Freetown, Sierra Leone wins Bloomberg Philanthropies Global Mayors Challenge

Yearlong Competition Launched in 2021 Elevates the Most Promising Urban Innovations to Emerge from the Pandemic. Freetown is one of 15 cities awarded $1 million dollars over 3 years to Roll out a Self-financing Impact Investment System that Sustains Tree Planting and Growing

(Freetown, Sierra Leone) January 18, 2022 — Bloomberg Philanthropies today announced the 15 winning cities of the 2021-2022 Global Mayors Challenge, a worldwide innovation competition that supports and spreads cities’ most promising ideas. These 15 winners are being recognized for designing the boldest and most ambitious urban innovations to emerge from the global COVID-19 pandemic. The winning ideas address one or more of four current issue areas in cities including economic recovery and inclusive growth; health and wellbeing; climate and environment; and gender and equality.

Freetown, Sierra Leone’s #FreetownTheTree Town is awarded one million dollars in addition to technical support and coaching over three years. The goal of #FreetownTheTreeTown Project is to implement a community-based tree growing model pioneering s elf-financing impact investment system to counter the devastating impacts of deforestation.

The challenge of improving environmental management in the city was key to my decision to run for Mayor. Having Freetown take part in, and ultimately win, the Bloomberg Mayors’ Challenge with the participation and support of Freetonians and an amazing project team confirms that we can overcome challenges and that we will go #FurtherTogether! I am thrilled to see our idea to sustainably finance #FreetownTheTreeTown evolve with input from our residents, technical experts and project partners. Our target to increase vegetation cover by 50% means that we are not only planting trees but growing them – this intervention will enable us to do just that as the private sector and residents sustain the planting through our tree investment platform,” Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr.

 #FreetownTheTreeTown will have long lasting impact on the well-being of the residents of Freetown. Trees grown through the project will be critical for slope stabilization, which is necessary to avoid landslides and mudslides that Freetown has been experiencing in recent times. In addition, the project will create green jobs through the employment of tree growers, that will receive incentives based on growth of trees. It will also provide sources of income for the local nurseries through which we are procuring seedlings.

“As the world works to address the profound public health and economic effects of the ongoing pandemic, cities can implement innovative ideas at a pace that national governments simply can’t match,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and Bloomberg L.P. and 108th Mayor of New York City. “Our fifteen winners offer bold, achievable plans to improve health, reduce unemployment, empower women, and more. Collectively, they have the potential to improve millions of their residents’ lives – and the most successful solutions will inspire cities around the world to embrace them.”

Global Mayors Challenge

The 15 winning cities named today hail from 13 nations on six continents and collectively represent more than 30 million residents. They were selected from among 50 Champion Cities that spent the past four months rigorously testing and refining their projects. When the competition launched in January 2021, mayors from 631 cities in 99 countries submitted their boldest ideas to the competition.

The Mayors Challenge selection committee helped Bloomberg Philanthropies select the 15 winners.  The committee is co-chaired by Bloomberg Philanthropies board member Mellody Hobson, Co-CEO & President, Ariel Investments, and David Miliband, President & CEO, International Rescue Committee, and includes a wide range of global experts: Sir David Adjaye, OBE Founder, Adjaye Associates; Dr. Yogan Pillay, Country Director for South Africa and Senior Global Director for Universal Health Coverage, Clinton Health Access Initiative; Jagan Shah, Senior Infrastructure Adviser, Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, British High Commission, New Delhi; Linda Gibbs, Principal, Bloomberg Associates; Julia Gillard, 27th Prime Minister of Australia; Olafur Eliasson, Artist; Gael Garcia Bernal, actor and producer; Dr. Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, Professor of Economics and Director, Wellbeing Research Centre, University of Oxford; Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women; Federica Mogherini, Rector, College of Europe and Former High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy; Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, Director, Bloomberg American Health Initiative, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; Jennifer Pahlka, Founder and Former Executive Director, Code for America; and Mariana Costa Checa, Co-Founder And CEO, Laboratoria.

Moving Forward

The 15 winning cities will now enter a three-year implementation period with a $1 million grant and robust technical assistance. During this time, the cities will work diligently to evolve and scale their idea into a real-life program to improve residents’ lives. Cities will also work to share their ideas with additional cities around the world to enable these tested innovations to spread. 

“The Mayors Challenge shows that there can be a positive legacy to emerge from all the hardship of the past two years – and that it’s happening in our cities,” said James Anderson, who leads the Government Innovation program at Bloomberg Philanthropies. “Now we turn to help these mayors implement their ideas, evaluate, and spread the ideas that produce big impact.”

Click here for more details on the 15 winning Global Mayors Challenge ideas. 

The 2021-2022 Global Mayors Challenge builds on the success of four previous Bloomberg Philanthropies Challenges in the U.S. (2013 and 2018), Europe (2014), and Latin America and the Caribbean (2016). Thirty-eight ideas have won the Mayors Challenge since its launch in 2013 and often yield such powerful results that other cities replicate them. This includes Providence Talks (2013, Providence, Rhode Island, USA), a project  that aims to increase the number of words children from low-income families hear each day in order to support healthy brain development and prepare them for school, that is currently being implemented in five additional U.S. cities; Biochar (2014, Stockholm, Sweden), a  project to convert plant waste into biochar to encourage plant growth, which will be replicated in 16 additional European cities; and Visor Urbano (2016, Guadalajara, Mexico), a program that decreases corruption by creating transparency in the permitting process for new businesses and buildings, that will be replicated by 61 additional cities in Latin America.