Application Information

Cities are comprised of many systems: social networks, labor markets, and economies of opportunities; water, air, and energy ecosystems; transport and other infrastructure networks. They are built environments, but also social, cultural and economic contexts. 

Policymakers, businesses and communities shape cities. Their initiatives – from housing developments to pop-up restaurants; master plans to building codes; metro lines to bicycle sharing; wetland restorations to rainwater harvesting – affect the form, function and appearance of the city in various ways.

Some projects have a substantially greater impact than others, affecting change beyond their immediate environs, overturning entrenched patterns of behavior, and opening new possibilities for entire neighborhoods and cities. And we need more of them. Cities need more than minor course corrections to achieve environmental, economic and social goals while accommodating the more than 2.5 billion new residents expected by 2050.

The WRI Ross Prize for Cities will identify and celebrate the high-impact projects that have changed cities. The WRI Ross Prize will share replicable best practices across cities, and draw attention to exciting initiatives that can serve as lighthouse examples for other cities across the world, shining a light on models of urban development and the processes that enabled them.

Eligibility Criteria

  • Organizations in charge of leading all types of projects and initiatives – including built projects, changes in legislation, policies, programs or initiatives – are invited to apply if they have led to demonstrable transformative change in the city.
  • Projects must have started implementation no earlier than 1998 and should have already demonstrated economic, environmental and/or social tangible impacts in the cities that they are in, if not at a larger scale. Plans, or anticipated future impact, will not be considered. See FAQ for more information.
  • There is no minimum scale of project or minimum cut-off for economic, environmental or social impact.
  • All types of organizations from public, private and not-for-profit sectors are eligible to apply for the prize. The application requires a working bank account, basic background check and self-certification of contributions for the winning project to award the cash prize. See Terms and Conditions for further details.

Selection Process

  1. Brief application [February 2018 - June 2018]: Projects considered for the prize will be selected through a process of either: 
    1. Open application: An organization can submit a self-nomination to highlight a project they are working on or have worked on.
    2. Sourcing applications: The WRI Ross Prize Advisory Council will recommend projects, which will be invited to apply.
  2. Semi-finalists selection [July 2018 - October 2018]: WRI will review applications, selecting 20 semi-finalists. Semi-finalists may be contacted to provide additional information, which will aid WRI in identifying five finalists. 
  3. Finalists' selection [November 2018 - March 2019]: Selection of five finalists will involve an in-depth review, including site visit. Documented project information will be sent to the Jury, a group of globally recognized individuals, for final selection.
  4. Announcement of winner at gala event [April 10, 2019]: All finalists will be invited to the event.

Assessment Criteria

The WRI Ross Prize seeks to identify and celebrate transformative projects that have had tangible impacts on at least one of three dimensions of city achievements: economic vitality and resilience, environmental sustainability, and social wellbeing. Each of these dimensions can manifest and be measured in various ways, for example:

Economic: Increased vitality of surroundings/neighborhoods or city, an improvement in city revenues, new/different businesses and jobs – a move from “sunset or traditional” sectors to “new economy” opportunities, accelerated investment rates.

Environmental: Increased resilience (for example: to flooding, extreme weather, heat islands), lower emissions and greater resource efficiency, cleaner air and water, increased biodiversity, reduced congestion and more green space.

Social: New and active networks, more social cohesion, safer and healthier communities, greater equity in access to urban opportunities, improved representation and opportunities for civic engagement.

The Resources for Applicants provides a more comprehensive list of possible indicators that can be used to show impact as well as models for applicants to present the strongest possible cases.

How have transformational projects happened? The main focus of the WRI Ross Prize is to identify and celebrate demonstrably transformative projects. As a think-and-do tank, however, we cannot help but ask how? How have transformative projects unfolded – and what can we learn to guide future initiatives as they seek to scale impact from neighborhood to cities and beyond? We therefore also include questions about the process so that we can test standing hypotheses about the way transformative projects take place.

WRI has identified five components from both the process of implementation and the impact that help understand how cities are transformed. These five variables are:

  • Transparency: The project has mechanisms that allow people to access information regarding the initiative.
  • Inclusion: There are two categories to consider:
    • Inclusion in Implementation: Project planning and implementation have provided opportunities for community and stakeholder involvement and input.
    • Inclusion in Benefits: Project was designed targeting benefits to vulnerable, disadvantaged or marginalized populations.
  • Innovation: The project has adopted new approaches to solve a defined societal problem. Innovative ideas might reimagine or drastically improve how cities deliver services, create efficiencies or improve citizen engagement.
  • Replication: Project has been replicated in other geographies.
  • Leverage: The project has mobilized other projects, expanding the original scope.

For more guidance on submitting a successful application, please consult our Resources for Applicants.

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