Bloomberg Philanthropies and Sagol Family launch Bloomberg-Sagol Center for City Leadership at TAU

Left to right: Michael R. Bloomberg, Professor Ariel Porat, and Yossi Sagol. Photo: Chen Galili.

New program to help mayors of cities across Israel improve services, strengthen social bonds, and foster relationship with mayors globally

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On April 3, Bloomberg Philanthropies and The Sagol Family announced a major new effort to strengthen local leadership across Israel through The Bloomberg-Sagol Center for City Leadership at Tel Aviv University (TAU). Inspired by the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative, the new program aims to help mayors of cities across Israel — north and south, large and small, Jewish- and Arab-led — deliver better and more equitable public services to residents, strengthen social bonds, and deepen ties to the global community of innovative city leaders.

“The series of recent terrorist attacks in Israel underscores the urgency of this new initiative, which is aimed at helping mayors confront their most difficult challenges and most pressing crises,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies and 108th mayor of New York City. “Mayors are on the front lines of every crisis, whether it’s terrorism or a pandemic. The Bloomberg Harvard program has proved phenomenally successful, and now we’re glad to team up with our partners in Israel on a new program that builds on our success and will help local leaders across the State of Israel.”

In 2016, Bloomberg Philanthropies and Harvard University established the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative, an unparalleled effort by Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) and Harvard Business School (HBS) to build the leadership capabilities of mayors and their teams. By engaging 40 mayors and 80 senior city leaders each year, this program develops effective organizational practices in city halls around the world, invests in a new generation of city leaders, and advances knowledge and establishes the field of city leadership at large. The program has trained 196 mayors and 318 leaders from 25 countries in the past five years.

Yossi Sagol began working with Bloomberg Philanthropies in 2018 to develop an Israel-based program similar to the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative that could strengthen the country from the local level up. The Bloomberg-Sagol Center for City Leadership is the first-ever initiative inspired by the Bloomberg Harvard program and will be housed at TAU’s Coller School of Management under the direction of Dean Moshe Zviran, the inaugural Faculty Director of the Israel City Leadership Initiative.

“Four years ago, I encountered the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative and realized that Israel was the perfect fit for such a program, particularly in view of its size, the relatively small number of mayors, and the ability to make a significant impact,” said Sagol. “By adapting this program in Israel we can make a real difference on the way local authorities are managed. I am excited to partner with Michael Bloomberg and to adapt this prestigious program in Israel.”

The Bloomberg-Sagol Center for City Leadership will focus on developing the leadership and management skills of mayors and their senior aides, while strengthening city hall operations. Specifically, the year-long program will build critical capabilities in fostering collaboration, using data in decision making, negotiation, crisis management, resident engagement, and generating and implementing innovative ideas through:

  • Executive Education: Mayors and senior leaders will receive instruction in how to build leadership and management skills conducted by the Coller School of Management and other TAU faculty. The mayors will conclude the year with additional training and networking hosted by Bloomberg Philanthropies and Harvard University in New York City and Boston, in the United States. 
  • City Innovation Projects: Each mayor will receive innovation training and support to address an urgent issue facing their city with coaching and technical assistance from Hazira.
  • Summer Fellowship Program: TAU students will take part in a 10-week summer fellowship program in participating mayors’ offices throughout Israel.
  • Local Government Alumni Network: The program will forge a local leadership network that will bring together all program participants and eventually alumni — mayors, municipal chiefs of staff, and other senior city leaders — to share and adapt best practices and innovative policy ideas. The network will also serve as a platform for continuous education for participants and alumni.
  • Research Program: The program will convene scholars from across TAU to conduct applied research on a wide range of topics that are relevant to effective leadership and management in cities.

“Israel’s local authorities have a much greater impact on citizens’ lifestyles and quality of life than the central government,” said Professor Ariel Porat, President of TAU. “The quality of sanitation, transportation, welfare, education, and health services mostly depends on the local authority’s performance. This new program aims to improve the management of local authorities in Israel, thereby enhancing the quality of life of Israelis throughout the country.”

The State of Israel has about 260 cities and towns with mayors. The Bloomberg-Sagol Center for City Leadership will invite applications and up to 20 mayors will be admitted each year. Selected mayors will also invite two key members of their team to go through the program. The first class of mayors will be announced in fall 2022. All expenses for the city hall officials program participation will be covered by this philanthropic funding through TAU.

“Mayors are required to make decisions that impact tens or hundreds of thousands of people and manage huge budgets, but most of them lack experience in managing organizations that are as large and complex as a local authority,” said Zviran. “The job of mayor requires a vast range of managerial skills at the highest level, and in our new program we intend to equip participants with helpful insights and a useful toolbox for making critical decisions and implementing innovation in the urban environment. Here they will also learn about developments in other cities, both in Israel and around the world.”

About Bloomberg Philanthropies

Bloomberg Philanthropies invests in 941 cities and 173 countries around the world to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people. The organization focuses on five key areas for creating lasting change: the Arts, Education, Environment, Government Innovation, and Public Health. Bloomberg Philanthropies encompasses all of Michael R. Bloomberg’s giving, including his foundation, corporate, and personal philanthropy as well as Bloomberg Associates, a pro bono consultancy that works in cities around the world. In 2021, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $1.66 billion.

About Sagol Family Philanthropies

The Sagol family translated their philanthropic values into a way of life, generously investing in promoting research, community, and education while also fostering coexistence and the periphery. Among their notable undertakings are the scholarship enterprise for high-school and higher education students, including thousands of scholarships for periphery populations and Mifalot Education and Society Enterprises. Understanding that in order to strengthen Israel’s position, it must have a proper “bridge” to the world, Sami Sagol has led the way in stretching out the Sagol Network’s philanthropic efforts to Ivy league institutions abroad. Initiatives such as the Sagol MIT-Weizmann Bridge program, Sagol-Kandel neuroscience initiative at Columbia University, and the Sagol Center for Epigenetics of Metabolism and Aging setting a bridge between Monash university, in Sydney and Tel Aviv pave the path for such global reach, aiming at providing significant breakthroughs in healthy lifespan and brain related diseases.

“The series of recent terrorist attacks in Israel underscores the urgency of this new initiative, which is aimed at helping mayors confront their most difficult challenges and most pressing crises."