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Win $50,000 To Solve a Problem in Philly

Apply by February 1 for the Jeremy Nowak Urban Innovation Award. Find out how to apply here

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 three top-rated solutions presented at our November 30th “Ideas We Should Steal” Festival.  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 November 30th, The Philadelphia Citizen was honored to announce the Jeremy Nowak Urban Innovation Award, a grant provided by Spring Point Partners to bring one solution discussed at the event to our city.

At the Festival, we heard 16 speakers and panelists identify 14 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 of those solutions was 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 following three proven national urban solutions received the most interest from our audience. The Citizen will accept Nowak Urban Innovation Award proposals that seek to import one of these three solutions to Philadelphia:

1. Mitigate Gentrification by Developing Neighborhoods With Current Residents—Not Despite Them

Cat Goughnour’s Portland-based Right 2 Root actively involves existing communities in how their neighborhoods develop, as a way to help keep people—particularly underserved populations—in their homes.

Watch Goughnour present her idea here:


Listen here:

Read more about Right 2 Root here:



2. Reduce the Effects of Gentrification with Storytelling…and Bikes

Detroit-based Pedal to Porch recruits residents to share stories about their neighborhood to participants traveling by bike from house to house. It is proving that connection between newer and older residents is one way to soften the effects of gentrification in cities.

Watch Cornetta Lane talk about her idea here:


Listen here:

Read more about Pedal to Porch here:



3. Fight gun crime with pocket parks

This one is slightly different because it’s home-grown: Penn professors and the Horticulture Society made pocket parks out of abandoned lots in North Philly. It reduced crime and improved mental health. NYU Professor Eric Klinenberg suggested broadening the efforts citywide.

Watch Klinenberg talk about it here, around the 9:30 mark:


Listen here:

Read more about it here:


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 local applicants to forge working relationships with the originators of the idea they seek to replicate or scale in Philadelphia.


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, above, 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 make 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 Friday, February 1, 2018

Please submit all proposals to:

[email protected]

Please submit questions to:

[email protected]


December 17: Open Call for Proposals

February 1: Proposals Due

February 22: Finalist Follow-Up Interviews

Week of February 25: 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.

The Philadelphia Citizen will only publish thoughtful, civil posts. We reserve the right to remove offensive commentary.

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