Taking a New Approach to Solving Urban Problems: A call for Mexican Cities to Participate in the Multi-City Challenge

Brooklyn, New York, February 27, 2020 — Today, The Governance Lab (The GovLab) at New York University Tandon School of Engineering has opened the call for Mexican municipalities to apply to participate in its Multi-City Challenge 2020, a program that aims to solve urban problems by partnering with the people most affected by these problems – city residents. The GovLab is inviting four cities from border states in northern Mexico to join a program that will help cities partner with their residents to find novel, creative and bold solutions to some of their cities’ longest-standing and difficult problems.

Led by Professor Beth Simone Noveck, a former adviser to President Barack Obama, The GovLab will work with the municipality of San Pedro Garza García and four other municipalities, coaching their public servants to design and implement powerful and data-driven policy proposals in partnership with local residents. Representatives of cities in northern Mexico with populations of more than 100,000 who seek to enhance the municipality’s innovative capacity can apply here. The last day to apply is March 30, 2020.

Urban areas– where eight out of ten Mexican people live – face many challenges, including traffic gridlock, increased pollution, degraded environments and increasingly frustrated citizens. This trend will not change unless governments and the community change the way they solve problems.

The GovLab has demonstrated that these complex problems can be addressed most effectively by involving citizens in the design of local solutions. Its approach is based on the use of new technology and data, trials of promising approaches, and the collective intelligence of both experts and ordinary people. The Multi-City Challenge 2020 provides funds, expertise and the methods to innovate; citizens and civic leaders provide the vision.

Public servants in participating cities will join a network of public sector innovators and gain access to expert advice and coaching from mentors from Mexico, the United States, and around the world. They will also have the opportunity to work with other participating cities in finding innovative solutions to shared urban problems.

In the first phase, public servants will be coached on problem definition in order to define the challenges to be solved in partnership with the community. Residents will then be invited to propose solutions to these problems. In a third phase, residents and public servants will work together to  develop these ideas into prototypes and concrete plans. The initiative will provide funding to implement the projects and develop roadmaps for scaling them. 

“Medium and small cities often lack policymaking resources,” said Professor Noveck. “By running our City Challenge simultaneously across multiple cities we can pool resources, including citizen know how, specialist expertise, to produce solutions that are cost effective, have significant buy-in from the public, and are ready to be implemented virtually straight away.”  

The Multi-City Challenge 2020 aligns with United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 11, which promotes sustainable cities. The Multi-City Challenge, which is supported by the Tinker Foundation and Consejo Nuevo León, seeks to build on the success of GovLab’s earlier City Challenges pilot in San Pedro Garza García, which led to new policies and services to improve life for residents. Cities will be chosen by an international and Mexico-based board of advisors following a competitive process.

For more information please visit multicitychallenge.org or contact us at [email protected]




About The Governance Lab at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering

The Governance Lab seeks to improve people’s lives by changing the way our societies are governed. Our goal is to strengthen the ability of governments and other institutions, and of citizens, to work more openly, collaboratively, effectively, and legitimately in order to make better decisions and solve public problems. We believe that governance can be transformed by increased availability and use of data, new ways to leverage the capacity, intelligence, and expertise of people in the problem-solving process, combined with new advances in technology and science. Irrespective of the problem, sector, geography, and level of government, we approach each challenge and opportunity in an interdisciplinary, collaborative way.. For more information, visit thegovlab.org.


About the Tinker Foundation

The Tinker Foundation was established in 1959 by Edward Larocque Tinker, who believed that the wellbeing of the peoples of all the Americas depended upon their mutual trust, friendship, and cooperation. The foundation seeks to promote the development of an equitable, sustainable, and productive society in Latin America, with a commitment to funding organizations based in the region. Through its grantmaking, Tinker supports work in the areas of democratic governance, education, and sustainable resource management. 


About the Consejo Nuevo León

The Nuevo León Council for Strategic Planning is a non-partisan, consultative and proactive government agency that focuses on strategic planning and its evaluation in the city of Nuevo León. Its uses the State Strategic Planning Law to plan and evaluate public policies for the long-term development of the city and the well-being of its inhabitants. For more information visit http://www.conl.mx.


About the New York University Tandon School of Engineering

The NYU Tandon School of Engineering dates to 1854, the founding date for both the New York University School of Civil Engineering and Architecture and the Brooklyn Collegiate and Polytechnic Institute (widely known as Brooklyn Poly). A January 2014 merger created a comprehensive school of education and research in engineering and applied sciences, rooted in a tradition of invention and entrepreneurship and dedicated to furthering technology in service to society. In addition to its main location in Brooklyn, NYU Tandon collaborates with other schools within NYU, one of the country’s foremost private research universities, and is closely connected to engineering programs at NYU Abu Dhabi and NYU Shanghai. It operates Future Labs focused on start-up businesses in Brooklyn and an award-winning online graduate program. For more information, visit http://engineering.nyu.edu.