Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has long supported civic innovation, but the philanthropist is ramping up efforts to help local governments through his charitable foundation’s Innovation Delivery grants.
Bloomberg Philanthropies pledged $45 million to American cities looking to use big data and digital tools to help municipalities solve urban issues like economic development or infrastructure.

“We’re asking cities to do so much more,” says James Anderson, who heads up the innovation programs at Bloomberg Philanthropies. “We need cities to come up with bigger, better ideas more often, and we don’t want to leave innovation to chance.”

More than 80 prospective cities were invited to apply for a grant, which can range from $250,000 to $1 million annually for three years. Candidates must have at least 100,000 residents and a mayor in office for at least two years.

The Innovation Delivery grants will also come with a team of experts to help roll out the charity’s data-driven model, which has been developed based on programs in Chicago, Louisville, Atlanta, Memphis and New Orleans. The teams will serve as an in-house consultant agency for the recipients.

Touting success in the aforementioned cities, Bloomberg notes that using the Innovation Delivery model has led to Atlanta moving 1,022 homeless individuals into permanent housing and New Orleans reducing its murder rate to 19 percent in 2013. Meanwhile, retail vacancies in Memphis’s central economic corridor dropped 30 percent while Louisville was able to cut back the amount of ambulance responses redirecting 26 percent of 911 medical calls to immediate care centers or a doctor’s office.

“Innovation Delivery has been an essential part of our effort to bring innovation, efficiency and improved services to our customers,” Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer says in a press release. “Philanthropy can play an important role in expanding the capacity of cities to deliver better, bolder results. Bloomberg Philanthropies is one of few foundations investing in this area, and it has truly been a game changer for our city.”

Bloomberg Philanthropies will also fund any research, technical assistance and partnerships with other organizations that could expand the foundation’s model, according to the release. For cities that may not qualify or other interested lawmakers, the foundation has also compiled the Innovation Delivery Playbook, which outlines the approach through successful examples in the pilot cities.

Grant winners are expected to be announced this fall with the initiatives planned to kick off in spring 2015.

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