Hub innovation: Boston competes for $5 MIL

The South Boston waterfront.
NICOLAUS CZARNECKI/METRO

Mayor Thomas M. Menino today announced Boston has been selected as a finalist for the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge, a competition created to inspire American cities to generate innovative ideas that solve major challenges and improve city life – and that ultimately can be shared with other cities across the nation.
 
“I’ve always said that, in government, the status quo is standing still,” Menino said. “The Mayors Challenge has helped spark a flurry of new ideas about how government can help people. I’m looking forward to seeing this program come to life, as one more way we’re innovating to improve city services for Boston students and their families.”
 
Boston was selected based on its innovative idea to spur the next generation of digital tools for education.  Currently, most education technology products are not personalized for the specific interests and needs of youth and their parents.  This customization would be possible if parents could easily share data in a controlled and safe manner, with specific educators and technologists for specific purposes. 

Through a cloud-based platform called Cumulus, Boston proposes a way to put this control in the hands of parents and caregivers. The City believes this platform could help foster new apps, new devices, and new strategies that enhance the education of Boston’s children. For example, data provided on attendance or school performance could help a parent find the right after school program that fits the needs of their own child.
 
“Our team has worked closely with the innovative team in the Mayor’s Office to develop an idea to benefit the families we serve,” said Boston Public Schools Superintendent Carol R. Johnson. “As the technology within our reach evolves we have an obligation to ensure we are using it with a priority focused on student achievement; this idea can do that and more.”
 
Boston will now compete against 19 other cities across the country for the $5 million grand prize, as well as one of four additional prizes of $1 million each. In November, a team from the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics will attend Bloomberg Ideas Camp, a two-day gathering in New York City where city teams will work collaboratively with each other and experts to further refine their ideas. Coming out of Camp, Boston’s team will have access to additional technical support to prepare their ideas for final submission. Winners will be announced in spring 2013, with a total of $9 million going to five cities to jumpstart implementation of their ideas.
 
“Congratulations to Mayor Menino and the City of Boston for becoming a Mayors Challenge finalist. The response to the Mayors Challenge was extraordinary: bold and innovative ideas were submitted from every corner of the country.  We look forward to welcoming the Boston team to Ideas Camp,” said James Anderson, who directs the Government Innovation program at Bloomberg Philanthropies.
 
The 20 finalist ideas were rated on four key criteria:

  • Vision and creativity
  • Ability to implement
  • Potential for impact
  • Potential for replication.

A specially-assembled selection committee, co-chaired by Shona Brown, Senior Vice President and head of Google.org, and Ron Daniel, Bloomberg Philanthropies board member and Former Managing Partner at McKinsey & Company where he is still active, helped select the finalist cities.


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