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Bloomberg Philanthropies Innovation Team will tackle tough issues in Detroit to improve quality of life


The City of Detroit is getting some help dealing with tough issues from a very interesting source. In a round-about way it is coming from former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The organization he founded, Bloomberg Philanthropies, has recognized Detroit as a new member of its Innovation-team (I-team) program and has awarded it up to $500,000 annually for up to three years to fund the in-house team.

“Mayors must always be looking for new ways to improve the critical services that people depend on,” says Bloomberg. “Our Innovation Teams program helps mayors do that by giving city governments around the world the capacity to make their innovative ideas reality.”

I-teams are charged with helping “city leaders drive bold innovation, change culture, and create an ongoing ability to tackle big problems and deliver better results for residents,” the organization says.

Michael Bloomberg

Michael Bloomberg says I-teams help mayors improve services by giving city governments around the world the capacity to make their innovative ideas reality.

The program has quite a track record.

In New Orleans an I-team helped the city drop its murder rate by 18 percent between 2011 and 2015. No city in the US has had a larger murder rate reduction from 2011 to 2015 than New Orleans, Bloomberg Philanthropies says on its website.

In Boston an I-team is contributing to the mayor’s plan to give the city a robust supply of affordable housing for middle-income households by 2018. It is testing solutions from micro-units to density bonuses to increase resident appetite for higher-density living.

In Memphis an I-team helped fill 53 percent of the empty storefronts in key commercial tracts of the city, giving hope to small business owners and reinvigorating the city’s core.

In the Neve Sha’anan neighborhood in Tel Aviv, an I-team helped the city find solutions to overcrowding, a lack of services, and other urgent quality of life issues. Since many immigrants from East Africa began arriving in 2008 the neighborhood has changed from 50 percent Israeli to 10 percent Israeli. The immigrants have no legal status and felt isolated from the rest of the city as did the Israelis living there. The solutions included a community center for migrant youth, repurposing old synagogues to become community places for older, long-time residents, and integrating the neighborhood into the city fabric through initiatives such as food and cultural festivals.

Now one of those I-teams will be working in Detroit to pioneer new approaches that improve the lives of residents by designing and delivering bold solutions for the city’s most challenging problems.

In addition to the grants, the city receives implementation support and opportunities to exchange lessons learned and best practices with peers in other cities. The work done in New Orleans, Boston and Tel Aviv certainly has implications in Detroit.

Bloomberg Philanthropies focuses on five key areas for creating lasting change including public health, environment, education, government innovation and the arts. Everything is data driven. The I-teams conduct extensive qualitative and quantitative research to assess local conditions and then come up with solutions. They are required to measure progress against their goals.

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Detroit was selected from a pool of municipalities with a demonstrated commitment to designing and delivering bold solutions to complex problems.

“I am happy to welcome the Bloomberg Innovation team into our city to help create new ideas to better the lives of Detroiters across our city” says Mayor Mike Duggan.

The Innovation Teams Program is one of seven Government Innovation offerings at Bloomberg Philanthropies. Government Innovation equips mayors and other city leaders with the tools and techniques they need to solve urban challenges and improve citizens’ lives.

Eligible cities with at least 100,000 residents and with mayors who have at least two years left in office were invited to apply for the current round of funding. Other cities selected for the global program include Be’er Sheva, Israel; Toronto, Canada, and Anchorage, AK; Austin, TX; Baltimore, MD; Detroit, MI; and Durham; NC in the United States.

“Cities are uniquely able to innovate and transform citizens’ lives, but face many barriers to developing and implementing solutions to tough challenges,” says the Bloomberg Philanthropies website. “City governments are not always organized to support innovation, especially when it comes to addressing ‘horizontal’ issues – such as poverty reduction, sustainability, or customer service – that are the shared responsibility of multiple departments and chains of command. The absence of standard management and engagement strategies to overcome department silos makes it harder for leaders to define, deliver, and sustain solutions to these complex and multifaceted challenges.”

More information about the Innovation Team Program is available through the Bloomberg Philanthropies website.

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