- Cities of Service announced on Monday the three winners of its Engaged Cities Award: Flint, MI; Plymouth, England, and San Francisco.
- Flint won for its efforts to track and remove blighted properties; Plymouth won for setting up an online platform to suggest and crowdfund neighborhood improvements; and San Francisco won for Civic Bridge, which connects volunteers and city staff to solve problems like connecting vulnerable residents to healthcare and affordable housing.
- Each city was awarded $75,000 from the nonprofit, underwritten by Bloomberg Philanthropies, and was honored at the CityLab summit in Washington, DC.
The three cities were chosen out of more than 100 applicants and were honored for their creative solutions to some of the most vexing issues in city life. The winners all place an emphasis on the need for community engagement, something that is of the utmost importance as city leaders look to implement various initiatives.
"The creativity and simplicity of their solutions to difficult challenges shows us that the more we can help our cities to engage their residents, the stronger our democracy will be," Myung Lee, Cities of Service executive director, said in a statement.
And the returns have already been tremendous. In Flint, the city's online portal that helped it collect data on blighted properties stemming from a declining population, helped it receive a $60 million blight elimination grant through the U.S. Treasury Hardest Hit Fund. That money has been used to demolish more than 4,000 blighted structures in the city and created a data-driven approach to the issue, echoing work previously done in New Orleans.
In an era of strapped local budgets, Plymouth’s method of crowdsourcing improvement projects has led to more than £400,000 ($513,000 USD) to be distributed to 82 projects, including community centers, public art, a children’s theater and a women’s soccer league.
And in San Francisco, the connection of volunteers with city staff has taken place on almost 50 projects, with the city estimating that those volunteers have contributed around $3.9 million in pro-bono services.
These cities — and last year's winners of Bologna, Italy; Santiago de Cali, Colombia; and Tulsa, OK — show how city services can be improved in different ways, and encourage the further sharing of best practices across jurisdictional borders.