Bloomberg Foundation, Peres Center, Interior Ministry To Launch Innovation Hubs In 12 New Cities Across Israel
Bloomberg Philanthropies is partnering with Israel’s Ministry of Interior and the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation to launch a national network of hubs for municipal innovation across Israel. The network will be called Hazira (the arena or the scene, in Hebrew) and will tap into a unique Bloomberg Philanthropies program to set up innovation hubs in 12 new Israeli cities over the course of five years, the foundation announced this week.
Bloomberg Philanthropies, the charitable organization of American billionaire and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, will leverage its Innovation Teams program, or i-teams, for the initiative. The program allows mayors to fund in-house innovation teams that investigate complex local challenges and design solutions with clear goals, to improve citizens’ lives.
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The foundation has i-teams in place in Tel Aviv, Beersheba, and Jerusalem, some of which have been running for several years. The program, which helps municipalities drive innovation, is also active worldwide across over 250 cities such as Toronto, Canada, Anchorage, Alaska, Austin, Texas, Baltimore, Maryland, and Detroit, Michigan, among many others. It has helped city halls tackle issues such as poverty, neighborhood revitalization, and aging infrastructure.
In Israel, the program will now expand to 12 new, not-yet-known cities as the Ministry of Interior is set to issue a call for applications for cities to join Hazira later this year.
Yarden Leal-Yablonka, the deputy director-general for the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation, tells NoCamels in a phone interview that the initiative is quite unique in that it includes a civil society organization like the Peres Center.
“We are known for our project management abilities, our relationships with cities and groups, and our work across Israeli society, working in periphery cities with local teams,” Leal-Yablonka says of the Peres Center’s role in the partnership.
She explains that although municipalities or cities across Israel may face common challenges, the project will be impact-oriented and will answer needs or issues as defined by these municipalities.
“Cities have to find creative ways to address complex challenges with limited resources,” said former mayor Bloomberg in a statement. “Innovation teams help them do that, and our program has had a lot of success working with cities in Israel.”
“We’re glad to be working with the Ministry of the Interior and the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation to expand the model nationally to equip more cities to innovate – and we’re looking forward to seeing the results,” he added.
Efrat Duvdevani, director-general at the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation said the center was “thrilled to be part of the Hazira program.”
“We believe innovation is the key to solving a lot of global issues, and integrating it at the municipal level will have a huge impact on some of the challenges facing Israelis today,” she went on.
The Peres Center held a launch event for the program on Wednesday, attended by city mayors and other leaders of the municipal and innovation ecosystem. The gathering featured a video greeting by Michael Bloomberg and introductions by James Anderson, head of Government Innovation programs at Bloomberg Philanthropies, as well as a keynote speech by Facebook Israel CEO Adi Sofer Teeni.
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On Tuesday, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin met in Jerusalem with representatives from the Ministry of the Interior, the Bloomberg Foundation, and the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation, to hear about Hazira.
At Wednesday’s launch event, Beersheba Mayor Ruvik Danilovich spoke about the city’s experience with the i-team program. In the southern Israeli city, the municipality secured grants to help small- and medium-sized businesses thrive, including funding a series of forums with business owners to create an online information hub for businesses. In addition, the i-team in Beersheba focuses on fostering vibrant public spaces and working with a private partner to support a renewal effort in the city’s Beit neighborhood, according to a Bloomberg Philanthropies statement.
In Tel Aviv, where the i-team program was first launched in 2015, the team “tackled the high cost of living for young families by working with community members to find and implement cost-saving initiatives like shared study spaces, peer-to-peer tutoring youth-led summer camps, and an affordable school lunch program.” The team also helped improve the quality of life and social cohesion for residents in the Neve Sh’anan neighborhood in southern Tel Aviv, which is home to a large migrant community. The i-team helped build a vibrant new hub for entrepreneurial organizations and launch a new youth center with educational, cultural, and sports programming for kids as well as adults, services, according to the foundation.
And in Jerusalem, where the program was put in place in 2017, the i-team initiative helped some 600 entrepreneurs with consulting services to strengthen their small businesses and secured $620,000 in funding from the municipality to fund alumni programs and civic organizations for young professionals. The i-team also helped create a service delivery model that connects homeless youth to services and tracks outcomes. To date, 700 unsheltered youth are being monitored and supported and the model has been adopted to serve at-risk ultra-Orthodox youth as well, Bloomberg Philanthropies said in the statement.
Mordechai Cohen, the director-general at the Israeli Ministry of the Interior said the office was “thrilled to collaborate with Bloomberg Philanthropies and The Peres Center, creating a new platform for the Israeli municipalities to develop innovative solutions for the challenges they are facing and innovative ways of operating and giving the best possible service to the citizens.”
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“Through the innovation program, the partnership seeks to increase the number of cities using a tested, impactful approach to urban innovation to support the growth of all communities in Israel, including minority and peripheral communities,” Bloomberg Philanthropies wrote. “This proven method provides mayors and city leaders with a reliable way to test, adapt and implement effective solutions that improve the lives of residents.”
Bloomberg Philanthropies says it invests in 510 cities and 129 countries around the world to “ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people,” focusing on five key areas: the arts, education, the environment, government innovation, and public health. In 2018, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $767 million.
The Peres Center for Peace and Innovation
The Peres Center for Peace was founded in 1996 by Shimon Peres, the Nobel Prize-winning elder Israeli statesman who advocated for peace with the Palestinians and Israel’s neighbors, and one of the architects of Israel’s peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan. The center rebranded as the Peres Center for Peace And Innovation after the establishment of an innovation wing for Israel, one of Peres’ flagship projects before his passing in 2016 at 93. Peres was a champion of Israeli technologies and Israeli startups.
The innovation center officially opened its doors in October 2018 in an inauguration ceremony attended by hundreds of people including representatives of tech giants such as Facebook, Google, and eBay. Government and business delegations from around the world also attended, including from Indonesia, Singapore, India, Africa, USA, Italy, France, Australia, the UK, South Korea, Mexico, Switzerland, Russia, and Germany.
“The launch of the Israeli Innovation Center at the Peres Center is the realization of my father’s dream of showcasing under one roof the scientific and technological power of the State of Israel, and its contribution to the advancement of a better world,” said Peres Center chairman Chemi Peres said at the time.