Photo Credit: Ted Eytan via Flickr
The Tel Aviv skyline.

Tel Aviv-Yafo is one of 50 Champion Cities selected today as finalists in the 2021 Global Mayors Challenge, a global innovation competition that identifies and accelerates the most ambitious ideas developed by cities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These 50 urban innovations rose to the top of a competitive pool of more than 630 applications from 99 countries, in the first-ever Global Mayors Challenge.

As a Mayors Challenge finalist, Tel Aviv-Yafo now advances to the four-month Champion Phase of the competition. From June through October, the 50 finalist cities will refine their ideas with technical assistance from Bloomberg Philanthropies and its network of leading innovation experts.

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Fifteen of the 50 cities will ultimately win the grand prize, with each receiving $1 million and robust multi-year technical assistance to implement and scale their ideas. Grand Prize Winners will be announced in early 2022.

“These 50 finalists are showing the world that in the face of the pandemic’s enormous challenges, cities are rising to meet them with bold, innovative, and ambitious ideas,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies and 108th mayor of New York City.

“By helping these cities test their ideas over the coming months, we will have a chance to identify cutting-edge policies and programs that can allow cities to rebuild in ways that make them stronger and healthier, and more equal and more just.”

Tel Aviv-Yafo has long been Israel’s center of culture and contemporary arts. Yet the outbreak of COVID-19 forced the city’s largest cultural institutions to shut their doors, creating uncertainty regarding when audiences – primarily older residents – would be able to return and enjoy cultural experiences again. These difficulties emphasized the great importance of engaging young audiences, especially in a city where 18-35 year olds represent 30% of the population and are a critical part of the resilience of cultural institutions both today and in the future.

Following intensive research efforts, Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality developed a strategic plan to shift perception, create ownership, and bring young people into every aspect of shaping cultural experiences at the city’s theaters, museums, concert halls and more.

The municipality has already secured a commitment from leaders of Tel Aviv-Yafo’s 13 central institutions who are eager to work together for this common cause, and partnered with the Tel Aviv Foundation to participate in the 2021 Global Mayors Challenge.

“Without culture, we don’t have a nation, a country, nor humanity,” said Ron Huldai, Mayor of Tel Aviv-Yafo. “We took many steps during the COVID-19 pandemic and are looking ahead and working toward engaging the younger generation in the cultural world. If the younger generation does not engage in the arts, we are facing short and long term threats that will have irrevocable consequences on our city’s future.”

The 50 Champion Cities submitted ideas addressing four of the most significant challenges borne of the pandemic: Economic Recovery & Inclusive Growth; Health & Wellbeing; Climate & Environment; and Good Governance & Equality.

A selection committee co-chaired by Bloomberg Philanthropies board member Mellody Hobson, Co-CEO & President, Ariel Investments, and David Miliband, President & CEO, International Rescue Committee, assessed the applications to determine the Champion City finalists.

“This is always an especially exciting phase of the Mayors Challenge, helping mayors push their innovations to even greater heights,” said James Anderson, head of Government Innovation at Bloomberg Philanthropies. “While 15 cities will ultimately take home grand prizes, all 50 cities receive world class coaching and support to improve their ideas and their potential to improve lives.”

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.