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The Mayor’s Challenge

The Mayor’s Challenge

The Mayor’s Challenge 150 150 Suzanne

The Mayor’s Challenge is a major grant program provided by the Bloomberg Philanthropies which grants major urban centers monies for innovative projects. The urban districts are required to submit an idea, and winners are chosen based on which ideas could have the greatest impact on a broader scale.

This year’s main winner of the Mayor’s Challenge was the city of Providence, Rhode Island and the grant was crafted by its mayor, Angel Taveras. The innovative idea that was created centers on early literacy development and the use of technology to drive best practices in education. Other cities including Houston, Chicago, Philadelphia and Santa Monica also were winners of grant money this year.

For winning the ‘idea challenge’ part of the Mayor’s Challenge, the city of Providence will receive $5 million to implement a system to understand what works in verbal communication with children, tracking how many words a child is exposed to, and determining how the different quality of conversations impact literacy development.

This is a significant project, which could yield wide-ranging results applicable everywhere.  The children will have voice recognition monitors (digital language processors) taping their conversations with adults. Each conversation will be made into an audio file, and tallied for the number of words per conversation and the number of shifts within the conversation.

The data collected will be analyzed to determine what number of words, and how many concepts are best introduced to young children learning to speak, read and write. The data will also be used to develop training sessions with parents to coach them on best practices in early literacy development. Certainly, the data’s use in widespread parent engagement type seminars will impact a geographical area wider than the location of the grant.

Other project’s that won the ‘idea challenge’ included a citywide recycling initiative, in Houston, that allows mixed recycling and encourages participation in the ‘greening’ movement. In Philadelphia, a project analyzing procurement of supplies across the urban district is being implemented. Its goal is to widen the bidding process and drive down costs of supplies using smarter technologies.

In Chicago, the grant money is being put towards developing technology systems to track crime trends. In Santa Monica, a Wellness Project is getting underway to track the different influences on the overall health and wellness of the community. Each of these projects will generate usable, relevant data. The winning project however, focuses on the needs of young children. It combines the ways that technology can enhance our understanding of effective teaching practices, and brings attention to how we speak to our children. Well worth it!

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