Insights, News

Cities Helping Cities: Why it’s Vitally Important

Mar 9, 2023



By John Simon, Co-Founder and Board Chair, The GreenLight Fund

This coming Sunday, March 12th will mark one month exactly since the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles squared off in Super Bowl LVII. As they got set to compete their hearts out, you can be sure that the teams did not share their playbooks with each other. Option plays, trick plays, and game plans were shrouded in secrecy.

But, in non-football matters, both cities take the opposite approach. Kansas City and Philadelphia (and, for that matter, the other AFC and NFC finalist cities, Cincinnati and San Francisco) are all part of a 12, soon to be 14, city (and growing) network of GreenLight Fund cities that persistently and intentionally share “what works” with each other every single year to help tear down barriers to inclusive prosperity leading to positively changed outcomes for children and families navigating poverty. And that sharing of “playbooks” IS working. Boston, Philadelphia, the San Francisco Bay Area, Cincinnati, Detroit, Charlotte, Kansas City, Atlanta, the Twin Cities, Baltimore, Newark, Chicago, and soon Denver and Miami as well, are all GreenLight Fund cities – and part of this measurably-impactful “playbook” sharing, with a deep long-term trust and track record of success across many issue areas.

We know that cities are experiencing challenges across our country. Even as U.S. cities continue to grow as attractive places for people to live, work, and play, challenges are growing as well – especially in the wake of the pandemic: affordable housing shortages, public safety and violence, unemployment, vast income inequality, deep racial inequities, educational system challenges, food insecurity, health care access, and mental health challenges, just to name a few. The gulf between those who are doing well and those who are getting left behind in our cities is widening. It will take a continuous determined effort by all of us to change this picture.

And in all of our cities there are many areas where innovation is occurring and progress is being made. In order to take full advantage of this, cities need to share and spread what works. A “can do/will do” approach, full transparency and a willingness to share successes is key to turning the tide. There are many ways for cities to help each other – and partnering with the GreenLight Fund is one.

GreenLight has been operating since 2004 and, with an 18 year track record of success, is now reaching over 600,000 children and families annually (and growing) with measurably-changed results across 45+ issue areas. GreenLight has unlocked over $250M in state, federal, and other follow on revenue for the innovative and proven programs that it has brought from one city to another through its annual local-community-driven process year-after-year-after-year to help cities share what works. Each year in each city that it is in, GreenLight partners with local government, leaders and residents to elevate what is missing in services, what outcomes are not improving and what is deeply needed to lower barriers to economic mobility… and then address that with one solution that has worked at scale in other cities. The way this process works is a true, concrete, measurable example of cities helping find and scale “what works”.

And there are many other great examples including: Mayors conferences, the Bloomberg Foundation’s multi-faceted programs to help Mayors share ideas and case studies and metrics, and Community Foundations and United Ways sharing best practices. Even as we relentlessly focus on our cities’ challenges and unmet needs, we must also spotlight and lift up what is working and continue to motivate us all to collaborate together to do more of what works.

Yes, Kansas City and Philadelphia will fully compete on the football field. And, the baseball field as well – both cities surely hope there can be a city vs city rematch between the Royals and the Phillies in the World Series in the fall of 2023! But, far more importantly, in the effort to open opportunities that can improve lives and outcomes, these cities – alongside 12 others (and growing) – are full collaborators.