We’re always on the lookout for new and creative solutions to urban problems, so we were excited to see the results of the Mayors Challenge, a competition created by Bloomberg Philanthropies to encourage innovative solutions to cities’ challenges. The most recent winners and their projects are:

  • Providence, RI, is using technology to help close the so-called word gap—the persistently lower number of words heard by children in low-income households, which is the single greatest predictor of future academic outcomes. (Grand Prize)
  • Chicago, IL, is building the first open-source predictive analytics platform for urban data, allowing it to improve decision-making and service delivery for a wide range of urban issues
  • Houston, TX will sort trash after pickup to separate recyclables from other waste
  • Philadelphia, PA will make it easier for creative entrepreneurs to sell to city government

Next City did some additional analysis on the winners and pointed out some interesting trends and shared the following:

Three of the five winners (Chicago, Houston, Philly) are among the nation’s five largest cities. Santa Monica and Providence are situated very close to the other two. A grant to the tune of $5 million or $1 million — paltry sums, as far as civic projects go — would have made a much bigger splash in smaller cities] than the actual winners.

The two popular poll winners have more concrete goals than the actual winners. Maybe the open-endedness of the winning proposals was intentional, as it gives a city leeway to experiment and allows for varying definitions of success. And local leaders obviously crave as much information about their city as possible, hence the stress on data. But the public, as always, continues to look for hard-and-fast outcomes.

The winning proposal has a focus on equity.In other words, it’s a refreshing departure from the sort of app-focused mindset that usually permeates urban-focused competitions.

The last item–the focus on equity–had particular resonance for us, as we work extensively on engagements that tackle the entrenched issues of social and economic inequality. We were excited to see technology deployed in support of a crucial early childhood intervention that has potential to tremendously benefit children’s future opportunities. We can’t wait to see how these projects pan out.

The rest of Next City’s analysis can be found here.

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