The District government could get as much as $1 million a year to fund innovation teams to tackle complex problems with creativity and data-based solutions for three years from Bloomberg Philanthropies. It’s up to the mayor–and therein lies the complication–to apply.
Bloomberg Philanthropies recently announced its latest round of Innovation Delivery Team grants–the organization will invest $45 million in 10 cities over the next three years to support innovation teams in those cities. The cities will receive grants ranging from $250,000 to $1,000,000 and are expected to match at a 1:3 ratio. By the third year, cities must allocate funding in the budget to continue the innovation programs beyond the life of the grants.
The program’s newest round of grants follows three years of testing in five cities–Atlanta, Chicago, Louisville, Memphis, and New Orleans. Results in those cities ranged from a 20% reduction in New Orlean’s murder rate over two years to Atlanta’s to a 33% reduction in licensing time for new restaurants in Chicago.
“Mayors everywhere are focused on innovation – and, increasingly, on the tools and approaches they need to make it the norm rather than the exception in city halls,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies, in a prepared statement.
The idea behind the Bloomberg grants is that addressing complex urban issues like crime, homelessness and economic development requires a level of creativity, flexibility and data-based problem-solving that is often difficult for entrenched government processes and structures. The grants allow cities to create teams that operate above or outside of departmental silos and provide the funds to do so without exceptional fiscal risk for city government leaders.
So how do we sign up for these funds? The grants give preference to cities where the mayor will be in office for at least three years starting Jan. 2015, though grant applications are due before the election. So Mayor Gray won’t have much luck if he applies, but it is unclear whether or not a candidate could file an application.
“While there is a preference for cities in which the mayor has at least three years remaining in office, that is not an eligibility requirement,” explained Meghan Womack, a spokeswoman for Bloomberg Philanthropies, in an email to District Source.
Would the current list of candidates go for such innovation grants?
During a recent trip to Atlanta, Democratic Candidate Muriel Bowser took interest in Mayor Kasim Reed’s Office of Innovation Delivery and Performance–the very program Bloomberg Philanthropies funded.
“CM Bowser is committed to exploring grant opportunities and public-private partnerships as innovative ways to counter the constraints that local budget and unpredictable federal funding have on the District,” said Joaquin McPeek, communications director, for Bowser’s mayoral campaign.
McPeek said Bowser sees particular opportunity to address technology and infrastructure needs with additional funding sources whether grants like the Bloomberg program or another public-private partnership.
Independent Candidate David Catania is known for demanding data and relying on numbers for accountability during his time on the Council. The data-driven, results-oriented nature of the grants would fit with that narrative.
Given the uncertainty of leadership for the District’s future, it is likely the city will be a contender for an innovation delivery grant. But could the city apply in the future?
Womack did not respond to repeated inquiries about whether or not the organization would do another round of grants to a new group of cities next year or if the grants would only be available every three years. The current timetable of every three years does not bode well for the District given our election cycles.
Anyone else have $1 million to spare for some innovative thinking?Comments