Philadelphia a finalist for Bloomberg’s $9M ‘Mayors Challenge’

Bloomberg Philanthropies put out a call for innovative solutions to major urban challenges — and Philadelphia’s idea has been selected as a finalist.

The city’s idea is to cultivate entrepreneurial solutions to longstanding civic problems.

Here’s an example: Philadelphia spends $690 million a year fighting poverty. It spends $20 million a year maintaining vacant properties.

Philadelphia wants entrepreneurs to see those problems as business opportunities.

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“The challenge is framing [problems] in a way that creates a sense of opportunity for people,” said Luke Butler, the chief of staff to Philadelphia’s deputy mayor for economic development. “So our idea is to engage entrepreneurs in tackling urban challenges.”

[Read the city’s application.]

Philadelphia is now one of 20 finalists. One winner with take home $5 million, while four others will get $1 million each.

[See the full list of finalists.]

The Bloomberg money would go toward bringing in entrepreneurs, incubating social ventures in partnership with GoodCompany Group and then funding successful business models. The initiative would be called the Philadelphia Social Enterprise Partnership.

Butler says the city would like to fund the program even if it doesn’t win the competition.

A team from the mayor’s office will report to New York City next week for a two-day “ideas camp,” after which each finalist has to reapply.

The five winners will be announced early next year.

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