Bloomberg Philanthropies has announced the winners of the inaugural Mayors Challenge. With more than 300 cities competing, Providence was presented the Mayors Challenge Grand Prize for Innovation and a $5 million implementation award for its cutting-edge early education initiative.


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The competition was intended 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. Innovation prizes also were awarded to Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, and Santa Monica, California—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,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, philanthropist and mayor of New York City. “If an innovative program or policy can work in one city, it can spread across the country and even across the globe. Too often, great ideas don’t get the support—or the funding—they need.”

Three ULI Rose Center for Public Leadership fellows were among the five winners: Annise Parker of Houston, Michael Nutter of Philadelphia, and the overall winner, Angel Taveras of Providence.

“We’ve worked with these cities over the last four years, so we know exactly the kind of cutting-edge thinking and work that comes out of their administrations,” said Jess Zimbabwe, executive director of the ULI Rose Center. “Mayor Nutter, Mayor Parker, and Mayor Taveras are all great leaders, and the teams that they have surrounded themselves with reflect their ingenuity and hardworking approach to good city governance. ULI is proud to congratulate the Daniel Rose Fellows in Houston, Philadelphia, and Providence on this well-earned honor.”

The winning idea (see videos below) from Providence, titled “Providence Talks,” addresses early childhood education by combining a revolutionary approach with proven technology in order to measure word exposure for children in low-income households and help coach parents on closing the word gap. The Houston project, titled “One Bin for All,” is an initiative that involves a public/private partnership that seeks to transform the city’s waste management system and sustainability practices by achieving a 75 percent recycle rate of all waste. Philadelphia’s winning idea, titled “Philadelphia Social Enterprise Partnership,” looks to solve city procurement-related barriers to innovation by establishing a new system that allows entrepreneurs and social innovators to respond to requests for proposals (RFPs) and help generate solutions to the toughest urban challenges.