What is “Cities of Service”?

CoS-iconThe Cities of Service movement

Cities of Service is a not for profit organisation based in the United States. It designs and supports the implementation of high-impact service strategies that can be replicated in cities worldwide.


Founded in 2009 by Michael R. Bloomberg, the 108th Mayor of New York City, Cities of Service provides technical assistance, programmatic support, planning resources, and funding opportunities to cities whose political leadership are committed to using citizen volunteers to solve local pressing challenges.

In the United States, the Cities of Service coalition now includes more than 180 city mayors, representing more than 40 million Americans. With support from Cities of Service, the Cabinet Office and Nesta are now bringing and adapting the Cities of Service model to the UK.

At its core, Cities of Service engages citizens to create real and measurable impact in their own communities. Citizen volunteers work to lower high school drop-out rates, improve energy efficiency in homes, revitalize neighbourhoods, and more. Coalition cities develop a comprehensive service plan and a coordinated strategy focused on matching volunteers and established community partners to the areas of greatest local need. Additionally, coalition cities use specific metrics for each service initiative to measure outcomes and impact, allowing Cities of Service and its member cities to learn where successes and challenges exist, and improve initiatives for future implementation.

Visible, senior leadership is a fundamental feature of the Cities of Service approach. Many US cities employ a chief service officer, reporting directly to the mayor, to lead and coordinate the work. Developing a high-impact service plan requires mayoral support, effective outreach and collaboration, innovative thinking, and strong planning for successful implementation.

The Cities of Service Playbook and Resource Guide provide in-depth information on how to develop service strategies and high-impact service plans, while the Cities of Service Blueprints help cities develop volunteer initiatives based on successful designs used in other communities.

These resources and more are available on the Cities of Service web site:

Cities of Service


Cities of Service in the UK

Nesta and the Cabinet Office are adapting the Cities of Service model to the UK, and supporting local authority areas to develop and implement innovative approaches to mobilising volunteers in addressing strategic challenges, such as primary school literacy, revitalising neighbourhoods and supporting older people in the community.

Seven successful councils have received grant funding, as well as mentoring and advice from Cities of Service coalition member cities in the United States. They are taking part in a programme of training and learning events that bring partner cities together to develop their skills in key areas like needs assessment and impact evaluation.

The councils taking part in the programme are:

  • Portsmouth City Council
  • Kirklees Council
  • Bristol City Council
  • Plymouth City Council
  • Telford & Wrekin Council
  • Barnsley Council
  • Swindon Borough Council

Bristol, Kirklees, Plymouth and Portsmouth have each received grants to fund the creation of a Chief Service Officer post for 2 years and £30,000 to support new initiatives that mobilise citizens to make a difference to specific challenges.

Barnsley, Swindon and Telford & Wrekin have received grants of £30,000 to support new initiatives that mobilise citizens to make a difference to specific challenges.



Nesta is an innovation charity with a mission to help people and organisations bring great ideas to life.

It is home to the Centre for Social Action, and together with Cabinet Office, it is developing the Cities of Service model in the UK.

Nesta – About us

Nesta – Centre for Social Action 


Cabinet Office

The Cabinet Office is part of central government, with a responsibility for promoting efficiency and reform across government through innovation and by transforming the delivery of services. It is working in partnership with Nesta’s Centre for Social Action to fund and develop applying the Cities of Service model in the UK.

Cabinet Office – About us

Government efficiency, transparency and accountability


Chief Service Officer post

A key component of the successful US Cities of Service programmes was the appointment of Chief Service Officers. These are senior leaders embedded in local government who have responsibility for delivering the Cities of Service programme and leading a culture change in how local government works with and supports volunteering and social action.

Rachael LoftusRachael Loftus is the Chief Service Officer for Kirklees. Rachael came to post in July 2014 and has been hard at work to develop the programme in Kirklees ever since.

How to contact Rachael:

Email: rachael.loftus@kirklees.gov.uk

Twitter: @rachaelloftus

Tel. 01484 221000
(Kirklees Council switchboard)



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