Ross Prize for Sustainable Cities Application

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About the award

Cities are comprised of many systems: social networks; labor markets and economies of opportunities; water, air, and energy ecosystems; transport and other infrastructure networks. They are built environments, but they also shape social interactions and flows of resources.

All urban development projects – from new housing to street redesigns – affect these systems’ form, function, and appearance in some way. Some projects have a substantially greater impact than others, affecting change beyond their immediate environs, overturning entrenched patterns of behavior, and opening up new possibilities for entire neighborhoods and cities. And we will need more of them. To achieve environmental, economic and social goals while accommodating the more than 2.5 billion new urbanites expected by 2050, many cities need not just minor course corrections but significant changes to business as usual.

The WRI Ross Prize for Cities will identify and celebrate such initiatives, to encourage cross-learning, locally-adapted replication and provide a path forward for policymakers, civil society and the business community. The prize will share replicable best practices across cities, and draw attention to exiting initiatives that can serve as lighthouse examples to other cities across the world. The Ross Prize will shine a light on model urban development and the process that enabled it.

What’s the value for applicants?

  • Cash prize: a total prize purse of $250,000 will be disbursed to an eligible Prize winner.
  • Media recognition and publicity for finalists and winners. The Ross Center will build a media campaign around the top applicants.
  • Invitation and Expenses-paid to a high-profile gala dinner in New York for finalists 
  • Finalists will also receive in-kind support to create compelling documentation and communications materials around the project. This will be used by the Jury for selection, but will also be available to the applicants to use for other purposes.

Eligibility Criteria

  • All types of projects and initiatives — including built projects, changes in legislation, policies, programs, or initiatives-- are invited to apply if they have led to demonstrable transformative change in the city.
  • Projects must have started implementation no earlier than 2000 and have already demonstrated economic, social and/or environmental tangible impacts [see assessment criteria] on the cities that they are in, if not at a larger scale. Plans, or anticipated future impact, will not be considered.
  • There is no minimum scale of project or minimum cut-off for economic, social, or environmental impact. However, projects to which tangible impact on a city-wide scale or large can be attributed are more likely to be competitive.
  • All types of organizations from public and private sectors are eligible to apply for the Prize, including but not limited to businesses, public sector and non-profits. The application requires a working bank account, basic background check, and self-certification of contributions for the winning project in order to award the cash prize. [See Terms and Conditions for further details.]

Selection process

  1. Brief application: Projects considered for the prize will come from: [Feb - June 2018]
    1. Open application: An individual or organization can submit a self-nomination to highlight a project they are working on or have worked on.
    2. Sourcing applications: WRI will also consult a global group of advisors to identify projects to invite to apply and to support in applying.
  2. Semi-finalists selection: WRI will conduct a first review of the applications to select 20 semi-finalists. Additional information might be required to get a full picture of the project and determine its impacts. Semi-finalists will be contacted and more information [which??] will be requested at X time to enable WRI to identify 5 finalists. [July 2018 - October 2018]
  3. Finalist’s selection: Selection of 5 finalists, will involve an in-depth review, including site visit. Documented project information will be sent to the Jury, a group of globally recognized individuals, for final selection. [November 2018-February 2019]
  4. Announcement of winner at gala event, anticipated date: April 2019. Al finalist will be invited to the event. [April 2019]

Assessment criteria

The prize awards a distinction to transformative projects that have tangible impacts on the ground. We are interested in projects that include at least one of three dimensions of transformation described below. Each of these dimensions can manifest and be measured in various ways [see Resources for Applicants for a list of possible indicators that can be used to show impact].

  • Economic: Increased vitality of surroundings/neighborhoods or city, an improvement in city revenues, new/different businesses and jobs – a move from “sunset” sectors to “new economy” opportunities, accelerated investment rates.
  • Environmental: Increased resilience (to flooding, extreme weather, heat islands, for example), lower emissions and greater resource efficiency, cleaner air and water, increased biodiversity and more green space.
  • Social: New and active networks, more social cohesion, safer and healthier communities, improved representation and civic engagement.

Additional desirable characteristics we value in transformative projects. Beyond project’s impact on the ground, we will also assess additional characteristics that make transformative projects more inclusive, innovative and replicable, and ripe for larger scale impact. It is not required for the projects to possess all these characteristics, just desirable.

  • Transparency: The project has mechanisms that allow people to access information regarding the initiative.
  • Inclusion: Project planning and implementation has provided opportunities for community/stakeholder involvement and input; project was designed targeting benefits to lower-income groups/minorities [vulnerable, disadvantaged or marginalized populations that could include poor or economically weaker populations, socially marginalized/minorities, women, children, elderly, etc.]
  • Replicability: Project has been replicated in other geographies.
  • Durability: The project has created an institutional and financial structure that allows for continuity to keep reaching project’s goal over time.
  • Innovation: The project has adopted new approaches to solve a defined societal problem. Innovative projects might reimagine or drastically improve how cities deliver services, create efficiencies, or improve citizen engagement, among others.

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