Global Mayors Challenge | Inquirer Opinion
Business Matters

Global Mayors Challenge

A few months ago, Liveable Cities Challenge—a project I am deeply involved in—decided to promote and encourage Philippine cities to apply for the Bloomberg Philanthropies 2021 Global Mayors Challenge. The competition was open to any city or municipality in the world with a population of over 100,000 residents. Bloomberg Philanthropies challenged city leaders to pitch their boldest and most transformative ideas developed in response to COVID-19. Proposals could cover any combination of four themes: Health and Wellbeing, Climate and Environment, Economic Recovery and Inclusive Growth, and Good Governance and Equality.

With partners League of Cities of the Philippines and Globe, we promoted the Global Mayors Challenge through a series of virtual workshops featuring Bloomberg experts Michael Odermatt and Eamon Nolan, and a Mentors’ Workshop with local multidisciplinary experts. We assembled our own pool of mentors who volunteered to guide and help cities develop the best possible applications for the competition.


The Global Mayors Challenge had a clear and simple process to follow. The first step was to submit a written proposal following a clearly laid-out outline in March. After that, a blue-chip panel of judges selects the top 50 proposals in June. These 50 Champion Cities will be given another four months and are supplied with coaches to polish their proposals. By October, the judges select the 15 Grand Prize winners. Each winner receives $1 million and free consultancy services to implement their project and share it with other cities.

Our goals at Liveable Cities Challenge were also simple: get at least 25 Philippine cities to apply, have at least one city make it to the top 50, and help that city make it to the top 15 grand prize winners to win the $1 million to implement the idea.


Out of 631 proposals received by Bloomberg, 52 came from the Philippines, and we have two cities who have made it to the Top 50: Manila and Butuan. They were the only two cities in Southeast Asia and were among the eight cities selected from Asia-Pacific. That’s an honor in itself, but we’d like to help them reach the next stage and become a Grand Prize winner. We’ve hit two of our three targets, but would like to assist one or both cities to make it to the Top 15 Grand Prize.

Interestingly enough, both cities submitted proposals to make their cities more data-driven. Butuan’s proposal fell into the “Health and Wellbeing” category. The basic issue in Butuan is hunger and food insecurity. It has low local food production and has to “import” food from areas outside of Butuan. Local farmer incomes are low and retail prices of vegetables and food are high. Butuan would like to use data to enable it to deploy predictive analytics to make better decisions with respect to types and volumes of crops to plant. The area’s vegetable production only serves 19 percent of its current needs. By 2023, Butuan’s goal is to produce 150 percent of its needs so it can “export” its surplus to other provinces. It also wants to raise farmers’ incomes by 50 percent even as it cuts retail vegetable prices by half. Imagine the impact this could have on farmers’ incomes, food supply, and health.

In Manila’s case, its entry falls under the “Economic Recovery and Inclusive Growth” category. Manila’s issue is that it lacks reliable data with which to understand the extent of issues affecting its residents. Data on such key items as population, education, and income are manually prepared and lack accuracy. The city would like to create GoManila, a suite of policies, processes, and digital platforms to build a modern data infrastructure for this 450-year-old city. This will require upskilling city hall staff and digitizing data collection. Imagine the impact this would have on the city and its residents.

We congratulate Butuan and Manila on their entries and on making it to the Bloomberg Global Mayors Challenge top 50 list. Liveable Cities Challenge will continue to extend any support needed for these cities to make it to the Grand Prize winners circle.


Guillermo M. Luz is convenor of the Liveable Cities Challenge.


Business Matters is a project of the Makati Business Club ([email protected]).

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TAGS: 2021 Global Mayors Challenge, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Butuan, Liveable Cities Challenge, MANILA
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