Innovation grant winners: Up to $3 million go to 14 cities worldwide

The Bloomberg innovation grant city winners include Boston, L.A., Jerusalem, Seattle, and Jersey City, N.J. The Bloomberg Philanthropies grants range from $400,000 to $1 million annually for three years,

Photo by Christa Case Bryant/The Christian Science Monitor
Religious schoolgirls visit the City of David on July 11, 2013, in East Jerusalem. Many archaeologists believe the biblical King David established the Jewish capital some 3,000 years ago. Some say the large stone structure (r.) may have been part of a foundation or retaining wall for his palace or administrative buildings. The visitor center is part of an expanding Jewish presence in a highly sensitive area of East Jerusalem, which is predominantly Arab, and some say archaeology is being wrongly used as a tool to strengthen Jewish claims to a city inhabited by many different civilizations over the centuries.

Fourteen cities ranging from Long Beach, California, to Jerusalem are getting up to $3 million from former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's foundation to create "innovation teams" to jump-start new approaches to poverty, public safety, job growth and other issues, the foundation announced Monday.

The Bloomberg Philanthropies grants range from $400,000 to $1 million annually for three years, expanding and internationalizing awards to five U.S. cities in 2011. The teams are styled as in-house innovation consultants who work on a series of mayoral priorities.

"Successful innovation depends as much on the ability to generate ideas as it does the capacity to execute them — and i-teams help cities do both," the former mayor said in a statement.

The 12 U.S. cities were chosen from over 30 applicants with at least 100,000 residents and mayors with at least two years left in office. Winners range in size from Centennial, Colorado, with about 106,000 residents, to Los Angeles, with nearly 3.9 million

Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, Israel, were invited to apply after expressing interest, said Jim Anderson, who leads Bloomberg Philanthropies' government-innovation programs.

The two-to-eight-person teams usually include current staffers and outside hires by the mayor. In an era of tight public resources, teams help analyze pressing problems, generate new solutions and develop ways to implement them and measure results.

"They don't replace (existing staffers') work — they unlock their innovation potential," Anderson said.

The 2011 grants helped Atlanta get 1,022 chronically homeless people into permanent housing and helped New Orleans reduce its murder rate by about 20 percent in less than two years, their mayors said, among other winning cities' accomplishments.

All the 2011 winners decided to keep the teams going after the grants ended, Anderson said.

Here's how the Bloomberg site describes the process: 

Innovation Teams are based in city hall and report to the mayor. The i-team members serve as in-house consultants, using the Innovation Delivery approach to help the mayor and other partners solve the city’s biggest challenges. First, the i-team and its partners investigate the problem by gathering information and data and researching how the problem affects other cities. The goal of this phase is to break down a problem into challenges, and to carefully asses the causes of each challenge. Second, the i-team assesses possible solutions by leading their partners through a robust and collaborative idea generation process using best-in-class techniques. Third, the i-team and its partners select the most promising ideas and create a plan for implementing them. In the fourth and final step, the plan is put into action and the i-team begins monitoring results. To learn more about the four-step Innovation Delivery approach, check out the Innovation Delivery Playbook, which acts as a step-by-step guide for i-teams.

The new cities selected were: Albuquerque, New Mexico; Boston, Massachusetts; Centennial, Colorado; Jersey City, New Jersey; Long Beach, California; Los Angeles, California; Mobile, Alabama; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Peoria, Illinois; Rochester, New York; Seattle, Washington; Syracuse, New York; Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

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