Bloomberg Philanthropies has announced the winners of the Mayors Challenge, a competition to inspire American cities to generate innovative ideas that solve major challenges and improve city life – and that ultimately can be shared with other cities to improve the well-being of the nation. Out of the 305 cities that competed in this inaugural competition, Providence, Rhode Island, was presented the Mayors Challenge Grand Prize for Innovation and a $5 million implementation award for its “cutting-edge early education initiative”. Mayors Challenge innovation prizes also were awarded to Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, and Santa Monica, all of which will receive $1 million to support implementation.
“The Mayors Challenge is dedicated to the idea that cities are the new laboratories of democracy. If an innovative program or policy can work in one city, it can spread across the country and even across the globe,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, philanthropist and Mayor of New York City. “Too often, great ideas don’t get the support—or the funding—they need. The Mayors Challenge helps eliminate those obstacles by elevating and funding the most promising and innovative ideas. In the months ahead, we look forward to seeing these ideas implemented, take root locally, and then hopefully spread across the nation to improve the lives of all Americans.”
The winning cities were selected based on four criteria: vision, ability to implement, potential for impact, and potential for replicability. A selection committee, co-chaired by Ron Daniel, Bloomberg Philanthropies board member and Former Managing Partner at McKinsey & Company where he is still active, and Shona Brown, Senior Vice President and head of Google.org, selected the winners. The five winning ideas highlight the diverse array of complex and common challenges facing cities:
Providence, RI (Mayor Angel Taveras): Providence Talks – Combines a revolutionary approach with proven technology to measure vocabulary exposure for children in low-income households and help parents close the word gap. Selected for its direct, simple, and revolutionary approach to early childhood education.
Chicago, IL (Mayor Rahm Emanuel): The Chicago SmartData Platform – Partners with leaders in data and computer science to build the first open-source, predictive analytics platform – aggregating information in one place to help leaders make smarter, faster decisions and prevent problems before they develop. Selected for creating an open-source platform to harness the power of data to understand underlying trends and better direct limited resources.
Houston, TX (Mayor Annise Parker): One Bin For All – Creates an innovative public-private partnership to combine existing technologies to achieve the ultimate goal in waste management – a one-bin, high-recovery system that will aim to recycle 75% of all waste. Selected for its huge leap forward in recycling/recovery and potentially transformative impact on cities’ sustainability practices.
Philadelphia, PA (Mayor Michael Nutter): Philadelphia Social Enterprise Partnership – Launches a new procurement process that enables entrepreneurs and social innovators to respond to RFPs and help generate solutions to the most pressing city problems. Government procurement processes are often cited as chief barriers to innovation. Selected for its novel approach to reforming city procurement, a key obstacle to local government innovation.
Santa Monica, CA (Mayor Pam O’Connor): The Wellbeing Project – Establishes Santa Monica as the first city in the nation to measure wellbeing and formally embed it in policy-making – via a sophisticated index focused on economic vitality, social relationships, health, education/care, and local environment. Selected for its data-driven approach to measuring and managing wellbeing in a local context.
In addition, Houston has emerged as the winner of the “Mayors Challenge Fan Favorite Selection,” launched in partnership with The Huffington Post. The competition allowed citizens to learn more about the bold and innovative ideas of the 20 finalists and vote for their favorite. Houston will receive a $50K in-kind grant from IBM to support the implementation of its One Bin For All idea as well as featured coverage and promotion from The Huffington Post, including a monthly front page column for a year and an interview with Arianna Huffington on Huff Post Live. Milwaukee – whose idea is to repurpose foreclosed homes and vacant lots into urban agricultural assets – was recognized for its close second-place finish and also will receive special coverage and promotion from The Huffington Post.
“We are delighted to award the Fan Favorite prize to Houston, and excited to see so many people inspired to vote,” said Arianna Huffington, president and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post Media Group. “More than 58,000 people voted – engaging in robust conversation about the power of cities and local leaders to solve pressing problems. Houston and Milwaukee, finishing a close second, were the clear Fan Favorites. We look forward to showcasing their progress with our readers across the world.”
Review our previous coverage to see what the other 20 finalists had to offer.