Cities offer many of the comforts of contemporary living, but they also magnify societal problems and conflicts. Overcoming these challenges takes more agility and creativity than ever.

Enter Bloomberg Philanthropies, a non-profit founded in 2006 by Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City. The foundation partners with local governments to encourage them to experiment and take risks that they can’t or won’t take on their own.

The organization provides financing and experts in the urban problems in question while encouraging local authorities to find solutions for themselves.

The civic projects supported by Bloomberg (there are also arts, health, education and environmental initiatives) have tended to focus on housing, crime rates and the recovery of public areas. In Atlanta, Georgia, the number of homeless people was reduced by 75 percent, thanks to a pilot program that consisted of reorganizing public resources to offer permanent housing to those in need. In Memphis, Tennessee, the aim was to rekindle neighborhood life to reduce the crime rate via such actions as professional training, support for resident-run businesses and campaigns designed to change citizens’ views on crime.

The foundation encourages information sharing and scalability so that one city can learn from the experiences of another and the 14 programs that are currently being supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies were conceived with the view to being applied to cities facing similar problems.

In this context, philanthropy is synonymous with determination. Emboldened by Bloomberg’s vast set of experiences and successes, a growing number of mayors and public officials are making decisions that would possibly have been overlooked in the past for fear of public backlash or political fallout.

The problems faced by cities are not new, and neither are some of the solutions being proposed, but the enabling of civic innovation by local leaders in an effort to enact meaningful change in the world is a novelty we can all get behind.

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Cities offer many of the comforts of contemporary living, but they also magnify societal problems and conflicts. Overcoming these challenges takes more agility and creativity than ever.

Enter Bloomberg Philanthropies, a non-profit founded in 2006 by Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City. The foundation partners with local governments to encourage them to experiment and take risks that they can’t or won’t take on their own.

The organization provides financing and experts in the urban problems in question while encouraging local authorities to find solutions for themselves.

The civic projects supported by Bloomberg (there are also arts, health, education and environmental initiatives) have tended to focus on housing, crime rates and the recovery of public areas. In Atlanta, Georgia, the number of homeless people was reduced by 75 percent, thanks to a pilot program that consisted of reorganizing public resources to offer permanent housing to those in need. In Memphis, Tennessee, the aim was to rekindle neighborhood life to reduce the crime rate via such actions as professional training, support for resident-run businesses and campaigns designed to change citizens’ views on crime.

The foundation encourages information sharing and scalability so that one city can learn from the experiences of another and the 14 programs that are currently being supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies were conceived with the view to being applied to cities facing similar problems.

In this context, philanthropy is synonymous with determination. Emboldened by Bloomberg’s vast set of experiences and successes, a growing number of mayors and public officials are making decisions that would possibly have been overlooked in the past for fear of public backlash or political fallout.

The problems faced by cities are not new, and neither are some of the solutions being proposed, but the enabling of civic innovation by local leaders in an effort to enact meaningful change in the world is a novelty we can all get behind.

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