The Obama era of urban policy used several discretionary and competitive grants to spur innovation and creativity in cities and states. For instance, the US Department of Education launched the Race to the Top program, which were grants to states that were leading plans for implementing coherent, compelling, and comprehensive education reform. The SC2 Economic Visioning Challenge (EVC) reflects this line of thinking and created a competition with incentives to awarded cities that came up with solutions for economic challenges with resources for implementation.
The SC2 EVC was a national prize competition that rewarded cities with grants in hopes that the winner would encourage local innovation. In collaboration with the US Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration, the challenge offered cash rewards for “strategic economic transition planning” to Greensboro, North Carolina; Hartford, Connecticut; and Las Vegas, Nevada). The challenge aimed to help create solutions for cities experiencing chronic economic distress with input from diverse perspectives and multidisciplinary teams. The Economic Development Administration hosted the challenge in the three cities to procure “innovation, creative, and transformational” economic development ideas. Each city was rewarded $1 million in 2012 to launch their competitions.
Through this competition, the EVC produced comprehensive economic development blueprints for all three cities. There were two phases of the competition, and more than 140 teams registered to compete. The first phase required teams to submit an economic development proposal. In the second phase, 26 finalists from the first phase submitted a comprehensive economic development plan that required community engagement and provided actionable goals and objectives. All three cities were awarded $2.5 million in cash prizes to the teams with the best plans, including a $500,000 cash prize to each city’s first-place team.