Bloomberg Philanthropies announced the establishment of a national hub for civic innovation in Israel on Wednesday, and the launch of a major new effort to solve challenges faced by municipalities across the country.
In partnership with the Interior Ministry and the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation, the "Hazira" hub will scale Bloomberg Philanthropies' innovation teams - known as "i-teams" - program to 12 new cities across Israel during the next five years. The program is already in operation in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Beersheba, and almost 20 cities worldwide.
The partners will seek to increase the number of cities using Bloomberg Philantropies' approach to urban innovation to support the growth of Israeli towns, including minority and peripheral communities. The method aims to provide mayors and city leaders with a reliable way to test, adapt and implement effective solutions that improve the lives of residents.
"Cities have to find creative ways to address complex challenges with limited resources," said Michael Bloomberg, three-term mayor of NYC and founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies, in a statement marking the expansion of the program.
"Innovation teams help them do that, and our program has had a lot of success working with cities in Israel. We’re glad to be working with the Ministry of the Interior and the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation to expand the model nationally to equip more cities to innovate – and we’re looking forward to seeing the results.”
Supported by the New York City-headquartered organization, teams have been working in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv since 2015, and in the southern city of Beersheva since 2017.
In Jerusalem, the i-team has secured $620,000 in municipal funding to finance alumni programs and civic organizations for young professionals, and has assisted 600 entrepreneurs to receive consulting services to strengthen their small businesses. The program is also monitoring and supporting homeless youth and at-risk ultra-Orthodox teenagers through a service delivery model, connecting them to vital services and tracking the outcomes.
The Tel Aviv i-team has worked with the local community to implement cost saving initiatives and tackle the high cost of living for young families. Measures have included establishing shared study spaces, peer-to-peer tutoring youth-led summer camps and affordable school lunch programs, which can save families as much as $1,400 per child annually.
The team has also worked to improve quality of life for residents in Tel Aviv's poor Neve Sha'anan neighborhood by turning its derelict bus station into a hub for entrepreneurial organizations, and launching a youth center in the area.
"At the Peres Center we are always looking for innovative ways to improve Israeli life and society so we were thrilled to be involved in such an exciting initiative," Yarden Leal-Yablonka, deputy director-general at the Peres Center, told The Jerusalem Post. "By combining public and private sector leadership and strategies, we are looking forward to Hazira achieving real results for all of the communities living in Israel."
Following its launch at a ceremony at the Peres Center, the Interior Ministry will soon publish a call for applications for cities to join Hazira. Selected cities will hire a chief innovation officer to work alongside a dedicated team of city employees, backed by technical assistance support. Hazira, which will be hosted by the Peres Center, will map each city's innovation strategy, providing specific examples of evidence and consistency of approach.
"The Ministry of the Interior is thrilled to collaborate with Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Peres Center, creating a new platform for the Israeli municipalities to develop innovative solutions for the challenges they are facing and innovative ways of operating and giving the best possible service to the citizens," said Interior Ministry director-general Mordechai Cohen.
"The ministry has put large efforts in the past few years in developing the fields of municipal innovation and the development of advanced, digital services to citizens of our cities and towns."