Cities of Service Announces the Winners of 2019 Engaged Cities Award

San Francisco, Plymouth, UK, and Flint, Mich. are each awarded $75,000 in recognition of groundbreaking co-creation projects with residents

WASHINGTON, October 28, 2019 – Cities of Service announced today at CityLab DC the three winners of the 2019 Engaged Cities Award: Flint, Michigan, Plymouth, United Kingdom, and San Francisco. Underwritten by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the award recognizes cutting-edge techniques to engage residents to solve problems.

The winning cities are demonstrating leadership in citizen engagement. They developed and implemented bold, new strategies to address long-standing challenges such as blight, infrastructure, and civic capacity. Projects tapped into modern approaches to use citizen-sourced data to help revitalize neighborhoods; crowdsource ideas from residents to direct community funds; and capitalize on the skills of pro-bono volunteers to help increase vulnerable residents’ access to housing, legal counsel, healthcare, and more. Cities of Service will amplify the winning solutions and create blueprints for each solution, enabling cities around the world to learn from, adopt, and improve upon them.

“Cities of Service is based on a simple, powerful idea – people are the greatest resource that a city has,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies, and three-term mayor of New York City. “We applaud the winners of the Engaged Cities Award, and all of this year’s finalists, for all that they do to empower citizens to tackle pressing issues.”

“We have learned so much from the work that the Engaged Cities Award winning cities have done with their residents,” said Myung J. Lee, Cities of Service Executive Director. “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.”

Cities of Service received more than 100 applications from cities in the Americas and Europe for this year’s Engaged Cities Award. The winners were selected based on key selection criteria, including significant work with citizens to tackle a public problem, evidence of impact, and potential to apply the strategy to other issues and geographies. Each winning city receives a prize of $75,000 that can be used at their discretion in support of furthering the city’s efforts to engage their citizens to tackle problems.

Flint, Michigan: In response to significant property blight caused by a massive decline in population, the city, in partnership with Genesee County Land Bank, created the Flint Property Portal, which allows residents to easily report information on properties. Data collected through the portal enabled the city to receive a $60 million blight elimination grant through the U.S. Treasury Hardest Hit Fund. The grant funds have been used to demolish more than 4,000 blighted structures in Flint. The Land Bank planted low-growing clover in the cleared lots, which significantly diminishes maintenance needs and costs. Community members have since submitted more than 120,000 property messages through the portal, including self-reporting maintenance for 690 vacant lots.

Plymouth, United Kingdom: In order to ease administrative burden and ensure Community Infrastructure Levy funds were spent on projects that benefit residents, the city created an online platform where community members propose neighborhood improvement projects and residents show support with monetary donations. To date, the city has distributed more than £400,000 to 82 projects through the crowdfunding initiative. For every £1 spent by the city, residents have donated more than £2.60, for an additional £1 million in support for communities.

Funded projects include a revitalized space in a struggling neighborhood, which is now used for meditation, youth art clubs, and a soup kitchen; a café and comprehensive resource center that has become a community hub for dementia patients and their caregivers; a children’s theater; a women’s soccer league; public art displays; and a new school playground.

San Francisco, California: San Francisco did not have the capacity or infrastructure to leverage the residents’ skills that could be used to support city efforts to solve complex challenges. The city created Civic Bridge, a program that brings together private sector volunteers and city staff to develop solutions for public problems. Volunteers contribute 20% of their time over a 16-week period. Civic Bridge has worked with 25 city departments on 49 projects, engaging about 450 city staff and citizen volunteers, and estimates that companies have provided $3.9 million in pro-bono services through the program. Completed projects include DAHLIA, a new website that decreased the burden put on residents looking for affordable housing and streamlined the administrative process for the city. An estimated 85% of affordable housing rental applications have come through the new system since launch.

The Engaged Cities Award was open to cities with populations of 30,000+ in the Americas and Europe. Cities submitted their applications in January 2019. Cities of Service, along with an esteemed group of experts, chose three winning cities. Winners were announced as part of CityLab in Washington, D.C.

For more information about the Cities of Service Engaged Cities Award, please visit:

About Cities of Service

Cities of Service is a nonprofit organization that helps mayors build stronger cities by changing the way local government and citizens work together. We help our coalition cities tap into citizen insights, skills, and service to identify and solve critical public problems. Founded in 2009 by New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Cities of Service supports a coalition of 280 cities, representing more than 84 million people across the Americas and Europe.