Columbus, Ohio has been selected as one of 50 Champion Cities that made the final list in the Bloomberg Philanthropies 2021 Global Mayors Challenge, a global innovation competition that identifies and accelerates the most ambitious ideas developed by cities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
These 50 urban innovations rose to the top of a competitive pool of more than 630 applications from 99 countries, in the first-ever Global Mayors Challenge.
As a Mayors Challenge finalist, Columbus now advances to the four-month Champion Phase of the competition.
From June through October, the 50 finalist cities will refine their ideas with technical assistance from Bloomberg Philanthropies and its network of leading innovation experts. Fifteen of the 50 cities will ultimately win the grand prize, with each receiving $1 million and robust multi-year technical assistance to implement and scale their ideas. Grand Prize Winners will be announced in early 2022.
“These 50 finalists are showing the world that in the face of the pandemic’s enormous challenges, cities are rising to meet them with bold, innovative and ambitious ideas,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies and 108th mayor of New York City.
“By helping these cities test their ideas over the coming months, we will have a chance to identify cutting-edge policies and programs that can allow cities to rebuild in ways that make them stronger and healthier, and more equal and more just.”
Columbus focused its application on bridging the digital divide. Approximately 12,000 students in the Columbus City School district lack affordable internet access. When the COVID-19 outbreak forced schools to transition to distance learning in March 2020, as many as 1 in 4 students did not fully engage in their distance learning opportunities due to lack of access.
Families were also impacted by a lack of access to job markets, healthcare, food sources, home delivery services and other vital resources that are enabled by a digital economy built via access to the internet.
Low-income households make up 25.9% of all households in Franklin County but account for 68.9% of households without broadband. Columbus plans to enable every resident to have internet access they can afford.
“We are honored that the Bloomberg Mayors Challenge has chosen us from over 500 other cities across the world,” said Mayor Andrew J. Ginther.
“We look forward to working to find ways to provide affordable internet to our underserved neighbors, a critical need that is keeping so many of our residents from schoolwork, doctor’s appointments and jobs.”
The 50 Champion Cities submitted ideas addressing four of the most significant challenges borne of the pandemic: Economic Recovery & Inclusive Growth; Health and Wellbeing; Climate and Environment; and Good Governance and Equality.
A prestigious selection committee co-chaired by Bloomberg Philanthropies board member Mellody Hobson, Co-CEO/President, Ariel Investments, and David Miliband, President/CEO, International Rescue Committee, assessed the applications to determine the Champion City finalists.
“This is always an especially exciting phase of the Mayors Challenge, helping mayors push their innovations to even greater heights,” said James Anderson, head of Government Innovation at Bloomberg Philanthropies.
“While 15 cities will ultimately take-home grand prizes, all 50 cities receive world class coaching and support to improve their ideas and their potential to improve lives.”
The 2021 Global Mayors Challenge builds on the success of four previous Bloomberg-sponsored Challenges in the U.S. (2013 and 2018), Europe (2014), and Latin America and the Caribbean (2016).