From the Initiative



bilbao was built on innovation - can it repeat the miracle? - Aug. 7, 2019

By linda bilmes, jorrit de jong, and fernando monge

Last November Bilbao was named Best European City by The Academy of Urbanism, adding to a long list of prizes the city has collected over the past decade. It was yet another reminder of the city’s emergence over the last three decades from a deep economic, political and social crisis, leaving behind its industrial past to become a thriving cultural and economic engine for the Basque Country and Spain. 

The city’s resurgence is often linked to the “Guggenheim effect” named after the architect Frank Ghery’s iconic landmark. 

However, the Guggenheim museum was just one element. Two lesser-known but important “architectures” played a key role in the city’s revival. The first was a financing architecture, represented by the particular fiscal regime and innovative funding mechanisms. The second was an architecture of collaboration established by and between government entities. 


‘teaming’ in and out of city hall - July 17, 2019

By amy C. edmondson

All mayors have their trusted advisers, department leaders, and senior staff — the core team who keeps City Hall running, day in and day out.

If every mayor has a team, however, not all are adept at “teaming.” That’s a dynamic activity, where you’re pulling together people from different backgrounds to diagnose a problem, learn quickly, and work together to find solutions. Teaming is a critical public leadership tool, whether you need to solve urgent problems quickly or to seek breakthrough innovations to address complex urban challenges over time. And it’s a skill mayors and their senior leadership want to get better at.


Third class of mayors go back to school - July 15, 2019

New York, NY: The Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative today announced the third class of forty-one mayors from around the world who will participate in the yearlong education and professional development program designed exclusively for mayors and city leaders. The forty-one mayors joined Harvard faculty and renowned management experts in New York City this week for a 3-day, immersive classroom experience to kick-off the program.


The art of governing through questions - March 25, 2019

By Jorrit de Jong, Stephen Goldsmith, and Fernando Monge

Over the years, public leaders have shared with us their urge to develop their inquiry skills. While they seldom get rewarded for acknowledging uncertainty, they know that the tacit knowledge that lies within and outside organizations is invaluable and that questions are the ultimate tool to unlock the potential for innovation. Leaders can also use questions to hold their teams and others to account, to find shared purpose, to mobilize or to motivate. But while they acknowledge the importance of questions, they also know that not all queries are equally effective. There is an art to asking questions, and the leaders dealing with very hard problems in government are eager to master it.


2018 Summer Fellows Blog - Jan. 28, 2019

In Summer 2018, the Initiative sent Harvard graduate students to work in cities around the United States. Made possible by a gift from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the 17 fellows spent 10 weeks working on issues of importance to the mayors of their respective cities — everything from heat mitigation, to kindergarten readiness, to performance management, to equitable growth. The fellows came from the Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard Business School, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Harvard Graduate School of Design, and Harvard Graduate School of Education. They were each matched, based on interest and skill set, with a city where they could work with the mayor and other senior government leaders to make the most impact for citizens. The students chronicled their fellowship experiences, describing the work in their own words and illustrating the meaning they found in their summer.


Bringing case discussion to cities - Jan. 14, 2019

Cases are stories that are designed to raise questions and generate discussion. Bloomberg Harvard cases are accompanied by instructional materials that enable a wide range of people working in—and with—cities to quickly spur insightful discussions and engage in illuminating conversations with their colleagues.

The Initiative’s newest case, “Change at the Speed of Trust,” explores cross-sector collaboration and governance in a city-wide context from the point of view of Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer. It supports learning about the design and management of cross-sector collaborations, including common challenges and success factors. The case is freely available to download and use, and is accompanied by a “conversation note” so anyone can use the material to guide a productive discussion around ideas and themes raised in the case.


Tackling city challenges through partnerships

Harvard Business School professor Jan Rivkin’s sessions, at the New York mayors convening in July 2018, looked at how city governments can tackle local challenges by working effectively with representatives from non-profit organizations, school systems, the private sector, and the community. He laid out how a cross-sector collaboration can be effective through a case that provided real-world examples of ineffectiveness.

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Collaborating to problem-solve in cities

In July 2018, mayors explored through case study a type of challenge that HBS professor Amy Edmondson calls a “wicked problem,” or something complex and seemingly insurmountable – the type of challenge that mayors face all the time. It may truly be impossible to solve these problems alone, but working with the right group of people, and “teaming” effectively, makes it possible.


Harnessing the power of narrative in city leadership

In July 2018, 40 mayors began their year of Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative programming with a three-day convening in New York City. The first day of the convening was devoted to Ganz’s public narrative, which gave mayors a chance to reflect on how they frame city challenges, issues, and goals when addressing others. The public narrative framework includes three pieces, Ganz explained to the mayors: what he calls the ‘story of self,’ the ‘story of us,’ and the ‘story of now.

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How mayors lead: Emerging insights from the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative

By Jorrit de Jong and David Margalit

"You can only really achieve your goals if you unlock the contribution of both the community and city organization" -- this and other insights from the first class of 40 mayors, who were asked about their biggest takeaways from the program thus far.


Second class of mayors go back to school - July 25, 2018

The Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative today announced the second class of forty mayors from around the world who will participate in the yearlong education and professional development program designed exclusively for mayors. The forty mayors joined Harvard faculty and renowned management experts in New York City this week for a 3-day, immersive classroom experience and convening to kick-off the program.