Bloomberg Philanthropies today revealed that Amsterdam is one of 21 European cities to emerge as a final contender in its 2013-2014 Mayors Challenge. The Mayors Challenge is a competition to inspire cities to generate innovative ideas that solve major challenges and improve city life, and that ultimately can spread to other cities. One grand prize winner will receive €5 million for the most creative and transferable idea while four additional cities will be awarded €1 million. All winning cities will be announced in the autumn of 2014. Amsterdam proposes to tackle widespread youth unemployment by equipping young people with 21st-century skills and connecting them with jobs and apprenticeships across Europe through an online game. Amsterdam is one of two Dutch cities competing in the finals; the other is The Hague.

The finalists’ proposed solutions address some of Europe’s most critical issue areas: youth unemployment, aging populations, civic engagement, economic development, environment and energy concerns, public health and safety, and making government more efficient.

"European cities in this year’s Mayors Challenge stepped up with bold and creative ideas that have the potential to improve lives across the continent and globe,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, philanthropist and 108th Mayor of New York City. “Cities face many urgent challenges – from climate change to social isolation to youth unemployment. We need city leaders to continually reach for innovative new ways to address urban challenges – and then share what’s working with the world. That’s what the Mayors Challenge is all about.”

Mayor Eberhard van der Laan: “Amsterdam is honoured to have been selected for the Mayors Challenge finals. I have witnessed the energy the challenge has created to this very day, with so many citizens involved in our open idea-generating process. In this next phase, we will focus on refining our 21st-century answer to the youth unemployment challenge. Our use of technology in the Play2Work Europe programme enables Amsterdam to reach, engage and connect with unemployed youths in many other European cities. As Europeans, we can make a big step forward.”

The 2013-2014 Mayors Challenge is Bloomberg Philanthropies’ first in Europe after the inaugural competition in the United States. Cities with populations of at least 100,000 residents were invited to participate. The finalist cities have populations ranging from fewer than 250,000 residents to more than 1 million, and represent 11 countries across Europe. They were selected from 155 applicants and their proposed solutions (see following list) illustrate both complex challenges and common urban issues across cities and regions.

Finalists are now set to attend the Bloomberg Ideas Camp, a two-day conference convening municipal leaders from each city as well as leading innovation, policy, and programming experts who will partner with and push teams to strengthen their ideas. The Ideas Camp will be held in Berlin this June.

James Anderson, head of government innovation for Bloomberg Philanthropies, said: “While the ideas are very diverse, we identified key themes. The ideas tended toward networked, distributed solutions as opposed to costly centralised ones. There was a lot of interest in citizen engagement as both a means and an end. Technology that concretely and positively affects the lives of individual citizens – from the blind person in Warsaw to the unemployed youth in Amsterdam to the homeowner in Schaerbeek -- also played a significant role.”

Bloomberg Philanthropies staff and an independent selection committee of 12 members from across Europe closely considered each application during multiple rounds of review. This culminated in feedback and selection earlier this month, with 21 cities’ ideas moving forward for further development. The submissions will be judged on four criteria: vision, potential for impact, implementation plan and potential to spread to other cities. The finalists and their ideas are:

  1. AMSTERDAM, The Netherlands – Youth Unemployment: Tackling widespread youth unemployment by equipping young people with 21st-century skills and connecting them with jobs and apprenticeships across Europe through an online game.
  2. ATHENS, Greece – Civic Engagement: Empowering citizens with a new online platform to address the large number of small-scale urban challenges accelerated by the Greek economic crisis.
  3. BARCELONA, Spain – Aging: Improving quality of life and limiting social isolation by establishing a network of public and private support – including family, friends, social workers, and volunteers – for each elderly citizen.
  4. BOLOGNA, Italy – Youth Unemployment: Building an urban scale model of informal education labs and civic engagement to prevent youth unemployment by teaching children aged 6-16 entrepreneurship and 21st-century skills.
  5. BRISTOL, The United Kingdom – Health/Anti-obesity: Tackling obesity and unemployment by creating a new economic system that increases access to locally grown, healthy foods.
  6. BRNO, Czech Republic – Public Safety/Civic Engagement: Engaging citizens in keeping their own communities safe to build social cohesion and reduce crime.
  7. CARDIFF, The United Kingdom – Economic Development: Increasing productivity little by little in residents’ personal and professional lives, so that a series of small improvements add up to a much more productive city.
  8. FLORENCE, Italy – Economic Development: Combatting unemployment with a new economic development model that combines technology and social innovation, targeting the city's historic artisan and maker community.
  9. GDANSK, Poland – Civic Engagement: Re-instilling faith in local democracy by mandating that city government formally debate local issues put forward by citizens.
  10. KIRKLEES, The United Kingdom – Social Capital: Pooling the city and community’s idle assets – from vehicles to unused spaces to citizens’ untapped time and expertise – to help the city make the most of what it has and do more with less.
  11. KRAKOW, Poland – Transportation: Implementing smart, personalised transportation incentives and a seamless and unified public transit payment system to convince residents to opt for greener modes of transportation.
  12. LISBON, Portugal – Energy: Transforming wasted kinetic energy generated by the city's commuting traffic into electricity, reducing the carbon footprint and increasing environmental sustainability.
  13. LONDON, The United Kingdom – Public Health: Empowering citizens to monitor and improve their own health through a coordinated, multi-stakeholder platform and new technologies that dramatically improve quality of life and reduce health care costs.
  14. MADRID, Spain – Energy: Diversifying its renewable energy options by finding and funding the best ways to harvest underground power, such as wasted heat generated by the city’s below-ground infrastructure.
  15. SCHAERBEEK, Belgium – Energy: Using proven flyover and 3D geothermal mapping technology to provide each homeowner and tenant with a personalised energy audit and incentives to invest in energy-saving strategies.
  16. SOFIA, Bulgaria – Civic Engagement: Transforming public spaces by deploying mobile art units to work side-by-side with local residents, re-envisioning and rejuvenating underused spaces and increasing civic engagement.
  17. STARA ZAGORA, Bulgaria – Economic Development: Reversing the brain-drain of the city’s best and brightest by helping young entrepreneurs turn promising ideas into local high-tech businesses.
  18. STOCKHOLM, Sweden – Environment: Combatting climate change by engaging citizens to produce biochar, an organic material that increases tree growth, sequesters carbon, and purifies storm runoff.
  19. THE HAGUE, The Netherlands – Civic Engagement: Enabling citizens to allocate a portion of their own tax money to support the local projects they most believe in.
  20. WARSAW, Poland – Transportation/Accessibility: Enabling the blind and visually impaired to navigate the city as easily as their sighted peers by providing high-tech auditory alerts which will save them travel time and increase their independence.
  21. YORK, The United Kingdom – Government Systems: Revolutionising the way citizens, businesses, and others can propose new ideas to solve top city problems, providing a more intelligent way to acquire or develop the best solutions, thus enabling greater civic participation and saving the city both time and money.

Further details and related elements for this year’s Mayors Challenge can be found on the Bloomberg website, as can more information about the competition.

About Bloomberg Philanthropies

Bloomberg Philanthropies’ mission is to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people. The organisation focuses on five key areas for creating lasting change: Public Health, Environment, Education, Government Innovation, which includes the Mayors Challenge, and the Arts. Bloomberg Philanthropies encompasses all of Michael R. Bloomberg’s charitable activities, including his foundation and personal giving. In 2013, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $452 million. For more information, please visit the Bloomberg website.