contact for Mayors Challenge:
Jessica Anderson
212-885-0492 or 212-380-6477
[email protected]

SOURCE Bloomberg Philanthropies

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