EUROPE

Michael Bloomberg initiative aims to improve life for city dwellers in Europe

Grass-roots initiative aims to solve European cities' social and economic problems

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 April, 2014, 9:27pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 April, 2014, 9:27pm
AP

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Amsterdam wants to create an online game to get unemployed young people engaged in finding jobs across Europe. Schaerbeek in Belgium envisages using geothermal mapping to give households personalised rundowns of steps to save energy. Gdansk, Poland, is proposing to require officials to debate ideas from citizens.

The cities are among 21 finalists vying for millions of euros in a new government-innovation contest devised by former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, his foundation announced yesterday. The finalists come from 11 European countries and include sprawling capitals and modest-sized cities, their climates and cultures as different as those of Stockholm and Barcelona.

Asked for projects that could solve major social or economic problems or make government more effective, the cities "stepped up with bold and creative ideas", Bloomberg said in a statement.

After the finalists hone their proposals, winners of a €5 million (HK$53.5 million) grand prize and four €1 million awards will be announced in the autumn.

Modelled on a competition that Bloomberg Philanthropies held for US cities last year, the European contest was open to cities of 100,000 or more residents and drew 155 entries.

Several European finalists looked to technology's potential to improve residents' lives: auditory alerts to help blind people get around Warsaw, Poland; new systems for Londoners to monitor their health; and methods for making energy out of the heat thrown off by Madrid's underground infrastructure, for example.

Other proposals are more interpersonal. Barcelona aims to make ageing less lonely through social networking the old-fashioned way: identifying a team of relatives, friends, social workers and volunteers for each elderly person. Sofia, Bulgaria, suggests sending "mobile art units" where local residents can lend a hand in rejuvenating underused public spaces.

Kirklees, in England, imagines getting citizens to pool resources ranging from cars to unused space.

A billionaire businessman-turned-politician, Bloomberg often casts cities as breeding grounds for new approaches to governing. His 12 years in office ended on December 31.

"We need city leaders to continually reach for innovative new ways to address urban challenges - and then share what's working with the world," Bloomberg said yesterday.