Bloomberg Philanthropies has announced the 15 winning innovations of its 2021-2022 Global Mayors Challenge. Hailing from six continents, the chosen projects "seek improvements in the areas of economic recovery and inclusive growth, health and well-being, climate and environment, and gender and equality". The winning cities include Istanbul, Rotterdam, Butuan, and Wellington, and will all receive $1 million and external support to develop their programs.
Out of 631 entries, 15 winners were picked out for designing or implementing ambitious urban innovations that respond to the aftermaths of the pandemic and provide solutions for sustainability, equity, and inclusion. The winning cities are Amman, Jordan; Bogotá, Colombia; Butuan, Philippines; Freetown, Sierra Leone; Hermosillo, Mexico; Istanbul, Turkey; Kigali, Rwanda; Kumasi, Ghana; Paterson, New Jersey, U.S.; Phoenix, Arizona, U.S.; Rochester, Minnesota, U.S.; Rotterdam, the Netherlands; Rourkela, India; Vilnius, Lithuania; and Wellington, New Zealand.
Bloomberg Philanthropies founder and former New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg explains that since national governments can't implement innovative projects within the same pace or timeframe that cities do, Bloomberg has given its platform to offer financial and organizational support for projects that have the potential to improve millions of residents' lives, whether it is through health benefits, reducing unemployment, or empowering women, amongst other global initiatives.
Jordanian capital Amman developed “reachability maps”, which helped identify communities that did not have access to essential services when the city was unprepared to keep up and deliver them to all of its residents during lockdown.
Some cities raised awareness on gender and racial inequalities, such as in Bogota, which developed plans to create “care blocks” that support and encourage the reduction of exploited and under-rewarded female caretakers and train men to perform household chores.
As a response to the city's high rates of hunger and food insecurity, Butuan created AgriBOOST, a predictive data software that secures the longevity of disadvantaged farmers by helping evaluate the best types and quantities of crops to plant.
Freetown, Sierra Leone
Tackling deforestation and the city's annual loss of 500,000 trees, Freetown provided monetary support for communities to help replant trees. The city used geospatial tagging for each new tree to create tokens in the hopes of developing a new market focused on reforestation.
As a response to the city's two main challenges: unemployed women and the fact that only 2 percent of its waste is recycled, Hermosillo created “Biciclando,” a green women-employment initiative that uses circular-economy to address both challenges through one single intervention.
25% of Istanbul households applied for social aid following the first year of the pandemic. And while the city tripled its social-assistance budget, it was not able to keep up with the overall demand. This is why the city developed “Pay-it- forward,” a social-support program that offers financially-burdened people to receive financial assistance anonymously from people who are willing to help.
Kigali’s informal settlement residents suffer from unsanitary water, sanitation, and lack of hygiene services, combined with high utility maintenance costs. As a response, the city introduced a Dutch innovation solution that captures flood and stormwater with smart waste-sensor technologies.
With the aim of solving the problem of poorly maintained public toilets, Kumasi trained the unemployed youth to build low-cost toilets for households that don't have them. The toilets use bio-digesters amongst other toilet technologies to allow the waste to be processed into organic manure used for agriculture.
Paterson, New Jersey
After noticing a staggering rise in overdose deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, the city of Paterson in New Jersey developed a program that fast-tracked 24/7 treatment to people experiencing Opioid Use Disorder.
The city experienced an increase in unemployment, with nearly 200,000 residents filing unemployment throughout the pandemic. To connect jobseekers and potential employers, the city developed “Career Mobility Units”, a service that targets job seekers and provides them with trainings, interview opportunities, translation services, and connections to employers.
Minnesota's Rochester engaged with communities and labor organizations to design pathways that improve access for women of color in the construction industry.
Due to the pandemic, public budgets were very limited to fund employment programs, so the city created “Rikx,” a digital marketplace that links local social entrepreneurs with investors so that they can develop innovative projects, while helping the city’s unemployed residents find work.
Rourkela's produce owners suffer from lack of storage facilities, which limited their goods' shelf life. With that, the city focused on empowering female food entrepreneurs and offered them access to cold-storage units, tackling multiple benefits, such as female empowerment, food security, and mobility in a single initiative.
Vilnius focused on its education system by creating “Vilnius as an Open School,” a program aimed at addressing the lack of educators’ digital skills, overcrowded public schools, and outdated education systems. The program aims to make the K-12 education model more resilient and relevant to the future economy.
Wellington, New Zealand
As a means of addressing climate change and moving to a post-carbon future, Wellington scaled its existing digital twin model and created a virtual, interactive city, by allowing its residents to be involved in planning and taking action for climate mitigation.
The 2021 Mayors Challenge is the organization's fifth edition, and the first to target a global reach. Previous Challenges focused on one region, such as the United States in 2013 and 2018, Latin America and the Caribbean in 2016, and Europe in 2014.