bloomberg philanthropies
Frequently Asked Questions
2017 Mayors Challenge

Eligibility & Timeline

What is the current status of the 2017 Mayors Challenge competition?

Applications were due on October 20, 2017 and the application period is now closed. All applications are being reviewed and evaluated. You will receive a notification from Bloomberg Philanthropies by late January 2018 if you are selected to win funds to test your idea. Please see the Judging and the Finalist Process section for more details.

How do I know if my government is eligible? Can cities outside of the United States apply?

In order to be eligible for the 2017 Mayors Challenge, cities must be located within the United States, have more than 30,000 residents within the administrative division of the city or urban area, and must have a local government.

If I am a current or former Bloomberg Philanthropies grantee or a past U.S. Mayors Challenge winner, can I still apply?

Yes! All cities that meet the eligibility criteria can apply.

Judging and the Finalist Process

Who selects the winners?

The Selection Committee, consisting of a wide range of experts, will support Bloomberg Philanthropies in selecting both rounds of winners.

Will big cities have an advantage over smaller cities?

No. We will judge each idea based on its strengths in addressing the selection criteria. All applications will be judged equally. Past winners in the United States and European Mayors Challenges had fewer than 250,000 residents, including Providence, RI, and Kirklees in the United Kingdom. Santa Monica, CA, a 2013 winner, has fewer than 100,000 residents.

What happens after my idea is submitted?

All applications will be reviewed and evaluated after the deadline. You will receive a notification from Bloomberg Philanthropies by late January 2018 if you are selected to win funds to test your idea.

How does the testing phase work?

35 Champion Cities will win up to $100,000 each to test and refine their ideas. This funding will give each city the chance to demonstrate the power of its proposal and will create a coast-to-coast accelerator for civic innovation. Following their testing phase, cities will distill learnings and re-submit a final application.

What is Ideas Camp?

Ideas Camp is a two-day intensive workshop, hosted by Bloomberg Philanthropies. Champion Cities will come together with innovation experts and leading urban practitioners from Bloomberg Philanthropies’ global network. Here, competitors become collaborators as cities help one another improve their ideas.

What are the legal terms and conditions I must agree to as a participant in the competition?

The complete terms and conditions are available here.

When will the winning cities be announced?

Bloomberg Philanthropies will announce the winners of the competition in October 2018.

Are you flexible in what legal entity actually receives the funds?

Bloomberg Philanthropies will work with the winners to determine the most effective way for your city to receive the funds, in accordance with local regulations.

Idea Accelerator workshops

What is an Idea Accelerator workshop?

Idea Accelerator workshops are full-day facilitated sessions designed to kickstart the Mayors Challenge experience and accelerate the development of your idea. During the day you will learn about and apply tools and methods that will help you better understand an urgent problem facing your city. The first 300 cities that RSVP’d to the Mayors Challenge have already received Idea Accelerator workshop.

What if I don’t have an idea yet?

We know that cities will be in different places in their application development at the time of their Accelerator workshop –some cities will still be deciding what urgent problem to address, some cities will know what problem they want to solve but won’t yet have an idea for a solution, and some cities will have a very early sense of what their solution might be. The Idea Accelerator workshop has been designed to be helpful to cities at all stages and we do not expect that any city has a fully formed idea at this time…or even a partially formed one!

However, during the workshop we will be going through a series of exercises that will be most effective if you come ready with a problem in-mind. If you have not yet selected what problem you want to address in your application, you will not be tied to this problem for the Mayors Challenge application.

We appreciate that some of you may already have a specific idea or solution in mind – that’s great! One of the things we’ve observed, however, is that it’s tempting to jump to a solution before you fully understand the problem. With this in mind, we’ve structured the workshop to help your city unpack the nuances of the problem you’re considering in order to generate an impactful solution.

When will my Idea Accelerator workshop take place?

Your Idea Accelerator workshop will take place between late July and September. If you haven’t already done so, please complete the Idea Accelerator Workshop scheduling survey so that we can schedule the workshop ASAP.

How long is the session?

The session is designed to run from 9am to 4pm. The full day will be required to get the most value out of the session and set your city on the path to a great idea.

How many people can I invite to the Idea Accelerator workshop?

You can invite up to fifteen people to the Idea Accelerator Workshop. For the workshop to be effective, we suggest a minimum of ten people.

Who should participate?

You should invite a diverse set of participants; staff with cross-departmental roles as well as staff from departments working on the selected problem. Ideally, participants from within government will represent a range of perspectives, from leadership roles down to the front line. In addition, you may want to consider including external stakeholders. University partners, representatives from community based organizations, and even residents themselves can all be helpful participants. If you need advice on who to invite, feel free to contact us.

Where will these workshops take place?

The workshops will take place within your facilities unless pre-arranged with our staff. The space will need to be large enough to hold all participants and the facilitator comfortably. It should also have a projector and the complete set-up needed to show slides, as your facilitator will come with a USB drive only.

Do we need to bring anything?

Workshop materials will be delivered to your offices in advance, so be sure to bring those. In addition, please bring pens, notepads, and most importantly, open minds!

Do we need to have a problem already selected before the Idea Accelerator Workshop?

Yes. During the workshop we will be going through a series of exercises that will be most effective if you come ready with a problem in-hand! You will not be tied to this problem for the Mayors Challenge application.

We’ve identified a problem to solve, but we don’t have an idea for how to solve it yet. Is that okay?

Yes, that’s absolutely fine. We aren’t expecting you to have an idea yet. During the session, we will introduce you to ways you might generate bigger and bolder ideas that have the potential to spread.

I received a link to an “Innovation Survey” Do I need to do this?

Yes. Please complete the Innovation Survey. It will help our facilitators tailor the curriculum to better suit your city’s needs.

Who do I contact if I have additional questions?

Send an e-mail to: and one of our dedicated team members will respond as soon as we can!

City Ideas

How many ideas can each city submit?

Each city can submit only one application, representing a single idea that addresses a specific problem. Applications must be submitted by a city hall or a city department (or the equivalent local central administrative body) under the direction of an authorized executive or body (e.g., mayor, deputy mayor, chief executive, city manager, or equivalent). The individual(s) completing the application online must be designated by the city’s authorized executive or body.

What do you mean when you say an idea has to be “new”?

We strongly encourage every city to use the Mayors Challenge to help city leaders think big, be bold, and uncover new or unexpected – and ultimately, shareable – ideas that tackle today’s most urgent problems. Successful ideas might, among other things, reimagine or drastically improve how cities delivers services, create efficiencies, or improve citizen engagement. Innovation is no longer optional.

What characteristics have past winning cities shared?

Bloomberg Philanthropies’ work with cities throughout the world has shown us that the cities that are most successful at generating and implementing innovative ideas also place a priority on:

  • Openness and collaboration: Seeking ideas, solutions, and resources from both inside and outside city hall.
  • Partnership and engagement: Identifying and leveraging skillsets and funding throughout the community to sustain innovative solutions over time.
  • Smart use of technology: Understanding that technology is not, in itself, a solution but is often how to arrive at a solution.
  • Testing, learning, and adapting: Starting small, testing, learning, and making incremental impact to learn fast and early and to build both goodwill and strong partnerships.
  • Measurement: Articulating the intended impact, measuring it, and then holding people accountable.
Can we submit an idea that is already in the implementation phase?

No. Ideas that are currently being implemented and that have already been launched are not eligible for the competition.

What if the idea is new in my city but has been tried or implemented in another city or country?

While your idea may stand on the shoulders of an idea that came before, cities will have to develop a significantly new element or approach in order to win. To be competitive, the applicant city must turn its idea into something that no city has done before.

Should I collaborate with external partners as part of my plan?

While it’s not required, we strongly encourage collaboration — both across government departments and with citizens. One of the best ways to generate new ideas and increase impact is to leverage resources, talent, and creativity from other sectors and from residents.

What makes a great idea?

We’re looking for bold solutions to urgent and emerging problems that are relevant today. Specifically, we want to make sure that you are presenting a creative vision that has the potential for meaningful impact. Your plan should demonstrate your city’s ability to implement your vision and the potential to transfer your idea to other cities. Click here to read more about the selection criteria.


Can applications come from partnerships of two or more cities, city and regional governments, or other combinations of government entities?

While submissions can be made only by single cities, a city may submit an idea that involves supporting partners. Partners, for the purpose of the Mayors Challenge, can mean businesses, non-profit organizations, citizens, and other governmental entities, including, but not limited to, state governments, sub-municipalities, and a range of other public systems or institutions.

What happens after my city replies?

You will receive unique login credentials for your city the week after the RSVP period closes on August 18. These credentials will be used to log into the Mayors Challenge application. We encourage cities to immediately consider an urgent problem they want to solve.

Do I have to submit the application online?

Yes. All cities are required to submit their ideas through an online application. In order to apply, eligible cities must first reply to reserve a spot in the competition. Click here to access the application.

How long does it take to complete the application?

The online application allows cities to view all questions at any time – cities can answer questions in any order as long as they submit the final responses by the October 20, 2017 deadline. The online application includes tools to help applicants track their progress and develop the best responses. Cities are encouraged to start the process as soon as possible. All applications must be submitted online.

What if my city has both a Mayor and a City Manager? Who should submit the idea? If my city is in the first 300 to RSVP and is receiving an Idea Accelerator workshop, who should attend?

The Mayor or Mayor’s designee should submit the idea but we expect that the City Manager is also engaged and supportive of the idea. We will defer to each city about the right combination of people in the room for the Idea Accelerator workshop (see Idea Accelerator section of FAQs), but suggest that both decision-makers and practitioners are in the room.

What if I have a question about applying or filling out the application itself?

If you don’t find the answer here, you can email questions to