20 Ideas that Could Change Our Cities

20 Ideas that Could Change Our Cities

Bloomberg Philanthropies is on a mission to find innovative solutions to solve the problems facing America’s cities—and they’ve enlisted the creative support of people in 20 cities to do so.

Today, the foundation announced the 20 finalists in the Mayors Challenge – a boot camp style competition akin to a business plan competition. The finalists will converge in NYC later this month for an intense, two-day “Ideas Camp” to share and hone their ideas. The finalists then have until early 2013 to refine their proposals and submit for the prize round.

Bloomberg Philanthropies will award the winner of the competition $5 million to invest in their idea; four runners up will receive $1 million each. Winners are chosen based upon the idea’s vision, potential impact, ability to be implemented, and replicability potential.  

The 20 winners, as on the  Mayors Challenge website, are:

  • Boston, MA: Cumulus: Sparking the Next Generation of EdTech
  • Chicago, IL: Solving Big Data: The SmartChicago Analytics Platform
  • Cincinnati, OH: Infant Vitality Surveillance Network
  • Durham, NC: Revitalizing Neighborhoods with Creative Economic Development Solutions and Partnerships
  • High Point, NC: Offender Focused Domestic Violence Initiative
  • Hillsboro, OR: Building Mobility: GoPoint Hillsboro Transportation Hub Network
  • Houston, TX: Total Reuse—One Bin for All
  • Indianapolis, IN: Neighborhoods of Educational Opportunity
  • Knoxville, TN: Urban Food Corridor
  • Lafayette, LA: Community-Wide Games to Spur Community Improvement
  • Lexington, KY: CitizenLex
  • Milwaukee, WI: Home Gr/Own Milwaukee
  • Philadelphia, PA: Tackling Urban Challenges with Entrepreneurial Solutions
  • Phoenix, AZ: Smartest Energy City in the World
  • Providence, RI: Providence Talks
  • Saint Paul, MN: Permit Saint Paul
  • San Francisco, CA: City Job Works
  • Santa Monica, CA: City of Wellbeing
  • Springfield, OR: Ground-Breaking Mobile Health Care for All
  • Syracuse, NY: Syracuse International Village

We’ve decided to profile a few of these initiatives that we find particularly interesting because of their potential impact on inner city economies:

Milwaukee: Home Gr/Own

Milwaukee’s two largest challenges are the abundance of foreclosed properties and food insecurity. Home Gr/Own seeks to change the food system in the city by turning vacant lots in to community assets that improve public health, spark economic growth, and revitalize neighborhoods. Currently, the City owns nearly 4,000 vacant lots and foreclosed homes; this program will get these properties back on to the city’s tax rolls and create new urban enterprises along the way.

Milwaukee isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel—they will look to the success of other urban agriculture programs and identify how to adapt these solutions to spark economic development in distressed neighborhoods.

ICIC research has shown that 60% of food cluster workers have a high school diploma or less, versus 44% for the rest of the economy. Food cluster jobs are well-paying and accessible to inner city residents based upon education and skills required.

San Francisco: City Job Works

According to its application, City Job Works “will reduce unemployment while increasing government capacity by matching job seekers with professional development opportunities through micro-volunteering on city government projects.”

Simply put, this is like a matchmaking service for unemployed residents to help them gain experience and skills by working on city projects. Unemployment is still high and cities have slashed budgets; 11% of unemployed adulated 55+ have been looking for work for 99+ weeks and 53% of college grads are jobless or underemployed. City Jobs Works matches peoples’ existing skills and employment goals with needed projects around the city using micro-volunteering to provide professional development opportunities.

At ICIC, we’ve heard time and time again that workforce development programs are necessary to help inner city residents access employment opportunities. This is a unique way to help residents gain new skills and give them a leg up in the job market; at the same time, the city benefits from support on projects.

Syracuse’s International Village

Syracuse seeks to “create a one-of-a-kind International Village and World Market that links refugee settlement services and creates pathways to economic opportunity for refugees and new Americans.” The International Village will include small business training and incubator services that help to create and grow immigrant-owned microenterprises.

Mayor Stephanie Miner explained, “Syracuse is a dynamic city with a vibrant immigrant community, we are always trying to find new ways to serve. This innovative program will allow us to better outreach to our new American neighbors and welcome them into our community and local economy.”

Given that immigrants often congregate in inner cities, this is an innovative model that could certainly be replicated in cities across the country—having a major impact on inner city economies.

Read more detail about the 20 Mayors Challenge finalists and tell us—which do you think has the greatest chance of winning the coveted $5 million price?

November 5th, 2012

TAGS: cities | business | economic development | community development | workforce | food | mayors challenge | bloomberg philanthropies | syracuse | san francisco | milwaukee

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