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Commentary Article April 12th, 2016
Cities

Mayors Challenge: Lighting up Latin America

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Latin America and The Caribbean is replete with cities as diverse as the region itself

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The Mayors Challenge touches the lives of millions of city citizens across the region

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The competition encourages cities to generate innovative ideas that solve major challenges

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From Medellin to Montevideo, Santiago to San Juan, Latin America and The Caribbean is replete with cities as diverse, exciting and brimming with energy as the region itself.

With natural resources aplenty, growth and jobs have ricocheted across this vast land mass over the past decade, leaving poverty rates in decline and prosperity on the up. Unfortunately, good news has more recently been in short supply. Decreasing commodity prices, a slowing China and other factors such as ongoing political problems in Brazil, for example have all helped leave the region's future somewhat clouded.

Cities are at the epicentre of these social and political challenges. Some 80% of Latin America's population now live in cities but such rapid growth comes at a price. How can city leaders address the increasing pressure on services, infrastructure and sustainability? While there are no easy answers, opportunities to strengthen governance and improve the lives of citizens abound and this is where the 2016 Mayors Challenge comes in.

Meeting the Mayors Challenge

The Mayors Challenge is a competition for cities that inspires mayors and their partners to develop breakthrough solutions. Set up by Bloomberg Philanthropies, it encourages cities to generate innovative ideas that solve major challenges and improve city life and that have the potential to spread to other cities. These innovations can take place in any policy area from public health to sustainability to arts and culture and includes a $5 million grand prize and four $1 million awards to the cities that generate the most powerful ideas.

The Mayors Challenge touches millions of lives from the citizens who are affected by bold new innovations, to the hundreds of city leaders who learn new strategies and tools that can help them better meet the needs of their residents during the competition and beyond. Having already taken place across the US and Europe, the competition is this year taking place in Latin America and The Caribbean, with the region's cities already demonstrating that local government can generate bold new ideas, develop unique partnerships, and engage citizens in exciting ways.

So far, so good

The Centre for Public Impact is working as implementation partner on this year's competition. Our role is to assist Bloomberg Philanthropies throughout the whole process to ensure that all those shortlisted can benefit from the experience by learning about developing ideas, what can work and by making new connections.

Last month saw our closing date for entries and we were delighted that 363 cities from 22 countries across Latin America and the Caribbean are taking part in the 2016 Mayors Challenge. These 363 cities represent 40% of all eligible cities in the region topping the 30 and 28% participation rates experienced in the US and European Mayors Challenge, respectively.  These cities are now working on their ideas, with a couple of days to go until the submission deadline.

The next stage of the competition will involve selected cities advancing as finalists and receive coaching and support from experts and their peers to strengthen and stretch their idea. In June, 20 finalists will be announced. In July, teams from each of those finalist cities will attend Bloomberg Ideas Camp, a two-day gathering where leading innovation experts and peer cities will help finalists refine their proposals. Prize winners will be announced by the end of 2016.

We sincerely hope and expect that this year's competition will help leaders innovate and develop ideas that will have a positive impact for citizens across Latin America and The Caribbean.  The public policy challenges related to increased urbanisation are well documented but in tackling them, cities can be the source of creative ideas with the power to have great public impact.

Watch this space - we're just getting started...

 

FURTHER READING

  • Yes, Mr President. Falling energy prices may be hitting its revenues but Bolivia's former president, Jorge Quiroga, says the future remains bright. He explains how to navigate the policymaking landscape
  • Mexico's moment. Mexico's President Peña is on a mission to shake up his country's business, social and political structures. But no reforms matter more than those revolutionising its energy sector, explains Eduardo León

  • Making change real: Vancouver's vision. Vancouver has achieved global acclaim for its natural setting and standards of "liveability". The city's mayor, Gregor Robertson, tells us why he is focusing on citizens today and those of tomorrow
  • City limits. How did a city mayor persuade his community to go on a diet? With the citizens of Oklahoma City now a million pounds lighter, Mick Cornett tells Adrian Brown about how he helped create a healthier future
  • Houston, lift off. Houston"s Mayor, Annise Parker, oversees America"s fourth largest city, one with a booming population and jobs market. But she"s not about to take her foot off the gas
  • City, slicker. Few cities can rival Cape Town for natural setting but its strengths are by no means limited to geographic location. The city"s mayor, Patricia de Lille, tells us about her action-based approach to governing

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Rim Abida Project Director
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