Answers and solutions to the world’s biggest problems – from climate change to migration – are right in our own backyard. This is the fundamental belief of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge, which seeks to equip local government and cities with the tools that can be implemented locally and ripple progress across the world. With early success in the United States, the Mayors Challenge is now a global initiative with its first awardees in Latin America announced on November 29, 2016.
As part of our year-end series on implementation of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, Global Daily sat down with Bloomberg Philanthropies’ head of government and innovation program James Anderson to gain insight on how cities are a driver of global change.
Global Daily: Why focus on mayors and cities? What can local policy do that national or international policy can’t in regards to equality, sustainability, and inclusion?
Anderson: Our founder and funder is a former mayor who believes in the power of local government to improve quality of life. We believe that mayors and local governments are uniquely positioned to galvanize people, and ideals, and local sectors in new and unique ways to solve public problems. A huge thrust of our public programs includes local mayors and equipping them with ability to solve problems more effectively.
Global Daily: Is supporting local government more important following the U.S. election?
Anderson: Our perspective is that cities have been underinvested in for a long time. That was true on November 6 and its true today. Our mission is very much focused on putting the resources and knowledge and practices and the better tools and techniques in their hands so that they can solve problems more effectively.
Global Daily: Why the focus on Latin America?
Anderson: The government innovation portfolio is growing. We’re now working in nearly 250 cities across the United States, Europe, the Indian sub-continent and now Latin America. The ambition for the cities program is global. We know that no matter where you go there is interest in best practices; they want to do data more effectively, they want to do innovation with more sophistication. And so our programs are becoming more and more global.
This is the first time the government innovations work has come to the Latin American-Caribbean region. And we were incredibly excited about it for a number of reasons. This is a region that where municipal innovation has a rich, deep history and so the culture of public sector innovation in Latin American cities is alive, and well, and robust, and we were excited to learn more about it and to support creative civil service around the region, reach higher, and solve problems more effectively.
Claire: How does the Mayors Challenge align with and catalyze global policy like the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals?
These are issues that mayors care deeply about and that they have to deal with day in and day out. And so you’ll see a lot of alignment between the issues that are embedded in the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement. Our programs try to put tools and resources into the hands of mayors so that they can better address the issues that are most relevant to their communities. So when you look at reducing inequality, increasing education, promoting the health and wellbeing of citizens, you know its not a surprise that mayors are zeroing in on those issues. And of course those are issues that are embedded within the Sustainable Development Goals.
On November 29, 2016, Bloomberg Philanthropies announced the winners of its 2016 Mayors Challenge, an ideas competition that encourages cities to generate innovative ideas that solve major challenges and improve city life – and have the potential to spread. After a year-long competitive process alongside their peers, five cities emerged as winners based on four criteria: their idea’s vision and creativity, potential for impact, transferability, and viability of implementation.