On January 18, 2022 Bloomberg Philanthropies announced the 15 winning cities of the 2021-2022 Global Mayors Challenge, a worldwide innovation competition that supports and spreads cities’ most promising ideas.
These 15 winners are being recognized for designing the boldest and most ambitious urban innovations to emerge from the global COVID-19 crisis.
The winning ideas address one or more of four current issue areas in cities including economic recovery and inclusive growth; health and wellbeing; climate and environment; and gender and equality.
Each city will be awarded $1 million in addition to technical support and coaching over three years to bring their ideas to life.“As the world works to address the profound public health and economic effects of the ongoing pandemic, cities can implement innovative ideas at a pace that national governments simply can’t match,” says Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and Bloomberg L.P. and 108th mayor of New York City.
“Our 15 winners offer bold, achievable plans to improve health, reduce unemployment, empower women, and more. Collectively, they have the potential to improve millions of their residents’ lives—and the most successful solutions will inspire cities around the world to embrace them,” he added.
The 15 winning cities hail from 13 nations on six continents and collectively represent more than 30 million residents:
After being unable to deliver food and healthcare to specific communities during the pandemic, Amman created “reachability maps” to identify gaps in key services, improve responses to future emergencies, and prioritize infrastructure investments in local communities. Now the city is launching an interactive, open-data platform for residents to elevate concerns and inform the deployment of critical city services in near real time. By translating resident-driven data into usable knowledge, the city aims to optimize service provision for a wide range of critical services, especially during times of crisis.
In Bogotá, the unpaid care burden falls disproportionately on women; 30 percent of the city’s female population is now doing unpaid caregiving full-time, 14 percent of whom can’t leave their homes because of the conditions of those they care for. In response, the city is creating “care blocks” with a wide variety of supports designed to reduce women’s unpaid care work and spark a cultural shift that redistributes care more equitably across family units.
Butuan faces high rates of hunger and food insecurity, in part because of challenges around local food production. In response, the city is launching “AgriBOOST,” an effort to fine-tune an ineffective agricultural market by giving farmers predictive data to make better decisions about the type and quantity of crops to plant, by fixing some commodity prices to reduce the risk on vegetables and high-demand foods, and by engaging consumers and business organizations for additional support.
Freetown, Sierra Leone
To offset the annual loss of 500,000 trees, Freetown is providing monetary incentives for communities to replant trees in order to establish a tree-trading market that funds additional reforestation. Using geospatial tagging for each new tree, the initiative creates tree tokens that can be bought, sold, and traded by businesses and individual—with the aim of driving climate action at the community level.
Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico
Hermosillo faces two significant challenges: First, women are severely underemployed—it is estimated that pandemic-related job losses have impacted two women for every man. And, second, the city currently only recycles 2 percent of its waste. In response, the city is creating “Biciclando,” a program that employs women for home-recyclable collections by e-cargo bike.
During the first year of the pandemic, 25 percent of Istanbul households applied for social aid. The city tripled its social-assistance budget but still wasn’t able to meet the overwhelming demand. In response, city officials created “Pay-it-forward,” an alternative social-support and solidarity program that anonymously matches people burdened by unpaid utility bills and other needs with those willing provide financial assistance. This large-scale, city-led experiment in mutual aid also seeks to bridge the political divide and foster social solidarity among residents even beyond times of crisis.
Residents living in Kigali’s informal settlements are burdened by the compounding challenges of unsanitary water, sanitation, and hygiene services, as well as disproportionately high costs of maintaining these utilities. In response, the city is introducing a comprehensive solution that utilizes Dutch innovations on stormwater capture and flood mitigation and introduces smart waste-sensor technologies in the new context of informal settlements. The system reduces residents’ dependency on commercial water and keeps solid waste from polluting the water supply, decreasing the municipality’s spending on costly infrastructure repairs after a flood.
To address the problem of poorly maintained public toilets or open defecation, Kumasi is training unemployed youth to build low-cost toilets for households without them. The toilets use bio-digesters and other toilet technologies that are compatible with the city’s infrastructure, allowing the waste to be processed into organic manure for use on farms.
Paterson, New Jersey, USA
Each year, more than 1,700 opioid-related overdoses take place in Paterson, and residents experiencing opioid-use disorder face barriers to proper support: Treatment is available only at limited times each day and, while medically assisted treatment (MAT) is recommended, it’s offered less than 30 percent of the time. In response, the city is creating “RealFix,” a new program that will provide MAT onboarding and prescriptions to appropriate patients within 90 minutes, no matter the time or day.
Phoenix, Arizona, USA
Job postings have increased by 30 percent in Phoenix, yet the city is also experiencing an increase in unemployment, with nearly 200,000 residents filing unemployment claims since the outset of the pandemic. To bridge the divide between jobseekers and potential employers, the city is deploying “Career Mobility Units” that provide targeted support to job seekers where they live—including trainings, interview opportunities, translation services, and connections to employers ready to hire them on the spot.
Rochester, Minnesota, USA
In Rochester, BIPOC women make up 13 percent of the population, yet fill less than 1 percent of available construction jobs. Where traditional workforce development models fail to address the types of conflicts anticipated when integrating BIPOC women into white-male dominated workplaces, the city is engaging BIPOC women, employers, and labor associations to design pathways for increased participation in Rochester’s growing construction industry, by focusing on education, training, hiring, and work-culture interventions.
Unemployment in Rotterdam is double the national average and rising. But public budgets, stressed by the pandemic, have limited funding for employment programs. Rotterdam is creating “Rikx,” a new digital marketplace that connects local social entrepreneurs to investors so that they can deliver innovative projects, while helping the city’s most vulnerable residents find work. Through Rikx, private-sector partners can purchase digital tokens that monetize social impact generated by entrepreneurs, similar to “offsets” in the carbon market.
Rourkela’s produce entrepreneurs face a longstanding lack of storage facilities, limiting the shelf life of their goods. By providing women entrepreneurs access to cold-storage units, Rourkela is reducing food waste and prolonging the window for produce to be sold. This offers multiple benefits, such as women’s economic empowerment, food security, and mobility in a single initiative. Since most vendors are women, women’s federations across the city will manage the storage units.
Vilnius is reorganizing its education system to make it more resilient and relevant to the future economy by creating “Vilnius as an Open School,” aimed at addressing the lack of educators’ digital skills, overcrowded public schools, and outdated education systems. The “Open School” pushes the boundaries of when and how education should be delivered.
Wellington, New Zealand
Wellington is scaling its existing digital twin model to coordinate community action across the city to address climate change and move to a post-carbon future. The model creates a virtual, interactive reflection of the city, enabling a higher proportion of the residents to be involved in planning and action for climate mitigation. Rather than simply declaring a climate emergency, Wellington is engaging residents in bringing about change.
Featured photo of Istanbul by Alp Cem from Pixabay.