NEW YORK and WASHINGTON, May 19, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- The Citi Foundation and Living Cities today announced that Albuquerque, Atlanta, Baltimore, New Orleans and Seattle will receive support to adopt leading practices in community engagement through the City Accelerator, a $3 million initiative to advance innovation in local government. Over the next 18 months, participating cities will apply innovative approaches to enhance the ways in which cities engage with their citizens on important local issues such as city planning, entrepreneurship and healthcare. In addition to addressing these specific issues, participating cities will seek to integrate these approaches into their daily operations, so that enhanced engagement becomes course-of-business. As part of the City Accelerator initiative, each city will receive up to $170,000 in financial and in-kind support to enable this work.
Albuquerque is home to approximately 60,000 immigrants, and the city is seeking to tailor policies and services to meet the needs of immigrant entrepreneurs. Whereas many community engagement efforts connect with people only once, Albuquerque will collaborate with the entrepreneurs on an ongoing basis to make sure that the city is helping them to launch and grow their businesses, thereby creating jobs in the community.
"This is an extraordinary opportunity for Albuquerque to bring our tremendous local leaders together with significant resources to address challenges and seek solutions right here at home," said Albuquerque Mayor Richard J. Berry. "I am extremely pleased that Albuquerque has been chosen by the Citi Foundation and Living Cities to work with this national effort to promote community engagement."
Atlanta aims to engage residents in the work of the Westside Future Fund, a public-private fund created in partnership with Mayor Kasim Reed to revitalize historic neighborhoods. Atlanta's effort will bring communities more deeply into the work of their public-private partnership, ensuring that the fund's investments are directly influenced by the five neighborhoods.
"We are pleased and honored to be selected by Living Cities and the Citi Foundation to participate in the City Accelerator program," said Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed. "This initiative gives us an incredible opportunity to build upon the philanthropic and corporate partnerships established with the Westside Future Fund, which supports improvements in the health, education and welfare of residents who live in the historic Westside communities."
Baltimore will engage with people leaving incarceration and their families to develop strategies both to reduce violent crime and to provide better re-entry services and programmatic supports that will help returning residents rebuild their lives.
"In order to make our communities safer and effectively reduce recidivism, we need to be able to partner with people who are rejoining society and support them on their path to success," said Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. "Thanks to Living Cities and the Citi Foundation, we'll be able to adopt best practices in engaging this vitally important population."
New Orleans intends to increase the number of people using healthcare services available in the city. Over 50,000 New Orleanians are eligible for free healthcare through a Medicaid waiver program, but only half of those eligible actually use these services. The city will engage residents and providers to get more people to access the services and to address any barriers standing in their way.
"As a city, we want to use innovative techniques that help ensure all residents are taking part in our community's revival," said New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. "From murder reduction to blight, we've engaged residents to improve service delivery and achieve results. Now, with City Accelerator's help, we will be able to engage our city's most vulnerable populations, because every life matters. I am grateful to the Citi Foundation and Living Cities for this opportunity, which will help us continue improving the way we do business."
Seattle will engage residents around the update of its 20-year growth plan, Seattle 2035. The city anticipates 120,000 new residents and 115,000 new jobs will come to Seattle during that span, an increase which raises questions about how public transportation, affordable housing, and other aspects of the city will change to meet growing demands.
"Seattle is one of the fastest-growing cities in America. People come here every day in search of jobs, opportunity and a better quality-of-life," said Seattle Mayor Ed Murray. "And as we plan for the next 20 years, we want to be sure Seattle works for everybody - and that's why it's important we continue to try new ways to ensure everyone is engaged in the conversation. The City Accelerator will help us bring some of the best approaches available today to this important conversation."
For these cities, a critical part of the work of the cohort will be to take what they learn through their projects and find ways to adopt these approaches across their administrations.
"Cities have an opportunity to address the complex challenges that come with urbanization by tapping into their strongest natural resource – their citizens," said Ed Skyler, Chairman of the Citi Foundation. "The City Accelerator is helping city governments to engage with their citizens so they can improve services and achieve positive measureable results on critical local issues. We look forward to continuing to work with mayors to promote innovation, improve citizen engagement, and enhance quality-of-life in their cities."
"When it comes to creating economic opportunity in American cities, the pace of progress is simply too slow and the change too small," said Ben Hecht, President and CEO of Living Cities which, for its part, has been stepping up its efforts to support innovation in community engagement. "In order to achieve dramatically better results for low-income people, local efforts must be shaped, at least in part, by the people they are intended to benefit. This isn't just about better policy – it's an important part of reinvigorating our democracy."
"Each of these cities is focusing on a pivotal problem of our time, and they are eager to find ways to bring their residents into the work of solving those problems," said Eric Gordon, Director of the Engagement Lab and Associate Professor at Emerson College, who will be leading this cohort. "I'm especially excited by their willingness to think outside the box."
The City Accelerator's first cohort, led by Nigel Jacob, Urban Technologist-in-Residence at Living Cities, is focused on embedding a culture and practice of innovation in local government. In that cohort, Louisville, Philadelphia and Nashville are working to develop processes, approaches and relationships to innovate on tough problems like fire protection, access to taxpayer benefits, and homelessness.
"We see a lot of parallels between the work of our two cohorts," said Gordon. "The cities are excited to learn from each other and we are looking forward to connecting them."
A third City Accelerator cohort will launch this fall, on a topic to be announced later this year. Living Cities will release and update an implementation guide for innovation in community engagement that will serve as a roadmap for other cities. The Governing Institute provides ongoing coverage of work and learnings from the cohort cities and related efforts around the country at www.governing.com/cityaccelerator.
The City Accelerator builds on the Project on Municipal Innovation (PMI), a collaboration between Living Cities and the Harvard Kennedy School's Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation. PMI convenes mayoral chiefs-of-staff and policy directors from 35 cities across the United States to discuss challenges facing their municipalities, including inefficiency in city government and inequality. The City Accelerator helps translate dialogue into action by helping cities to adopt many of the ideas discussed during the PMI sessions.
With a focus on municipal innovation, the City Accelerator also reinforces Citi's commitment to help cities become more efficient and empower citizens by providing access to services that enhance livability and prosperity. For more information about how Citi and the Citi Foundation are enabling progress in cities, please visit www.citiforcities.com.
About the Citi Foundation
The Citi Foundation works to promote economic progress and improve the lives of people in low-income communities around the world. We invest in efforts that increase financial inclusion, catalyze job opportunities for youth, and reimagine approaches to building economically vibrant cities. The Citi Foundation's "More than Philanthropy" approach leverages the enormous expertise of Citi and its people to fulfill our mission and drive thought leadership and innovation. For more information, visit www.citifoundation.com.
About Living Cities
Living Cities harnesses the collective power of 22 of the world's largest foundations and financial institutions to develop and scale new approaches for creating opportunities for low-income people and improving the cities where they live. Its investments, research, networks, and convenings catalyze fresh thinking and combine support for innovative, local approaches with real-time sharing of learning to accelerate adoption in more places. Additional information can be found at www.livingcities.org.
SOURCE Living Cities; Citi Foundation