Resources for Applicants

Below are some resources that may be helpful for developing a robust and competitive application for the WRI Ross Prize for Cities. The key is specificity: being clear and detailed about what your project has achieved. There is no hard and fast lower boundary of “transformative,” but keep in mind that transformative is defined as a “thorough or dramatic change in form, function or appearance,” and that we are looking for projects that have changed their cities. You should be able to clearly point out project impacts that go beyond a single neighborhood.

Three Dimensions

There are three dimensions of transformation, each of which can be measured in various ways. We do not expect all of the changes to be positive for everybody influenced by the project, and we ask that negative impacts be reported alongside the positive transformation.


  • Increased vitality of surrounding neighborhoods, improvement in city revenues, new/different businesses and jobs – a move from “sunset” sectors to “new economy” opportunities, accelerated investment rates.

  • Possible Indicators: increase in the number of new businesses, expanded range of services, increase in investment in the city (e.g. private investment); increase in budget allocation from national governments; increase in the number of jobs created and/or retained; increased wages, especially for low-income populations and/or women; improved rates of tax collection/revenues; decrease in income disparity across class, race, ethnicity or gender.


  • Increased resilience to weather events, lower emissions and greater resource efficiency, cleaner air and water, increased biodiversity and more green space.

  • Possible Indicators: improved air quality (e.g. reduced levels of PM2.5, reduced number of days with haze); improved solid waste management practices, resulting in lower levels of improper waste disposal; reduced energy consumption among residential, commercial and/or governmental users; increase in land and habitat preservation, especially in ecologically diverse zones, increase in the area of green space, increase in the use of “green infrastructure,” providing flood protection; reduced area of permeable surfaces; reduced traffic congestion; increase of renewable energy in the energy portfolio mix of the city; increase in the volume of food produced within the urban administrative boundary; improvements in walkability (e.g. as measured through a walkability index), reduction of waste produced; improvements in water quality (both in drinking water and in waterways like canals, rivers, streams).


  • New and active networks, more social cohesion, safer and healthier communities, improved representation and civic engagement.

  • Possible Indicators: marginalized groups show an in increase in quality and access to basic services and opportunities (e.g. water, sanitation, healthcare, transportation, education); improved health outcomes, especially for poor and marginalized groups; evidence of strong community resilience (e.g. strength of participation in community formal and informal institutions; strength of social connectivity; dependency/ debt ratio); reduction in incidences of crime and violence; reduction in traffic accidents and injuries; increase in political representation of minority groups.

Five Components

For every application, we will be looking to understand the impacts that have resulted from the project. In particular, we will want to understand the transformation in relationship to the following:

  • 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.

  • Replicability: The project has been replicated in other geographies.

  • Leverage: The project has mobilized other projects, expanding the original scope.

When considering how to exposé your project, it is pertinent to ensure you are speaking both broadly and specifically about the impacts it has had.

For example, Brasil’s Minha Casa, Minha Vida program, which works to reduce the country’s housing shortage by providing affordable housing, worked with WRI to implement a transit-oriented development lens to their Junção project. This means taking a model that traditionally has been distant, dispersed and disconnected and shifting it to be compact, coordinated and connected. Typically, affordable housing has been on the outskirts of cities without access to the transportation grid and city center, resulting in a less engaged community. This project is simple enough at its core to be replicated in other geographic areas, and the transparent framework, which incorporated public participation, ensures engagement and continued investment. The project provided homes for 1,287 families and created approximately 900 job opportunities, thus touching upon the economic component of transformation.

For more on the Junção project and examples on how to display a project dynamically, please visit the following webpages:

Another example is the Cheonggyecheon River, in Seoul, South Korea. The river had been covered for use as a road since 1961, but significant structural issues which would have cost $95 million to fix, prompted the 10.9 kilometer long stretch to be restored to its natural state. Economically, the project increased the value of land by 30-50 percent. The number of businesses in the surrounding area grew by 3.5 percent, double the rate in the downtown Seoul area. The number of people working in the area also increased, by 0.8 percent. This contrasts with the overall trends of the city, which saw a decrease of 2.6 percent. Environmentally, the project addressed flooding concerns, encouraged biodiversity in the corridor, reduced urban heat island effect, and reduced small-particle air pollution by 35 percent. The project also rehabilitated historic cultural sites. The park now attracts 64,000 visitors daily, and has been linked to a 15.1 percent increase in bus ridership and a 3.3 percent increase in subway use.

For more on the Cheonggyecheon River project and examples on how to display a project dynamically, please visit the following webpages:

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