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Providence, RI Takes Grand Prize at Mayors Challenge
Posted: Wednesday, March 20, 2013 |

Providence, Rhode Island was recently selected as America's most innovative city at the nationwide Mayors Challenge, taking home the $5M-Grand Prize for its idea "Providence Talks." The Mayors Challenge, hosted by Bloomberg Philanthropies, is 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 cities across the nation.

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From the 305 U.S. cities that submitted applications, the competition chose 20 finalists to attend an intensive 2-day 'Ideas Camp' in NYC to refine the ideas, and finally, four winners and one grand prize winner were selected and announced.

Following is a brief overview of the winning projects - to see a list of the 20 finalists, click here.

Grand Prize Winner: Providence, RI with "Providence Talks"
Mayor: Angel Taveras
Population: 178,000

Mayors Challenge Grand Prize Winner: Providence, RI

Objective: By their fourth birthday, children who grow up in low-income households will have heard 30 million fewer words than their middle- and high-income peers. This is the single greatest predictor of future academic outcomes.

Providence Talks solves this problem, for good. Using a small recording device and proven technology, the program measures word exposure for children (ages zero to four) in low-income households, and delivers coaching and tools that help their parents close the word gap. – click here for the full description


Prize Winner: Chicago, IL with "The Chicago SmartData Platform"
Mayor: Rahm Emanuel
Population: 2,707,000 

Mayors Challenge Winner: Chicago, IL

Objective: Several cities across the country – especially New York – are working aggressively to crack the big data “code.” These systems will allow cities to harness the full potential of available data to understand underlying trends and issues and better direct resources. In this rapidly advancing field, there are few, if any, systems that are set up to spread. 

Chicago will solve this problem by building the first open-source predictive analytics platform from scratch. Since it will own the IP, Chicago will be able to (and intends to) make this platform available to other cities – ones that may not have the resources to complete such a project on their own. – click here for the full description


Prize Winner: Houston, TX with "One Bin for All"
Mayor: Annise D. Parker
Population: 2,145,000 

Mayors Challenge Winner: Houston, TX

Objective: Houston’s rate of recycling is roughly 14%; the average rate of recycling for American cities is 35%. Decades of consumer education have failed to significantly change behavior. 

One Bin for All is a revolutionary idea in which residents discard all materials in one bin. Existing technologies – combined for the first time through an innovative public-private partnership – will do the sorting post-collection, enabling the city to achieve an estimated 75% recovery level. – click here for the full description


Prize Winner: Philadelphia, PA with "Philadelphia Social Enterprise Partnership"
Mayor: Michael Nutter
Population: 1,536,000 

Mayors Challenge Winner: Philadelphia, PA

Objective: City procurement is stifling innovation in Philadelphia and in cities across the nation. While many of the “safeguards” built into today’s systems were responses to past instances of corruption, the resulting mishmash of rules and procedures make local government far less nimble. In addition, today’s approach puts government in the position of not just defining the problems but also prescribing the solutions. This limits the ability of government to leverage people, ideas, and talent to solve major challenges. 

Philadelphia will establish a new procurement process that allows new players to respond to RFPs and help generate solutions to the toughest urban challenges. Philadelphia will issue challenges and seed the most promising in accelerator programs. The strongest graduating projects would be piloted by the City. – click here for the full description


Prize Winner: Santa Monica, CA with "The Wellbeing Project"
Mayor: Pam O'Connor
Population: 90,000 

Mayors Challenge Winner: Santa Monica, CA

Objective: Currently, cities have no holistic way to measure their success. Mayors on the ground are focused on quality of life and wellbeing issues, but still have to look at economic indicators (or measures of siloed issues, such as obesity or crime) to see how they’re doing. 

Santa Monica will create a sophisticated single metric focused on economic vitality, social relationships, health, education/care, and local environment – a way to measure wellbeing. This will enable the city to manage for better outcomes in these key areas. – click here for the full description

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