On May 17, 2018, Cities of Service announced that Bologna, Italy, Santiago de Cali, Colombia, and Tulsa, Oklahoma had won the Engaged Cities Award, a new effort to elevate cities that are working creatively to tap the wisdom, talents, and energy of community members to solve public problems.
The winning cities are combining bold mayoral leadership and the reach of city hall with the on-the-ground knowledge of citizens to address serious challenges. These cities are also using strategies such as civic tech, sophisticated data analysis, and impact volunteering to address pressing local issues.
Cities of Service began almost a decade ago and has become the nation’s premiere citizen engagement organization by working with hundreds of cities to involve citizens in creative and effective ways.
Underwritten by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Engaged Cities Award shines light on the growing number of ways city leaders are co-creating the future with their residents. Cities of Service will amplify the winning strategies to give other cities across the world the chance to learn from, adopt, and improve upon these strategies back home.
“Cities around the world are finding innovative ways to get citizens involved in solving problems and improving services,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies, and three-term mayor of New York City. “These awards recognize three of the very best examples of that work, which can help them to spread to other cities and improve even more lives. Congratulations to the three winners and all ten of the finalists.”
Cities of Service received more than 100 applications from cities in the Americas and Europe for the first-ever Engaged Cities Award. The winners were selected based on key selection criteria, including significant work with citizens to tackle a public problem, evidence of impact, and potential to apply the strategy to other issues and geographies.
Each winning city receives a prize of $70,000 that can be used at the discretion of the winning cities in support of furthering their efforts to engage their citizens to tackle problems.
“For cities to truly thrive, they must work together with their people to develop and implement solutions to their most significant challenges – and the Engaged Cities Award winners are proof of that,” said Myung J. Lee, Cities of Service Executive Director.
“We received strong applications from across the Americas and Europe and our decision was not an easy one. The three winners show us what’s possible when city leaders break down the barriers between government and citizens for the collective good. We can’t wait to help them share their work with other cities around the world,” she continued.
Each winning city deeply engaged residents to deliver results and achieve impact:
- Bologna, Italy: Realizing that bureaucracy was hindering citizens’ ability to improve their city, Bologna adopted new regulations allowing residents to partner with the city to revitalize public spaces. The new regulations spurred the city to establish district laboratories, where city staff connected with residents to develop their ideas and co-design initiatives. The labs engaged thousands of residents and resulted in more than 400 citizen-led initiatives, including turning an abandoned market into a concert hall for hundreds of local musicians to play and converting a former parking garage into a full-service bike station run by a resident cooperative.
- Santiago de Cali, Colombia: To combat a high level of violence, especially between neighbors, Santiago de Cali created local councils, made up of citizens in 15 city districts. The councils designed and implemented more than 200 community initiatives, including the rehabilitation of a number of public spaces that had been used for drug activity, dance classes for at-risk youth, and soccer tournaments involving local youth and former gang members. The citizen-led initiatives benefited more than 15,000 residents, building trust and reducing conflict in their communities.
- Tulsa, Oklahoma: Tulsa had hundreds of data sets that could help them grow per capita income, increase population, reduce violent crime, and address other challenges. But they did not have the capacity to analyze the data for insights it might provide. The city created teams of city staff, citizens, and nonprofit partners to examine city data and help the city address more than a dozen public problems. The teams have proposed a number of solutions, including a better method for prioritizing street repairs, a tool for citizens to collect much-needed blight data, and more.
The Engaged Cities Award was open to cities with populations of 30,000+ in the Americas and Europe. Cities submitted their applications in January 2018. Cities of Service, along with an esteemed group of experts, chose three winning cities.
Winners were announced as part of the Engaged Cities Award Dinner and Summit. The Award is part of Michael R. Bloomberg’s American Cities Initiative, a program designed to empower city leaders to generate new ideas and advance policy that moves the nation forward.
Featured photo of one of Bologna’s thousands of historic buildings is by Storm Cunningham.