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Our Approach

Cities of Service is a national nonprofit organization that helps mayors build stronger cities by changing the way local government and citizens work together. Cities of Service coalition cities tap into the knowledge, creativity, and service of their citizens to help identify and solve pressing local challenges.

With a data-driven focus on creating measurable results, Cities of Service counsels city leaders and their staff; brings groups together to share best practices, expand networks, and deepen relationships; and provides cities with expert technical assistance and proven resources. 

Cities of Service defines ‘citizens’ as residents who actively participate in their community and who see themselves as an integral part of their city. Citizens can help plant trees or clean up a blighted property in their neighborhood. They can also do much more, including contributing ideas to help solve river flooding, leading community groups to maintain stewardship of public spaces, and providing feedback to improve existing city programs and services.

Since its founding, Cities of Service has helped many cities implement change through the use of its Impact Volunteering strategy. This signature strategy engages citizen volunteers to identify and solve public problems alongside municipal government.

As Cities of Service grows, it continues to leverage and replicate Impact Volunteering in hundreds of cities. The organization has also expanded to offer new strategies for citizen engagement, helping to solve complex public problems.

Cities of Service has grown to support more cities.

  • 252: Cities of Service coalition cities – since inception, the coalition has grown from 17 to 252 cities across the Americas and Europe
  • 73 million: People who now live in a Cities of Service coalition city
  • 45: Chief Service Officers (or equivalent senior level administration staffers) leading strategic volunteer initiatives
  • 1,000: Directly-funded Impact Volunteering projects

Founded in 2009 by New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Cities of Service supports a coalition of more than 250 cities, representing over 70 million people across the Americas and Europe.

Cities of Service is part of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ American Cities Initiative. A $200 million commitment, the Initiative was announced in June of 2017 and is an expansion of Michael Bloomberg’s support to U.S. cities. The Initiative represents a suite of new investments and an expanded pledge to existing programs, including Mayors Challenge, Bloomberg Aspen Initiative on Cities and Autonomous Vehicles, Cities of Service, Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative, What Works Cities, Financial Empowerment Centers, CityLab, and Innovation Teams. These existing programs are already providing mayors and city leadership with much-needed resources to innovate and implement ideas that have real impact. The American Cities Initiative builds and reinvests in this work with the goal of empowering cities to generate innovation and advance policy that moves the nation forward in an era of unprecedented challenges.

The American Cities Initiative focuses on three core areas:

  • Promoting bold and effective leadership in city halls;
  • Supporting critical policy actions in areas ranging from climate change to opioid abuse; and
  • Empowering artists, residents, and entrepreneurs to solve problems and strengthen social cohesion.

Investments over the next three years will include grants in cities, the provision of in-city expertise, and opportunities for city leaders to share insights and best practices with one another. At least $100 million will support bold and effective leadership in city halls. Learn more about the American Cities Initiative.