Why Bloomberg Philanthropies’ James Anderson Tops Fast Company’s List Of The Most Creative People In Business 2017
City officials had ramped up trash collection and were maintaining the overloaded sewage system, but these kinds of measures only treated the symptoms. A couple of months later, Anderson invited Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai to join the new “i-team” program he had launched in 2012: Bloomberg Philanthropies would fund and coach a cross-disciplinary innovation squad (project manager, analysts, designer, etc.) for three years to help local officials address systemic issues.
Today, that once-depressing bus terminal has a kindergarten on one floor, a city-backed business accelerator on the next, and an international food market in the parking lot. Various Neve Sha’anan community groups share a Facebook page, where officials and service groups post information in multiple languages about how to register for school or what emerging sports, chess, and music programs are available to, say, Eritrean or Sudanese transplants. The i-team keeps detailed records of all of these efforts, so that other cities can learn from them.
As global leadership has fractured–and people migrate more and more to urban centers–mayors have arguably become the most high-impact players in government. Their frontline efforts in civic engagement, social service, environmental action, and economic development have never been more central to our future. What Anderson and his crew at Bloomberg Philanthropies are doing is creating an ecosystem to help mayors become “much more agile, creative, and in partnership mode [with other mayors],” Anderson explains.
Today, most local governments are aware of only 3% of the various interventions being applied around the world, according to Citymart, a public-solutions procurement firm. (Eco-friendly, traffic-decongesting bike-sharing programs, for instance, have virtually no downsides, yet have been adopted in fewer than 30% of the world’s largest cities.) Anderson’s goal is to “Bloombergize” urban development, as he puts it, empowering municipalities to create models that others might later adopt. “Cities should not have to reinvent the wheel time and time again,” he says. “I am obsessed with the notion that [cities and mayors] can serve as distribution networks for ideas that work.”
Since joining Bloomberg Philanthropies in 2010, Anderson has devised and led ambitious programs that have channeled more than $215 million to urban projects reaching 290 cities across 25 countries. They include the Mayors Challenge, which awards cash prizes to metro areas with the most forward-looking and potentially replicable plans to improve city life, and What Works Cities, which provides smaller cities with data-driven ways to improve services and planning. These efforts pay ongoing dividends around the world. In December, Stockholm began implementing its 2014 Mayors Challenge-winning project, which uses plant waste to reduce carbon emissions and produce alternative energy. Mysore, India, and Parma, Italy, are planning to incorporate the Stockholm model this year. Meanwhile, Aspen, Colorado, has implemented Santa Monica, California’s Wellbeing Index, a tool for measuring citizens’ quality of life that won in 2013.
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