The Working Cities Challenge is a groundbreaking effort of The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston to support leaders who are reaching across sectors to ensure that smaller cities in Massachusetts and Rhode Island are places of opportunity and prosperity for low-income and residents of color by leading teams in Massachusetts and Rhode Island through a rigorous process that builds cross-sector collaborations.
Modeled after Living Cities' signature effort, The Integration Initiative (TII), the Working Cities Challenge pushes cities to tap the wisdom of all sectors to develop transformative partnerships that will bring deep and lasting change. The Challenge was funded by and designed in partnership with the Boston Fed’s own network of cross-sector collaborators, which takes the form of a Steering Committee comprised of leaders from the public, private, and philanthropic sectors. Living Cities is proud to serve as one of these partners and believes in the potential power of The Federal Reserve Banks as influencers, conveners, and research partners for enduring change in places. The resulting Challenge takes the shape of a competition whereby an independent jury of experts evaluates teams' applications against criteria that reflect the core elements of the Working Cities Challenge: leading collaboratively across sectors, engaging diverse community members, using evidence to track progress toward a shared goal, and working to improve the lives of low-income and residents of color by changing systems.
The Role of the Boston Fed
The Boston Fed’s role in the competition includes designing and implementing the model in partnership with the Steering Committee, providing one-on-one coaching to winning teams, and helping teams build capacity by linking them to experts, best practices, and opportunities for peer networking through a Learning Community designed to be responsive to teams' interests and needs.
The inaugural round of the Boston Fed’s Working Cities Challenge was launched in May 2013, with six cities awarded a combined $1.8 million in grant awards in January 2014. Four of those six cities were awarded multi-year grants, while two received seed awards. The cities have made tremendous progress one year into their efforts, and work is ongoing. For more on the cities and their progress, visit The Cities overview pages and our Progress Report.
Applications for the second round of the Challenge were submitted in September of 2015. As with The Integration Initiative, it became clear during the first round that developing competitive and viable initiatives requires capacity and time. Round 2 thus involves a two-step process: first, one team from each eligible city applied and competed for design grants of $15,000 to support a six-month design phase. Ten design grantees were selected by independent selection committee to receive the grant, as well as technical assistance and capacity building workshop sessions. Upon completion of the design phase, grantees will be invited to submit applications for implementation prizes in May 2016. An independent expert jury will evaluate applications and announce Challenge winners by July 2016.
The State of Rhode Island recently began its Working Cities initiative as the next state where the Federal Reserve Bank is expanding the competition. WCC will offer this economic development opportunity to (13) eligible Rhode Island cities, in an effort designed to strengthen cross sector collaboration and leadership in the Ocean State’s postindustrial cities. The effort will require city teams to concentrate on issues affecting lower-income residents and people of color and include those constituents in the planning and designing of the initiative.
The Governor’s administration in Rhode Island supports Working Cities and has committed matched public funding to the initiative. Living Cities, and other key public and private funders, will provide additional funding for the competition. The Boston Fed continues to build partnerships with public, private and community partners in Rhode Island as it creates specifications that will be required for the Challenge.