City of Syracuse will compete for $1 million prize offered by Bloomberg Philanthropies

Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh announced that the City of Syracuse is accepting ideas from the community to put together a winning application for the Bloomberg Philanthropies 2021 Global Mayors Challenge. The City’s submission is being managed by the Office of Accountability, Performance & Innovation (API) Innovation Team (i-team) which is seeking creative solutions to impediments to growth, access, and opportunity made evident by the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Bloomberg Philanthropies, which provides funding to the City for its i-team, is offering a $1 million award to help the winning city implement its submission. Finalist cities will gain access to leading, world-renowned innovation and data experts to further enhance, perfect and carry out their idea. 

“No one knows Syracuse better than the people who live here, so it makes sense to engage our residents in the Mayor’s Challenge,” said Mayor Walsh. “The i-team is great at combining community input and data to create effective programs that make our City better. Since I’ve been mayor, the i-team has come up with effective solutions to challenges in sidewalk snow clearance, housing instability and getting permits for projects. I’m excited to see what comes of this next partnership with our community.”

Bloomberg says it is seeking ideas in response to the unique challenges of the pandemic that improve the delivery of services to the City’s diverse population, meet the needs of its residents, or impact neighborhoods in a transformational way can be in any stage of development. The challenge focuses on four key themes:

-health and well-being (medical, behavioral, and social determinants of health for residents);

  • -climate and environment (tackling the root causes and effects of climate change in order to build more livable and resilient cities);

-economic recovery and inclusive growth (creating systems and solutions that allow all city residents to overcome economic distress and thrive); and

  • -good governance and equality (using city powers to tackle oppression, promote fairness, and improve participation).

Applications can be submitted via a special online form until Friday, Feb. 5. A committee made up of internal city department representatives will review each idea and select a list for Mayor Walsh to choose from. The i-team will contact the individual or team that submits the winning idea to participate in developing the application to the Mayor’s Challenge. Finalists will be announced by Bloomberg Philanthropies in June 2021.

“In 2013, the City vied for a spot to win the grand prize for the year’s Mayors Global Challenge to establish a global food market. While the concept was not selected to move forward, it has now come to fruition in the form of the Salt City Market,” said Nico Diaz Amigo, Chief Data and Innovation Officer for the City. “The vision and leadership of the Allyn Foundation and many community partners brought that idea to life. We encourage the community to share its ideas again.  Amazing things can happen.”


  1. To help connect and improve trust and the relationships between our diverse communities, we could design an app that connects the community in doing things together. Acitvities might include pick-up games of soccer or basketball, orienteering, dance, drumming circles, running, book clubs, learn to swim, bike riding, chess clubs but the idea is to encourage and make it easier to gather with others outside of your own social circle.

    It would be similar to a Meet-up group, but with the intention of bringing diverse community members together. For example, an individual could specify that they are looking to play chess. All the options at libraries, community centers and park chess tables would be listed in a drop-down box with information connecting to the host organizations. Both ongoing and one time activities would be included. If I was interested in bike riding the Creekwalk or playing soccer on Saturday mornings, I could add an event (that was filtered before going live for safety reasons).

    This would help busy parents to provide more informal social activities for their children. It would help older folks who live alone to get out and meet new people. Newcomers to the City would be able to meet new friends and find activities they like to do or would like to try more easily. Everyone in the City would be healthier and most likely, happier. Many of these activities are already taking place, but it is difficult to find them as each non-profit agency, community center, meet-up group or Parks program publishes their own schedule.

    This would help eliminate the division between community members by bringing them together and providing a fun activity for them to share as they get to know one another as humans. We would be bridging economic, racial, religious, gender, age and professional lines that separate and isolate our community members. By engaging in fun activities with folks outside our social circle, our City residents would become more accepting of cultural differences and create a deeper connection to those that look or think differently that we do.

  2. There is a lack of Career Guidance for students that either don’t want to go to college for four years and/or are unable to go to college. Many careers don’t need a college degree, but the curent BOCES offerings don’t match well what local employers need. The Federal Reserve of Philadelphia has an on-line app: Occupational Mobility Explorer that helps ower-wage workers with transferable skills to higher paid job opportunities. (Some reskilling or upskiling may be required.)
    If we could match this to our local workforce needs and provide the guidance on how to prepare for the occupation, this could be used by students and the unemployed work force. We could partner with SUNY EOC or CNY Works to offer the educational resoures and career guidance. We would work with local employers to determine what positions they currently have and expect may open up in the next 10 years.

    Possible jobs might include: Police Officer, Masseuse, Fire Fighter, Civil Service, Entrepreneur, Mason, Carpenter, Line & Prep Cook, Sales & Marketing, Electrician, Realator, Property Manager, CyberSecurity, Drone Operator, Product Repair, Landscaper ….

    1. Thank you for your comment. Please be sure to officially submit it as an entry for consideration. Thank you.

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