Engage Cincy Challenge offers $10k for innovative ideas to generate community engagement

The City of Cincinnati is rolling out the Engage Cincy Challenge to identify and fund innovative ideas to generate community engagement. Five winning applications will receive up to $10,000 each.
Cincinnati’s private sector has long encouraged innovation through numerous business accelerator programs as well as recent efforts that include supporting civic-minded individuals and organizations.
People’s Liberty launched in 2014 to provide grants, fellowships and residencies to individuals with ideas to improve Cincinnati. Earlier this year, Richard Rosenthal established Transform Cincinnati as a resource for matching individuals and organizations with big ideas for improving the quality of life in Cincinnati to large funding sources. 
Now the City of Cincinnati will fund innovative ways to generate engagement-based on proposals from members of the community.
“Cincinnati is unique in many ways,” City Manager Harry Black says. “Each of our 52 neighborhoods are well organized. I have not been in a city that has this level of structure, capacity and civic participation. Although we do a good job of community engagement with the tools we’re currently utilizing, with the mature network of neighborhoods in Cincinnati, can we take community engagement to the next level? And can the answer come from within the community?”
The Engage Cincy Challenge is open to individuals, businesses and organizations with creative ideas to help build community within a neighborhood or the city as a whole.
“We’re looking for innovative new approaches to elevate community engagement as it relates to the government connecting to its citizens, citizens communicating with the government and within the neighborhoods themselves,” Black says. “We want this to be a wide open process. Engage Cincy is an out-of-the-box thinking experience. We’re looking for innovative programs that  foster and nurture some sort of civic activity within a neighborhood that the city can support, further enable and perhaps scale up.”
Projects proposed for Engage Cincy don’t have to be completed by a designated deadline — the proposals can stipulate individual timelines.
“Once we accept and identify viable proposals, each of the grant recipients will be brought in to discuss our expectations as well as to think through their concept as it relates to measuring the impact, identifying potential outcomes and determining time lines,” Black says.
The City Manager has already received 19 applications for the Engage Cincy Challenge, which was announced Oct. 1. Submission deadline is Dec. 1.
Black says the applications will be reviewed and finalists selected by a committee made up of city employees and representatives from the business and nonprofit communities. He will choose the five winning proposals.
Winners will be announced at the Cincinnati Neighborhood Summit in March 2016, and each will receive up to $10,000 to develop, implement or complete their projects.
If the funded projects are successful in reaching their engagement goals, it’s possible they could be considered for future support to continue or to scale up and serve a larger audience.
“We are all about innovation,” Black says. “We’ve established a comprehensive and integrated performance management program that has been getting noticed on a national scale. I think all the pieces are in place in Cincinnati. The city is growing in all the right areas and the right ways. There is an air of innovation and excellence throughout the city, including our city government.”
The City Manager's Office will make a presentation and take questions about the new Engage Cincy program at the Invest in Neighborhoods meeting at 7 p.m. Oct. 22 at the Cincinnati Fire Museum downtown. Questions about the program and application can also be submitted via email.
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Read more articles by Julie Carpenter.

Julie Carpenter has a background in cultural heritage tourism, museums, and nonprofit organizations. She's the Executive Director of AIA Cincinnati.