Win $50,000 To Solve a Problem in Philly

Apply by February 24 for the second annual Jeremy Nowak Urban Innovation Award

Win $50,000 To Solve a Problem in Philly

Apply by February 24 for the second annual Jeremy Nowak Urban Innovation Award

The Philadelphia Citizen is issuing a call for proposals for the Jeremy Nowak Urban Innovation Award and, with it, $50,000 to launch one new urban solution here in Philadelphia.

The Citizen will select from submissions that offer a clear plan to advance locally one of the top-rated solutions presented at our Ideas We Should Steal Festival (IWSS) on December 10.

The selected applicant will receive the Nowak Urban Innovation Award and be awarded $50,000 in grant funding to implement their proposal.


At our Ideas We Should Steal Festival on December 10, The Philadelphia Citizen announced the second annual Jeremy Nowak Urban Innovation Award, a grant provided by Spring Point Partners to bring to our city an idea inspired by one solution discussed at the event.

At the festival, we heard 17 speakers and panelists identify specific solutions that have worked in other cities and could help solve key challenges here in Philadelphia.

We asked our audience to help us choose which solutions were most worth replicating locally by rating the ideas throughout the day and enabling our broader Citizen audience to weigh in following the festival.

We have tallied the results and three ideas rose to the top. Now we’re calling on civic innovators to propose how they would most effectively use this Nowak Award funding to make one of these three solutions a reality here in Philadelphia.


The Citizen will accept Nowak Urban Innovation Award proposals that are inspired by one of these three solutions:

1. Reducing Gun Violence … By Half

In Oakland, California, a collaborative effort called CeaseFire dramatically cut the city’s homicide rate over seven years. See IWSS speaker David Muhammad talk about the effort here:

2. Empowering Public Servants to be Problem Solvers

Giving city workers the ability—and power—to take charge can make cities work better for everyone.

3. No Workshop, No Jumpshot: Using Hoops to Keep People Out of Prison

A program started by a recently returned citizen has cut gun violence, brought communities together and reduced incarceration rates in Richmond, Virginia.


Who Should Apply

Anyone who shares The Citizen’s deep commitment to moving Philadelphia forward and has the organizational capacity to advance one of these three ideas in a strategic, locally focused and sustainable way.

Applicants must demonstrate a genuine commitment to the goals of their proposal and a track record of accomplishment that suggests their ability to successfully execute their proposed plan.

Applicants can be individuals, organizations, or a partnership of individuals or organizations. While individuals are welcome to apply, we highly encourage established organizations or partnerships collaborating strategically on this application.

We encourage applicants to forge working relationships with the communities they will be serving with their solution.


Nowak Urban Innovation Grant proposals should be a broad concept paper, a total of 2 pages or less, that includes the following details:

Applying Entity

Who are you? Describe the individual, organization or partnership submitting this proposal. Identify your current work and how it aligns with the goals of your proposal.

Solution You Will Import to Philadelphia

Describe which of the three specific solutions mentioned above that you seek to bring to Philadelphia. Explain what draws you to this project; why that solution’s model or approach is necessary in Philadelphia; and what specific impacts your success will have on Philadelphia.

Project Build-Out & Launch

Outline your plan to build-out this solution locally. Please, include:

  • Scope and scale of your plan
  • Staffing needs
  • Timeline of work
  • Key benchmarks

Impact Measurement

Identify the metrics you plan to use to measure the success and impact of the project.


Include a project budget.


Proposals are due at 5pm on February 24, 2020.

Please submit all proposals to:

[email protected]

Please submit questions to:

[email protected]


January 16: Open call for proposals

February 24: Proposals due

March 1 (approximately): Finalist follow-up interviews

March 15: Nowak Award winner announced


Nowak Urban Innovation Award Selection Committee will judge proposals on the following

  • Clarity: Proposal articulates a clear, specific, and actionable plan.
  • Capacity: Applicant demonstrates knowledge of the subject area, experience and track record of success, and organizational competence to execute their plan to completion.
  • Need: Plan seeks to addresses a clear and immediate challenge facing Philadelphia or a specific group of Philadelphians.
  • Partnership: Applicants prioritizes collaboration with local leadership and applicable organizations as well as national partners who originated the proposed solution or who add content-related expertise.
  • Leveraged Support: Identifies additional partnerships and/or funding avenues that that would supplement, expand, and ensure ongoing sustainability of the proposal.

Selection Committee

Proposals will be reviewed by a small committee that includes representatives from The Philadelphia Citizen, the Nowak family, and civic and philanthropic leaders in the region.


The Philadelphia Citizen is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan media organization that pairs solutions-oriented journalism with calls for civic action. By offering deep local reporting and thoughtful public programming, The Citizen works to ensure Philadelphians are better equipped to move their city forward. This effort is part of The Citizen’s ongoing effort to provide action-minded Philadelphians with the opportunity to make a meaningful impact on our communities.

Photo by ActionVance on Unsplash

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