Program Description


The Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative offers a robust leadership development experience for mayors and senior members of their teams to foster their professional growth and to advance key practices and capabilities in city halls throughout the world.

A Yearlong, High-Impact Experience

Each year, the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative offers leadership and management training to up to 40 mayors from around the world, and to two senior officials from each mayor’s city who are most crucial to affecting organizational change. Over the course of a year, the program combines an intensive classroom experience with broader training and capacity-building to help each participating mayor and senior leader foster their professional growth and advance key capabilities within their city hall.

Participating mayors have leveraged the program to advance critical priorities in their cities. Examples include: using data and constituent communications to gain support for a critical infrastructure project, restructuring management systems to reduce critical medical supply shortages, developing a multi-sector collaboration to expand early education services, using rapid prototyping to establish new interventions that reduce energy and fuel consumption, and addressing budgetary shortfalls by streamlining costs across agencies. Mayors report that the program has helped them to:

  • Build and support high-performing teams

  • Increase leadership and management capacity in their city

  • Communicate with constituents and key partners

  • Use data to increase transparency, make better decisions, and manage performance

  • Effectively innovate by prototyping, implementing quickly, and learning from failure

  • Work across silos and break down barriers to collaboration within city hall and across the city

The core classes

In-person and virtual sessions, taught by Harvard Business School and Harvard Kennedy School faculty, help mayors and their senior leaders step back from day-to-day responsibilities and focus on their personal leadership and organizational practices within their city. Key concepts include leading with and beyond formal authority, building high-performing teams and organizations, motivating change and mobilizing others, negotiation, innovation and experimentation, collaborating across departments and sectors, citizen engagement, and using data and evidence to improve decision-making.

For an example of what classes at the in-person convening entail, please see the 2018 mayors' curriculum here and senior leaders’ curriculum here.

city capability-building

In addition to core classes, each city will have the opportunity to access deeper programming, support, and resources that help them improve a key practice over the course of the year. Senior leaders, working alongside their mayors, play a leading role in this work and are able to draw in additional colleagues to broaden impact.

Key practices include:

  • Cross-Boundary Collaboration. Advancing the city’s ability to work across agencies, jurisdictions, and sectors to solve critical social challenges

  • Data and Evidence. Increasing the city’s capacity to use data and evidence to solve key problems, improve performance, and better use public resources

  • Innovation. Expanding the city’s ability to think outside of the box and more effectively tackle challenging problems by putting residents at the center of designing and testing new ideas

additional support

The initiative offers additional support to participants to aid in their progress:  

  • Leadership Assessment. Mayors and senior leaders each complete a personal leadership assessment with results debriefed confidentially by an executive coach to provide actionable, insightful feedback.

  • Communications Support. Mayors receive coaching and support to help them motivate change and mobilize support for their agenda. Mayors have used this support to improve their State of the City addresses, address stakeholder groups, and build community support for their initiatives.

  • Research and Networks. The initiative’s faculty, dedicated staff, and graduate students may assist cities in identifying practices that help inspire innovation and improvement and in making connections to experts and practitioners.

  • Fellowships. Harvard graduate students are competitively selected for fellowships in the offices of participating mayors, where students are matched according to skills sought by the mayor. Examples of projects include helping cities evaluate the impact of economic development programs, develop new affordable housing plans, and define early childhood program offerings.

Eighty mayors have participated in the initiative since its inception in 2017:



Program Participation

The success of the program requires a mutual commitment between participating mayors and the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative. Bloomberg Harvard is sensitive to the fact that there are many demands for a city leader’s time, and is therefore committed to fully maximizing the time spent by the mayor and leadership team engaging in the program. By taking part in the program, mayors commit to the following:

  • Participating fully and actively in all in-person sessions this summer in New York City and then in the required sessions every six weeks via our virtual state-of-the-art classroom

  • Nominating and ensuring the full participation of two senior leaders from their administration to participate in the similarly intensive, complementary senior leaders programming

  • Completing a personal leadership assessment with results debriefed by a professional coach

  • Following the kickoff in July, committing their city to advancing improvements in a key practice (e.g. cross-boundary collaboration, using data and evidence, innovation) for which their city will receive deeper programming, support, and development of their teams — and following up with their teams to ensure and promote progress

  • Sharing progress, challenges, and insights with the initiative throughout the year, including a 30-minute onboarding call before the program begins and three additional check-ins throughout the program

Participation in the program is fully funded—including tuition, accommodation, meals, and airfare. Please note that public officials, including any employee of a government entity, should consult applicable rules and regulations to ensure that their attendance (including the acceptance of related costs) complies with such rules and regulations.

The Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative is made possible by a gift from Bloomberg Philanthropies as part of their Government Innovation portfolio, which focuses on building problem-solving capacity within local governments and spreading innovations that work.

More Information

For any questions about the program, please contact us or email