Bloomberg Philanthropies hosts competition for cities to create solutions to tough problems

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Phoenix is among 35 cities to participate in the Bloomberg Philanthropies Mayors Challenge, which pushes cities to identify a problem in their community and come up with an innovative way to solve it. The winner will receive $5 million for the project, and the four runners-up will receive $1 million each.

Bloomberg Philanthropies presented this challenge to mayors in cities across the country asking them to identify one of the city’s biggest issues and an innovative solution to face it. Phoenix’s team with a Bloomberg representative decided to take on the issue of urban heat. They were one of the 35 cities chosen to compete among the over 300 cities who submitted an application.

“The idea is to put together a blueprint to help guide us and make sure that every area of the city in every possible scenario has been addressed,” says Michael Hammett, chief service officer for the City of Phoenix. “It’s a big project but we feel we found a right sized problem and the solution to actually address that problem.”

One of the first steps in the plan is to find the current problems involving heat within various city departments. They will also look at how to help those who are the most vulnerable to extreme heat including the elderly, homeless and low-income individuals. The City of Phoenix has already put out and tested at least one prototype.

“We’ve looked at behavior changes and personal shade in the form of UV-protected umbrellas we’ve been handing out,” Hammett says. “We’ve been testing those and seeing what are people’s thoughts about this. Would people change their behavior? There are things in terms of tree shade across the city that involves an aggressive plan to have 25 percent coverage by 2030… What are we going to do right now as those temperatures rise?”

ASU has been a major partner for the Bloomberg Philanthropies Mayors Challenge by helping identify neighborhoods that would be most effected by extreme heat. The county has also been useful in supplying the same kind of help.

“They’ve been helping us target our testing and letting us work smarter, not harder, with this prototyping phase because time is of the essence,” says Ashley Zafaranlou, project manager of the challenge. “We have three months to really engage the community and let them lead the idea for this heat-ready city blueprint. It’s been a great process so far. We’ve done a lot in the Edison East Lake community and that is a very diverse community.”

The city will submit another application to Bloomberg in October that will include a more detailed blueprint. Bloomberg will choose the five winners after reviewing everyone’s progress. Luckily, Hammett says the city leadership are already saying they are willing to move forward with this even if we don’t win the challenge.

For more information on the Bloomberg Philanthropies Mayors Challenge visit

Michael Hammett: Chief Service Officer, City of Phoenix
Ashley Zafaranlou: Project Manager, Bloomberg Philanthropies Mayors Challenge

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