These Five Ideas for Smarter Cities Just Won Millions in Funding

By Alissa Walker on at

Ever since he left his post as the ban-happy mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg has been very busy taking his urban revitalisation show on the road. Today, his philanthropy team announced the winners of his annual Mayors Challenge, with five bright ideas for cities addressing issues from ageing to civic engagement.

After focusing last year on US cities, this time the challenge addressed European cities. One city (Barcelona) will win €5 million to implement their idea, while the other four get €1 million each. The criteria for winning is a solution that could be easily replicated in any city. These five solutions definitely address problems that could happen anywhere.

A 'trust network' for ageing residents in Barcelona

Like many cities, Barcelona is getting old: one in five residents is over 65, a number that will increase to one in four by 2040. While some residents will need hospital care, others just need someone to check in on them from time to time, but they may not have an established support network of friends, family or neighbours. Barcelona will attempt the first citywide collaborative care system for each elderly resident, employing digital and low-tech strategies that will make sure every citizen over 65 has someone watching over them.

An online platform to encourage civic engagement in Athens

The crisis that struck Greece has not only devastated Athens' urban infrastructure and economy, it's also dis-enfranchised residents, who no longer believe that their ideas are being heard and implemented. Synathina is a new online platform that will give Athenians a voice for change in their city, allowing local groups to work collaboratively with local government to devise solutions for their communities.

A way for the government to share unused private resources in Kirklees

As in many places, the UK city of Kirklees has been struck by massive budget cuts which are causing the government to end many programmes and services. A new scheme will allow private citizens and businesses to offer up their unused resources — anything from vehicles to skills — to trade or barter, in a sort of time-banking system for the entire city.

A citywide plan to produce biochar in Stockholm

Stockholm is taking on an ambitious plan to recycle its green waste into "biochar", which is an organic material similar to charcoal that can act as a kind of power-fertiliser and water purifier to help cleanse cities. Citizens can bring green waste to centralised areas for recycling and take the biochar home with them.

An urban information system for the visually impaired in Warsaw

This will be a great one to watch: Warsaw is going to turn its city into a sensor-studded wonderland that will allow its residents to interact and engage with the city through their mobile phones. Besides the obvious benefit to visitors, the system will allow Warsaw to become one of the best cities for the visually impaired, who can move throughout the city unaided and with more confidence.

Top image: Athens, photo courtesy Bloomberg Philanthropies