Realizing the Promise of Cities

Fact sheet

The Mayors Innovation Project is a learning network among American mayors committed to “high road” policy and governance: shared prosperity, environmental sustainability, and efficient democratic government. Around the country, mayors are taking the lead on pressing social issues—climate change, infrastructure, economic revitalization, health care, prison reentry, and more. We support and encourage this innovation by providing cutting-edge thinking and concrete examples that your city can use right away. Building high road cities and metropolitan regions is both good for citizens and a key way to move the country to the high road nationally. Cities have enormous untapped assets and political strengths that can be organized better now. The Mayors Innovation Project exists to help its member participants lead by example, share their experiences with peers, and make this argument for cities nationally. 

You can support our work by joining our network or making a donation.


We are a collaboration between policymakers and research experts, connecting mayors to research relevant to policy issues in their home cities.


Our meetings provide a forum for mayors to share their best practices. Many of the best policy ideas discussed at our meetings—in housing, energy, transportation, economic development—come from our member cities.


Between meetings, our listserve allows mayors, their staff, and research experts to remain in contact throughout the year. In addition, our website has information on new policy innovations, best practices, case studies, model legislation, background research, communication tools, and access to technical assistance.


At each MIP meeting, we aim to send mayors back to their home cities with three to four new policy ideas they can implement immediately. The innovation doesn’t end when the meetings are over. The Mayors Innovation Project connects mayors and staff to the technical assistance they seek in implementing progressive policies that benefit their citizens and our country.


The Mayors Innovation Project was founded in 2005 by Madison, Wisconsin mayor Dave Cieslewicz and Joel Rogers, a UW-Madison professor and director of COWS (Center on Wisconsin Strategy). Participating cities include megalopolises like Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York; large cities like Atlanta, Boston, Denver, Milwaukee, and Seattle; and smaller cities like Cincinnati, Des Moines, Portland, and Scranton. More than 100 cities, representing some 33 million Americans, have attended our events. We do not aim to compete with other national organizations of local elected officials. These organizations do important and good work, which we hope to complement by providing an opportunity for a smaller and more intimate discussion of innovative policies we can implement today.

Our Meetings

The Mayors Innovation Project’s meetings are informal and relaxed but packed with substance. We pick a policy area important to their cities, invite one or two national experts on the topic, and sit down over a couple days to discuss and develop city strategies in these areas. Mayors have a chance to share their experiences, get advice from other mayors and experts, and then continue to receive support upon returning home. It’s the “conversation in the hallway” that is often rushed at busy national meetings but can prove to be incredibly useful in advancing our goals.


We are governed by a steering committee of a rotating group of mayors and senior level staff. The current Steering Committee members are:

Steering Committee

Mayor Stephen Benjamin, Columbia, South Carolina

Mayor Rosalynn Bliss, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Mayor Pete Buttigieg, South Bend, Indiana

Mayor Frank Cownie, Des Moines, Iowa

Ms. Valarie J. McCall, Chief of Government & International Affairs, Cleveland, Ohio

Mayor Marjorie SloanGolden, Colorado

Mayor Miro Weinberger, Burlington, Vermont

Dr. Joel Rogers, Director, COWS


Advisory Committee

Dave Cieslewicz, Former Mayor, Madison, Wisconsin
Heidi Davison, Former Mayor, Athens, Georgia
Pegeen Hanrahan, Former Mayor, Gainesville, Florida

Mike Kasperzak, Former Mayor, Mountain View, California

Mark Kleinschmidt, Former Mayor, Town of Chapel Hill, North Carolina

David Pope, Former Mayor, Oak Park, Illinois


Former Steering Committee members include Tom Bates (Former Mayor of Berkeley, CA), Kitty Piercy (Former Mayor of Eugene, OR), Bob Kiss (Former Mayor of Burlington, VT), Kip Holden (Mayor-President of Baton Rouge, LA) Martin Chavez (former Mayor of Albuquerque), Heather Fargo, (former Mayor of Sacramento, CA) Rocky Anderson (former Mayor of Salt Lake City), Rosemarie Ives (former Mayor of Redmond, WA), Pete Clavelle, (former Mayor of Burlington, VT), and Randy Primas (former COO of Camden, NJ).


MIP receives financial support from our member cities, foundations and generous individual donors. The views expressed and the materials presented here, however, do not necessarily represent our funders views.