NEW YORK, April 23, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Bloomberg Philanthropies today revealed the 21 European cities that have emerged as final contenders in its 2013-2014 Mayors Challenge, a competition to inspire cities to generate innovative ideas that solve major challenges and improve city life, and that ultimately can spread to other cities. One grand prize winner will receive €5 million for the most creative and transferable idea. Four additional cities will be awarded €1 million, and all will be announced in the fall. The finalists' proposed solutions address some of Europe's most critical issue areas: youth unemployment, aging populations, civic engagement, economic development, environment and energy concerns, public health and safety, and making government more efficient.
"European cities in this year's Mayors Challenge stepped up with bold and creative ideas that have the potential to improve lives across the continent and globe," said Michael R. Bloomberg, philanthropist and 108th Mayor of New York City. "Cities face many urgent challenges – from climate change to social isolation to youth unemployment. We need city leaders to continually reach for innovative new ways to address urban challenges – and then share what's working with the world. That's what the Mayors Challenge is all about."
The 2013-2014 Mayors Challenge is Bloomberg Philanthropies' first in Europe after the inaugural competition in the United States. Cities with populations of at least 100,000 residents were invited to participate. The finalist cities have populations ranging from fewer than 250,000 residents to more than 1 million, and represent 11 countries across Europe. They were selected from 155 applicants and their proposed solutions (see following list) illustrate both complex challenges and common urban issues across cities and regions.
Finalists will next attend Bloomberg Ideas Camp, a two-day conference convening municipal leaders from each city as well as leading innovation, policy, and programming experts who will partner with and push teams to strengthen their ideas. Ideas Camp is planned to occur in Berlin in June.
James Anderson, head of government innovation for Bloomberg Philanthropies, said: "While the ideas are very diverse, we identified key themes. The ideas tended toward networked, distributed solutions as opposed to costly centralized ones. There was a lot of interest in citizen engagement as both a means and end. Technology that concretely and positively affects the lives of individual citizens – from the blind person in Warsaw to the unemployed youth in Amsterdam to the homeowner in Schaerbeek -- also played a significant role."
Bloomberg Philanthropies staff and an independent selection committee of 12 members from across Europe closely considered each application over multiple rounds of review, culminating in feedback and selection earlier this month, resulting in 21 cities' ideas moving forward for further development. The submissions will be judged on four criteria: vision, potential for impact, implementation plan, and potential to spread to other cities. The finalists and their ideas are:
- AMSTERDAM, Netherlands – Youth Unemployment: Tackling widespread youth unemployment by equipping young people with 21st century skills and connecting them with jobs and apprenticeships across Europe through an online game
- ATHENS, Greece – Civic Engagement: Empowering citizens with a new online platform to address the large number of small-scale urban challenges accelerated by the Greek economic crisis
- BARCELONA, Spain – Aging: Improving quality of life and limiting social isolation by establishing a network of public and private support – including family, friends, social workers, and volunteers – for each elderly citizen
- BOLOGNA, Italy – Youth Unemployment: Building an urban scale model of informal education labs and civic engagement to prevent youth unemployment by teaching children aged 6-16 entrepreneurship and 21st century skills
- BRISTOL, United Kingdom – Health/Anti-obesity: Tackling obesity and unemployment by creating a new economic system that increases access to locally grown, healthy foods
- BRNO, Czech Republic – Public Safety/Civic Engagement: Engaging citizens in keeping their own communities safe to build social cohesion and reduce crime
- CARDIFF, United Kingdom – Economic Development: Increasing productivity little by little in residents' personal and professional lives, so that a series of small improvements add up to a much more productive city
- FLORENCE, Italy – Economic Development: Combatting unemployment with a new economic development model that combines technology and social innovation, targeting the city's historic artisan and maker community
- GDANSK, Poland – Civic Engagement: Re-instilling faith in local democracy by mandating that city government formally debate local issues put forward by citizens
- KIRKLEES, United Kingdom – Social Capital: Pooling the city and community's idle assets – from vehicles to unused spaces to citizens' untapped time and expertise – to help the city make the most of what it has and do more with less
- KRAKOW, Poland – Transportation: Implementing smart, personalized transportation incentives and a seamless and unified public transit payment system to convince residents to opt for greener modes of transportation
- LISBON, Portugal – Energy: Transforming wasted kinetic energy generated by the city's commuting traffic into electricity, reducing the carbon footprint and increasing environmental sustainability
- LONDON, United Kingdom – Public Health: Empowering citizens to monitor and improve their own health through a coordinated, multi-stakeholder platform and new technologies that dramatically improve quality of life and reduce health care costs
- 14. MADRID, Spain – Energy: Diversifying its renewable energy options by finding and funding the best ways to harvest underground power, such as wasted heat generated by the city's below-ground infrastructure
- SCHAERBEEK, Belgium – Energy: Using proven flyover and 3D geothermal mapping technology to provide each homeowner and tenant with a personalized energy audit and incentives to invest in energy-saving strategies
- SOFIA, Bulgaria – Civic Engagement: Transforming public spaces by deploying mobile art units to work side-by-side with local residents, re-envisioning and rejuvenating underused spaces and increasing civic engagement
- STARA ZAGORA, Bulgaria – Economic Development: Reversing the brain-drain of the city's best and brightest by helping young entrepreneurs turn promising ideas into local high-tech businesses
- STOCKHOLM, Sweden – Environment: Combatting climate change by engaging citizens to produce biochar, an organic material that increases tree growth, sequesters carbon, and purifies storm runoff
- THE HAGUE, Netherlands – Civic Engagement: Enabling citizens to allocate a portion of their own tax money to support the local projects they most believe in
- WARSAW, Poland – Transportation/Accessibility: Enabling the blind and visually impaired to navigate the city as easily as their sighted peers by providing high-tech auditory alerts which will save them travel time and increase their independence
- YORK, United Kingdom – Government Systems: Revolutionizing the way citizens, businesses, and others can propose new ideas to solve top city problems, providing a more intelligent way to acquire or develop the best solutions, thus enabling greater civic participation and saving the city both time and money.
Further detail and related elements for this year's Mayors Challenge can be found via: mayorschallenge.bloomberg.org
More information about the Mayors Challenge competition is available through www.bloomberg.org.
About Bloomberg Philanthropies
Bloomberg Philanthropies' mission is to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people. The organization focuses on five key areas for creating lasting change: Public Health, Environment, Education, Government Innovation, which includes the Mayors Challenge, and the Arts. Bloomberg Philanthropies encompasses all of Michael R. Bloomberg's charitable activities, including his foundation and his personal giving. In 2013, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $452 million. For more information, please visit bloomberg.org.
For more information on Bloomberg Philanthropies, media should contact Meghan Womack, email@example.com.