Aug 3, 2022 - News

Mayor Wu heads back to school

Photo illustration of Boston Mayor Michelle Wu with lines radiating from her.

Photo Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios. Photo: Lane Turner/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu was back in school in June, one of 40 city leaders from around the world taking part in an exclusive Harvard training program for mayors.

  • The Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative is a yearlong program that included an intensive four-day workshop in New York City the week of June 18.

Why it matters: Outside of their own education and on-the-job experience, elected officials don't have the same access to training and learning resources that private sector companies dedicate to their CEOs.

  • The initiative's goal is to close this gap.

"The private sector invests more than $42 billion each year in executive development but there is no equivalent in the public sector," according to the program.

  • Bloomberg Harvard says that 90% of mayors who have studied in the initiative — now in its sixth cohort — report measurable improvement in their leadership capabilities.

What they're saying: "Getting the chance to learn from and spend time with 39 other mayors from around the country and around the world really gives perspective on just how important it is for Boston to use every possible resource we have," Wu told Axios about her experience in the New York working group.

  • She said the three days she was there before leaving for another event were centered on building organizations, innovative leadership and using data to define and measure progress.
  • Wu says she's interested in building partnerships with other mayors throughout the year, and possibly discovering fresh ideas to tackle issues of mental health, substance abuse and homelessness.

How it works: The program aims to give mayors a new set of leadership and management tools to operate 21st-century city halls.

  • Though the June training was on former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's home turf, the program has Cambridge bonafides. It's a collaboration between the Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard Business School and Bloomberg's philanthropic operation.
  • The program even uses former Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone and the "culture of curiosity" at his city hall as a case study for how to empower other city leaders.

Details: Wu's cohort includes a diverse range of mayors with different backgrounds and life experiences.

  • Over half the mayors are people of color, including 14 Black mayors.
  • 12 of the 40 mayors are from international cities like Helsinki, Finland; Zambia; and Monterrey, Mexico.
  • American cities represented include Atlanta, Ga.; Dearborn, Mich.; and Cincinnati, Ohio.
  • Wu wasn't the only mayor from Massachusetts. New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell also took part.

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