Winning Cities in Mayors Challenge Receive Prizes to Implement Innovative Ideas

Last week, Bloomberg Philanthropies announced the winners of the Mayors Challenge, a competition designed to encourage American cities to generate innovative ideas that solve tough problems and improve life in the city.  

Proving that there is plenty of room for big ideas in a small state, Providence, RI, won the Mayors Challenge Grand Prize for Innovation and will receive a $5 million implementation award for its cutting-edge early education initiative. 

Prizes also were awarded to Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, and Santa Monica, each of which will receive $1 million to support implementation.  The five winning ideas highlight the diverse array of complex and common challenges facing cities:

  • Providence, RI (Mayor Angel Taveras): Providence Talks – Combines a new approach with proven technology to measure vocabulary exposure for children in low-income households and help parents close the word gap that can keep children from achieving their full potential; 
  • Chicago, IL (Mayor Rahm Emanuel): The Chicago SmartData Platform Builds an open-source, predictive analytics platform – aggregating municipal information in one place to help city leaders make smarter, faster decisions and improve services and address problems such as weather emergencies and traffic jams (video summary);
  • 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 household waste (video summary);
  • Philadelphia, PA (Mayor Michael Nutter): Philadelphia Social Enterprise Partnership – Launches a new procurement process that makes it easier for entrepreneurs and social innovators to help generate solutions to the most pressing city problems (video summary); and
  • Santa Monica, CA (Mayor Pam O’Connor): The Wellbeing Project Uses a sophisticated index focused on economic vitality, social relationships, health, education, social services, and the quality of the city’s physical surroundings to create an integrated, data-driven assessment of wellbeing that can be applied directly to local policy-making (video summary).

Mayors of U.S. cities with at least 30,000 residents were eligible to compete in this inaugural challenge, and 305 cities representing 45 states tossed their municipal hats in the ring.  Twenty finalists were selected and, in November 2012, teams from each of those cities attended Bloomberg Ideas Camp, a two-day gathering in New York City, to help refine and strengthen their ideas. After Camp, finalists received individualized coaching to prepare their final submissions in January 2013.

Congratulations to the winning cities and to all 20 finalists for creating innovative ideas with the potential to solve problems, facilitate data-driven decisions, tap the ingenuity of citizen solvers, and improve city life for residents.

And, kudos to Bloomberg Philanthropies for using an incentive prize competition to drive innovation. The Obama Administration has taken important steps to make prizes and challenges a standard tool for open innovation in every Federal agency’s toolbox to spur innovation and advance their missions. Since its launch in 2010, has featured more than 240 prizes offered by over 50 Federal departments and agencies.  

Cristin Dorgelo is Assistant Director for Grand Challenges at OSTP

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