Urban Planning

Bloomberg Philanthropies Partners with NYU Wagner in 5-City Initiative

Bloomberg Philanthropies Partners with NYU Wagner in 5-City Initiative

Bloomberg Philanthropies announced July 14 the establishment of a $24 million, three-year initiative to fund "Innovation Delivery Teams" that will help mayors effectively design and implement solutions to pressing city challenges, focusing on five major U.S. cities: Atlanta, Chicago, Louisville, Memphis, and New Orleans.

In an integral part of the initiative, Bloomberg Philanthropies also announced a partnership with NYU Wagner to document and share best practices across these cities, and translate those learnings into resources that other cities can use.

"NYU Wagner is proud of its work on innovation and leadership and we are excited to partner with Bloomberg Philanthropies in its new effort," said Ellen Schall, dean of Wagner. "We look forward to helping capture and synthesize key lessons across these initiatives in order to both build the knowledge base and support municipal innovation nationwide."

To meet each city's impact goals in priority areas, the new Innovation Delivery Teams, each one composed of high-performing staff, will generate innovative solutions, develop implementation plans, and manage progress towards defined targets. Bloomberg Philanthropies will fund the salaries of these staff members and provide a range of support for the project's duration.

In each city, the team will focus on top-priority issues identified by City Hall, achieving results and producing value. In Atlanta, the team will implement a comprehensive 311 system to improve customer service. In Memphis and Louisville, the teams will implement new job-growth strategies. In Chicago and New Orleans, the teams will cut waiting and processing times for key city services.

The "Innovation Delivery Team" grants are the first made through the Mayors Project, the new government innovation program at Bloomberg Philanthropies.

The Mayors Project has two goals: increase innovation capacity within municipal government and disseminate effective programs and policies across cities. Additional investments will be made through the Mayors Project over the coming year.

"Mayors are uniquely positioned to tackle some of our most pressing challenges - from growing jobs to fighting climate change to keeping quality of life high," said Michael R. Bloomberg. "The Mayors Project will fuel
these efforts by spreading effective programs and strategies between cities and helping mayors work together in new ways around solutions. We are excited to kick off this new initiative in partnership with these five great American cities."

The "Innovation Delivery Team" model draws from successful approaches that have been utilized worldwide. In New York City, for example, Mayor Bloomberg established teams to develop and implement bold anti-poverty, sustainability, and efficiency agendas. Similarly, Former Prime Minister Tony Blair formed the Prime Minister's Delivery Unit to achieve impact in transportation, education, health, and criminal justice. In Malaysia, Prime Minister Najib Razak's Performance Management and Delivery Unit has documented critical gains in advancing that nation's government and economic transformation plans.

The five cities selected are all large American cities with strong executive forms of municipal government. Most of the mayors are in the first 18 months of their first terms in office, giving the "Innovation Delivery Teams" sufficient time to achieve impact under the current administration. Team leaders shall report directly to the mayor and oversee a team of five to ten members, depending on city size and scope. Given this variation, the size of the grants awarded to each city will vary from $1.4 million to $2 million per year.

Selected Cities, Mayors and Priority Areas :

Atlanta - Mayor Kasim Reed
Introduce 311 and other initiatives to improve customer service. Dramatically reduce street homelessness

Chicago - Mayor Rahm Emanuel
Reduce waiting and processing times for key city services.
Dramatically scale energy efficiency efforts.

Louisville - Mayor Greg Fischer
Partner with Lexington to implement a new regional export strategy. Improve agency performance and public accountability.

Memphis - Mayor A C Wharton, Jr.
Increase small business growth in target neighborhoods.
Reduce handgun violence.

New Orleans - Mayor Mitch Landrieu
Reduce waiting and processing times for key city services.
Reduce homicides.

Over the past nine months, Bloomberg Philanthropies surveyed government officials and a range of philanthropic, academic, and private and nonprofit organizations, to inform its approach to government innovation. This included convening 14 mayors of major American cities for a day of strategizing and idea generation in March.

Throughout these conversations, mayors and other stakeholders have identified both a heightened need for municipal innovation - demand for services is up and pressure on municipal budgets is severe - and a set of common barriers local leaders consistently face.

These barriers include siloed bureaucracies, a lack of risk capital, inflexible regulations, and challenges associated with successfully implementing programs that have been proven elsewhere. The Mayors Project's dual focus on increasing innovation capacity within municipal government and disseminating effective programs and policies across cities aims to address these challenges.

Throughout these efforts, Bloomberg Philanthropies will identify groups of cities interested in working on particular issues. Peer-to-peer learning networks that accelerate progress and elevate best practices will be established, and lessons learned will be shared broadly with other cities, academics, and grant makers.

Bohnett Fellows huddle with 200-plus mayors in DC

Bohnett Fellows huddle with 200-plus mayors in DC

Bohnett Fellows pose in front of the White House during their trip to the U.S. Conference of Mayors winter meeting, 2011.

Bohnett Fellows from NYU Wagner joined with their counterparts from UCLA and the University of Michigan in attending the winter meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, D.C. on January 19-21, 2011, with Professor Rogan Kersh. After sharing information, insights, and ideas with more than 200 of the nation's mayors and many other public service leaders, the Wagner students offered these reports:

Barbara Kiviat:
"It was by far one of the best networking opportunities of my life. Most of the Conference participants were mayors, and between sessions there was ample time for me to walk up to people and introduce myself. I was amazed at how engaged many of the mayors were. Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter must have talked to us for half an hour one evening: He was really interested in what we had to say and fielded all of our questions, including some pretty tough ones, with aplomb.

"I was incredibly impressed with the mayor of Oakland, Jean Quan. The conference included many speakers from the national stage, including Nancy Pelosi, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Trade Representative Ron Kirk, House Transportation Committee Chair John Mica, and Alaska Senator Mark Begich. These folks usually spoke for awhile and then took questions from the mayors. Almost without fail, Mayor Quan's hand would slowly rise, she'd be called on, and then, with perfect posture and composure, she asked the most pointed and well-informed question imaginable. It made me happy for the people of Oakland. They've got a real policy wonk running the place.

"More broadly, it was great to be around Republican and Democratic politicians talking about actual issues - from handgun violence to job creation - without reverting to demagoguery  It was the sort of situation that might restore a person's faith in the American political system."

Sean Capperis:
"When elected officials are talking about economic development, I expect to hear more about financial incentives than about public services. But the economic-development drivers the mayors were discussing included developing exports, attracting foreign investment, and producing a highly skilled labor force through education and workforce training. Mayors and federal officials echoed that cities must cooperate across other governments and sectors to succeed in these areas. It's not surprising that President Obama articulated some of the Conference's major themes in his State of the Union address of Jan. 25, 2011. Getting to speak personally to some of the mayors completely changed my perspective on urban government, and my work this semester is going to reflect it.

"The Conference was also the first time the Bohnett Fellows at all three schools were able to come together. I really connected with a Fellow from the University of Michigan over our work in Northern industrial cities. She lives and works in Detroit, and I came to NYU from Pittsburgh. I found that we could swap war stories about managing decline, but at the end of the day we were talking about common points of growth and battling inequality."

Elizabeth H. Guernsey:
"The trip to the Conference of Mayors winter meeting was definitely one of the highlights - if not the highlight - of my Wagner career so far. The access to and conversations with so many mayors was great. I came back from the Conference inspired to know that so many smart people are working in local government and really focused on making our cities great places to work and live. I was also struck by the mayors' signing of the Civility Accord in reaction to the Tucson tragedy. It was refreshing to hear the mayors talking about their cities in a nonpartisan way.

"A highlight of the trip was meeting with the Fellows from the other schools and hearing about the work they are doing in other cities. Another highlight was attending the Mayors Against Illegal Guns meeting, and hearing mayors talk openly about what they think needs to be done to protect public safety in our cities. The mayors were able to talk honestly and openly without worry that they might upset their constituencies."

The David Bohnett Public Service Fellowship for incoming Wagner students offers "...a great opportunity for students to directly engage in the challenges of governing our vibrant and diverse city," according to David Bohnett, Chairman and Founder of the David Bohnett Foundation. The Fellowship provides full tuition support and summer stipends for three Bohnett Fellows per year. These students must be enrolled in either the Master of Public Administration (MPA) or Master of Urban Planning (MUP) program and express an explicit interest in working for municipal governments to solve our most urgent social issues. The David Bohnett Public Service Fellowship also allows two fellows a terrific opportunity to intern at the highest level of NYC government. The third fellow gets to take on exciting work with the current President of the US Conference of Mayors, which has an ongoing partnership with Wagner.

Pages

Subscribe to Urban Planning