Engage Cincy now accepting applications for innovation and engagement grants

Engage Cincy, the community engagement innovation challenge sponsored by the city manager’s office, is now accepting applications for round two of the grant competition.
“A thriving, vibrant city requires continuous fostering of constructive engagement between people of diverse backgrounds, views and circumstance,” said City Manager Harry Black. “Our intention with this program is to encourage creative ideas that will have real and positive impact, furthering those priorities.”
Four Engage Cincy grants were awarded in 2016:“I’m very pleased with the outcome of those projects as they came to fruition over the past months,” Black said. “The potential for continuing and growing these projects is very encouraging, especially the Cincinnati Neighborhood Games, which proved to be a hit right out of the gate.”
The first year of the program was intentionally broad in scope, and the city received 188 applications — over three times what they expected. For round two of Engage Cincy, the city manager’s office has focused the guidelines on three areas where engagement and innovation could make a critical impact: healthy food access, civic connections through technology and improving livability.
“An ongoing challenge for Cincinnati, and for a lot of cities, is providing healthy, robust food options for people in all neighborhoods,” Black said. “Some real creativity is needed here because the profit margins are so thin for fresh food retailers. How do we ensure everybody, regardless of easy access to transportation/mobility, socioeconomic status, etc., has access to, and is encouraged to make, healthier food choices?”
Applicants who have an idea that can be implemented within the grant period are preferred, but grants can be used to cover ideation and development, in addition to activation expenses.
“We know there are a lot of very savvy people who are finding all kinds of new ways to use social media, meta-data, smart technologies, etc., to solve problems and to entertain,” Black said. ‘We are looking for creative ways to tie this together and better engage city government with people, and connect people with each other.”
The Engage Cincy submissions can be focused on a specific community or address the city as a whole.
“We want to enhance the quality of life for an area or a group of people,” Black said. “This could mean any number of things — it depends on the challenges someone may see in front of them that they want to positively impact. This could be blight, crime, education or a whole myriad of things. How can engagement move the needle on these serious issues?”
Applications will be accepted online through Dec. 11, and are open to individuals, nonprofit organizations and companies based in Cincinnati, although collaborative efforts are encouraged. A selection committee of city staff and community leaders will narrow down the finalists for further interviews over the winter. The winners, each receiving up to $10,000, will be announced at the Cincinnati Neighborhood Summit in March.
“Our program is unique and we feel it could act as a best practice for other cities looking for fresh ideas,” Black said. “We are excited to continue the program, and we encourage everyone out there to check out the website and work with your friends to submit an application.”

Read more articles by Julie Carpenter.

Julie Carpenter is a jack-of-all-trades with a background in cultural heritage tourism, museums and nonprofit organizations. She's a bit obsessed with the built environment and irregularly shares her musings on architecture, urban planning and city life on Facebook and Twitter (@StrawStickBrick).
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