Newark and Paterson are among 14 cities in the U.S. and just 50 worldwide that have been named finalists in the 2021 Global Mayors Challenge — an initiative by Bloomberg Philanthropies that recognizes bold urban innovation around the world.
The initiative aims to spread the most promising and innovative ideas on a particular topic. This year’s program focuses on elevating the most important public innovations generated in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
The finalists were elevated based on four criteria: vision, potential for impact, feasibility and transferability.
Newark was cited for a program that helps reduce crime by focusing on the city’s most persistent offenders. Paterson was noted for providing proven, on-demand treatment to those struggling with opioid addiction.
The 50 finalist cities will now enter a four-month testing phase to refine their ideas, with technical assistance from Bloomberg Philanthropies and its network of leading innovation experts.
Fifteen of the 50 cities will ultimately win the grand prize, with each receiving $1 million and robust multiyear technical assistance to implement and scale their ideas.
Michael Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies and the former mayor of New York City, said the finalists are deserved of recognition.
“These 50 finalists are showing the world that, in the face of the pandemic’s enormous challenges, cities are rising to meet them with bold, innovative and ambitious ideas,” he said. “By helping these cities test their ideas over the coming months, we will have a chance to identify cutting-edge policies and programs that can allow cities to rebuild in ways that make them stronger and healthier, and more equal and more just.”
The ideas provide a powerful snapshot of the innovation priorities of the world’s cities. At the global level, innovations focusing on improving health and reducing unemployment were most common.
Racial justice emerged as the area of highest priority for U.S. cities, while social inclusion topped the European submissions. In Africa, where the world is experiencing its fastest rates of urbanization, infrastructure was dominant.
The 50 cities come from 29 nations on six continents. They emerged from a highly competitive applicant pool: Mayors from 631 cities in 99 countries submitted their most promising ideas for consideration — or twice the number of cities that applied in Bloomberg Philanthropies’ last Mayors Challenge, held in the U.S. in 2018.
New Jersey was one of just two U.S. states to have two finalists (California was the other). A complete list is below.
The Mayors Challenge selection committee helped Bloomberg Philanthropies select the 50 finalists. The committee is co-chaired by Bloomberg Philanthropies board member Mellody Hobson, co-CEO and president, Ariel Investments, and David Miliband, CEO and president, International Rescue Committee.
North America (28% of finalists)
- Akron, Ohio: Taking lessons from how we train medical students to support Black entrepreneurs;
- Baltimore, Maryland: Deploying a citywide, coordinated system to support Black-owned businesses;
- Birmingham, Alabama: Investing in the next generation of food entrepreneurs;
- Columbus, Ohio: Providing last-mile Wi-Fi access to underserved neighborhoods;
- Durham, North Carolina: Building a team to help residents access untapped federal resources and support;
- Lansing, Michigan: Launching cross-sectoral partnerships to halt learning loss in children;
- Long Beach, California: Using the city’s power to bring transparency to the gig economy;
- Louisville, Kentucky: Creating the diverse tech workforce of the future;
- New Orleans: Bringing a trust-building lens to the delivery of public services;
- Newark: Reducing crime by focusing on the city’s most persistent offenders;
- Paterson: Providing proven, on-demand treatment to those struggling with opioid addiction;
- Phoenix: Deploying “career mobility units” to support job-seekers;
- Rochester, Minnesota: Creating a pathway for women of color into the growing, high-paying local construction field;
- San Jose, California: Bolstering the college-support pipeline for marginalized families.
Africa (16% of finalists)
- Cape Town, South Africa: Transforming soup kitchens into a sustainable food-distribution infrastructure;
- Danané, Côte d’Ivoire: Transforming mobility for vulnerable residents;
- Freetown, Sierra Leone: Incentivizing community action to combat urban deforestation;
- Kigali, Rwanda: Adopting proven rainwater-harvesting technologies in informal communities;
- Kumasi, Ghana: Training unemployed youth to create new household toilet technologies;
- Lusaka, Zambia: Incentivizing the repurposing of trash into needed products;
- Meru, Kenya: Using Black Soldier Fly larvae to fix an inadequate waste-collection system;
- Umuaka, Nigeria: Digital support for survivors of gender-based violence.
Asia-Pacific (16% of finalists)
- Auckland, New Zealand: Calculating carbon emissions for infrastructure development;
- Butuan, Philippines: Leveraging predictive data to bolster local farmers;
- Daegu, South Korea: Digital permissioning to bring new life to urban spaces;
- Manila, Philippines: Building a 21st-century data infrastructure to improve city services;
- Pune, India: Building the foundation for an all-electric-vehicle future;
- Rourkela, India: Supporting solar-powered cold storage — plus women entrepreneurship — to reduce food waste;
- Taipei, Taiwan: Using virtual reality to promote safe, active lifestyles for seniors;
- Wellington, New Zealand: Leveraging a city digital-twin to encourage resident engagement on climate action.
Europe (16% of finalists)
- Bilbao, Spain: Building a cybersecure city and citizenry;
- Glasgow, United Kingdom: Unleashing a neighborhood-level participatory approach to community wellbeing;
- Istanbul: Creating a platform for individual philanthropy at a citywide scale;
- Leuven, Belgium: Using “civic contracts” to drive individual and organizational climate action;
- London: Deploying rapid, upstream interventions to prevent chronic homelessness;
- Paris: Offering free climate-activism education for Parisian youth;
- Rotterdam, the Netherlands: Using digital tokens to incentivize social impact from the private sector;
- Vilnius, Lithuania: Building a resilient, post-COVID model for hybrid learning.
Latin America (20% of finalists)
- Bogotá, Colombia: Creating “care blocks” to shift the gender inequity of care;
- Cartagena, Colombia: Pioneering a gender-aware approach to emergency response;
- Guadalajara, Mexico: Creating a “citizen-safety index” to combat violent crime;
- Hermosillo, Mexico: Providing new employment opportunities for women in the circular economy;
- La Paz, Bolivia: Co-designing nine new urban centers with residents to ensure equitable access to services;
- Recife, Brazil: Deploying a unique mix of services to foster women’s entrepreneurship at scale;
- Renca, Chile: Enlisting the wisdom of seniors to create community-development projects and reduce isolation;
- Rio de Janeiro: Improving housing conditions in favelas using cutting-edge mapping technology;
- Rosario, Argentina: Formalizing and subsidizing informal waste collection;
- Tunja, Colombia: Transforming public space with a circular-economy lens.
Middle East (4% of finalists)
- Amman, Jordan: Using “reachability maps” to improve the city’s emergency response and guide investments;
- Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel: Engaging youth to make the city’s cultural center more resilient.
Click here for more details on the Champion Cities’ proposals.
The 2021 Global Mayors Challenge builds on the success of four previous Bloomberg Philanthropies Challenges in the U.S. (2013 and 2018), Europe (2014), and Latin America and the Caribbean (2016).
Previous Mayors Challenge grand prizewinners include Los Angeles’ tackling of the city’s homelessness crisis by making it easier and cheaper to build accessory dwelling units; Stockholm’s project to convert plant waste into biochar to encourage plant growth; and Barcelona, Spain, helping senior citizens build community through technology.