Mayors Challenge

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The Bloomberg Philanthropies' Mayors Challenge is a contest that awards innovative ideas in City government. Challenges have taken place in the US (2013), Europe (2014), and Latin American and the Caribbean (2016).

This year, the challenge returns to the US. We're happy to announce that Grand Rapids was chosen as one of 35 Champion Cities!

This challenge is meant to help cities develop ideas that solve common problems in cities. The competition focuses on four key areas:


The ideas need to be bold, creative, and tackle cities' most pressing issues.


The ideas need to have the potential to significantly improve citizens' lives


Cities must demonstrate their commitment and show a viable path to bring their ideas to life.


The ideas need to have the potential to spread to other cities facing similar issues.

We pitched our idea to become a Champion City in September, 2017. We recognize that structural racism throughout our city is perpetuated by City policies and practices. We don't truly know the public we serve because the available census data is obsolete. 

Our idea is to develop a grassroots-led census initiative to collect vetted, close to real-time data at the household and business level. We'll partner with community organizations and citizen advocates to collect data. We'll also use our annual business registration renewal process to collect employee demographic data.

Innovating current business practices with community organizing will bring value to correlated data for equitability. We'll use the data to become a racially equitable city.

Read our proposal here

More than 320 cities participated in the Mayors Challenge. Of those 320+ cities, only 35 move beyond the application phase. We're excited to be one of the 35!

We're not done yet, though. As a Champion City, we get $100,000 to test our idea and build local support. It'll take six months for us to test our idea. After testing, we'll refine our idea and re-submit our application. If we place in the top five, we'll receive at least $1,000,000 to implement our plan.

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