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Smart cities
Smart cities

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2.6 The Mayors’ Challenge

Another way to generate ideas and funding for smart city projects is to participate in a city challenge competition.

The Bloomberg Philanthropies 2014 Mayors’ Challenge was an ideas competition for European cities that encouraged cities to generate innovative improvements to city life and solutions to major challenges. It sought from city leaders bold ideas that had the potential to spread to other cities. The first prize was €5 million and four runner-up prizes were offered at €1 million each. The competition inspired mayors and their partners to develop breakthrough solutions, recognising that increasing needs and diminishing budgets meant local governments finding innovative new ways to get work done.

From the 155 applicants a shortlist of 21 finalists was drawn up and then five winning cities were chosen, with one grand prize winner.

Read on for quotations from each winning city’s summary of their entry.

An outline map that shows eastern Europe, northern Africa and the Middle East.
Figure 6 Athens

Athens: the devastating economic crisis has affected employment, infrastructure, as well as life in urban centers in Greece. Athens will create synAthina, an online platform to connect members of the community with their local government. Citizens can submit ideas on how to improve their city and will work together with government representatives to develop solutions to local problems, resulting in creative grassroots solutions and a mechanism for bottom-up reform of outdated municipal processes and regulations.

An outline map that shows Europe and northern Africa.
Figure 7 Barcelona

Barcelona: more than one in five Barcelona residents is over 65 and by 2040, one in four will be. As lives grow longer, Barcelona – like many cities globally – is grappling with new health problems and debilitating social isolation. To address this growing problem, Barcelona will use digital and low-tech strategies to create a network of family members, friends, neighbours, social workers and volunteers who together make up a ‘trust network’ for each at-risk elderly resident. This will help identify gaps in care, enable coordination of support and promote quality of life.

An outline map that shows Europe and the northern Atlantic Ocean.
Figure 8 Kirklees

Kirklees: city governments everywhere face tightening constraints on resources alongside rising aspirations from ambitious citizens. Kirklees wants to stimulate and operate a new sharing economy to maximize untapped local resources and do more with less. The city will pool idle government assets – from vehicles, to venues and citizens’ skills and expertise – and work with non-profit sectors to make these assets available through an online platform that will organise and allow for borrowing, bartering and time-banking to benefit both programmes and residents.

An outline map that shows Europe.
Figure 9 Stockholm

Stockholm: like many global cities, is confronting the effects of climate change. Stockholm will create a citywide program that activates citizens as front-line change agents to curb this escalating problem. Together, the city and its residents will produce biochar, an organic substance that increases tree growth, sequesters carbon and purifies storm water runoff. Citizens will bring their green waste to locations across the city for conversion to biochar and ultimately, redistribution.

An outline map that shows Europe, northern Africa and the Middle East.
Figure 10 Warsaw

Warsaw: the blind and visually impaired are too often cut off from their peers and forced to spend huge amounts of time getting around cities. To facilitate mobility for the visually impaired, Warsaw will place thousands of beacons around the city that communicate with users through mobile apps. These tools promise to transform lives, saving the visually impaired hours of travel per day and allowing them greater self-sufficiency.

Activity 3 Picking a winner for the Mayors’ challenge

Who would you choose as grand prize winner in the Bloomberg Philanthropies 2014 Mayors’ Challenge and why?

Were there any ideas in these five prize-winning cities that you think might be useful for your city?

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You can find out the winner in this Guardian article [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] . Read this article for more details and a link to their video.

You may also be interested in reading more details on the competition.