$50,000 Grant Challenges LB to Be More Business Friendly

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The City of Long Beach has been awarded a $50,000 grant from the Knight Foundation and the Long Beach Community Foundation to support a partnership with Citymart. The New York-based firm connects cities with new ideas through “open challenges” that help the city focus on the problems that need to be solved instead of the products they need to buy. By issuing challenges in lieu of requests for proposals and specifications, cities receive proven, innovative solutions.

Mayor Robert Garcia learned about Citymart during a Citylab conference in New York that was sponsored by Bloomberg Philanthropies. Seeing the potential impact, he worked with the City Manager’s Office to bring Citymart to Long Beach. “I’m proud that Long Beach is one of the first cities to implement this new approach to procurement,” said Mayor Garcia. “This not only has the potential to save the city money, it’s a great way to support innovation in both the private and public sectors.”

Over the next 18 months, the City of Long Beach will launch five challenges. Citymart staff will play a consulting role, helping City staff and community stakeholders define the challenges and envision outcomes. Once a challenge is clearly defined, Citymart conducts research, identifies market leaders, proven innovators, universities, and local businesses with possible solutions and urges them to respond to the open challenge. Responses are then rigorously evaluated and winning challenges are implemented.

“Many smaller companies and entrepreneurs find it difficult to participate in opportunities with cities using the traditional process” said Sascha Haselmayer, founder and CEO of Citymart. “They rarely think of cities as potential customers. Through the challenges and our extensive networks, we are able to engage them, producing a broader and deeper pool of respondents.” Citymart has helped provide solutions to more than 50 world-class cities, including London, San Francisco, and Barcelona, Spain.

The City of Long Beach has identified the first challenge: Being the Most Business-Friendly City. In the coming weeks, the project team will reach out to local stakeholders to gain their insight into these challenges. Subsequent challenges will be identified through robust input processes, including solicitation of city staff and the public.

“This type of civic innovation offers vendors the chance to solve problems and inspire entrepreneurs to create and compete,” said Marcelle Epley, President and CEO of the Long Beach Community Foundation (LBCF). “This grant, was made possible through the Knight Foundation’s charitable giving fund held at LBCF and is a testament to their vision of how cities can work better.”

The project also enjoys support from Bloomberg Philanthropies, whose $3 million grant provides funding for the City’s Innovation Team, whose staff are facilitating project management.

Community outreach will begin soon. Businesses interested in participating can anticipate official publication of the challenges in the next eight weeks.

About Long Beach Community Foundation
The Long Beach Community Foundation is a nonprofit, public organization with over $25 million in assets and 96 charitable funds, whose mission is to initiate positive change for Long Beach through charitable giving, stewardship, and strategic grantmaking with a vision of being the preeminent steward of endowments serving the needs of Long Beach in perpetuity. LBCF operations are overseen by President and CEO Marcelle Epley, Board Chair Jane Netherton, Vice Chair Blake Christian, and members Bill Barnes, Gary DeLong, Michele Dobson, Bob Foster, Donita Joseph, Annette Kashiwabara, Walter Larkins, Donna Reckseen, Judy Ross, Robert Stemler, and Judy Vander Lans.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.

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