A biannual competition, the Ideas Challenge identifies leaders who promote innovative and sustainable solutions to the complex issues affecting our economic well-being, overall quality of life and the ability of government to work effectively to meet communities’ needs.

The winners, already a part of the NewDEAL network of 165+ state and local officials and their continuing efforts to spread pro-growth initiatives, get their ideas added to an agenda NewDEAL promotes as examples for the country to follow. Winners for this year’s Ideas Challenge were selected in the following categories:

Adapting to the future of work with ideas to ensure everyone – including traditionally underserved populations – has access to good job opportunities, as well as security and stability for them and their families

Expanding access to education, with opportunities at every level -- from early childhood to post-secondary -- to prepare students to make the most of their abilities

Securing our communities and our planet with ideas for states, cities and regions to address climate change

Empowering disadvantaged populations with policies that ensure people facing systemic obstacles have a fair shot to contribute and thrive

Rebuilding community by effectively and efficiently solving problems, building trust and engaging people in civic society

Adapting to the Future of Work: Creating Portable Benefits   Senator Eric Lesser Longmeadow, Massachusetts

The Problem

The “gig economy” has disrupted the normal 9-to-5 job in many communities, and the part-time employees and independent contractors working in this new industry often lack access to traditional benefits such as health insurance, paid sick leave and retirement plans. Due to the instability that is inherent to so much of their jobs, these non-traditional workers have a critical need for workplace benefits.

The Idea

A new bill would establish an innovation fund and competitive grants program to support policy experimentation around new benefits models for non-traditional workers. The goal is to implement a statewide program that encourages employers and organizations to provide this new workforce with access to the same social insurance protections traditionally provided to full-time employees.

Learn more.

Read about the finalists in this category:

PTSD Coverage for First Responders – Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, Norwalk, Connecticut

Accelerated Career Certification for the Unemployed/Underemployed – Senator Troy Singleton, Moorestown, New Jersey

Expanding Access to Education: ACCESS (Affordable College & Career Education Starts with Saving)  Councilmember Elizabeth Brown  Columbus, Ohio

The Problem

In many cities across the country, the ZIP code in which you live is the most predictive factor in your health, wealth and other life outcomes. Children from lower-income families often don’t have the same level of access to post-secondary education, making it more difficult to obtain a good-paying job and support a family – further perpetuating the cycle.

The Idea

The Columbus ACCESS pilot addresses barriers that prevent lower-income youth from achieving a post-secondary education. Through the Recreation and Parks Department’s Applications for Purpose, Pride and Success (APPS) program, participants are placed in a job and receive professional development, financial education and mentoring. Eligible youth also have access to an Individual Development Account (IDA) where up to $500 in savings will be matched 8:1 with a combination of city, private and federal dollars, for a total of $4,500. Participants can use the funds for any eligible educational expense, including earning a certificate, seeking a four-year degree or learning a trade. Overall, the pilot seeks to create a level playing field and drive opportunity for the communities in most need.

Learn more.

Read about the finalists in this category:

Library in Every School Plan – House Democratic Whip Darrin Camilleri, Brownstown, Michigan

Alabama School of Cyber Technology & Engineering – House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels, Huntsville, Alabama

Securing Our Communities and Our Planet: A Resilient Zoning Code for a Coastal Community  Councilmember Andria McClellan  Norfolk, Virginia

The Problem

With 144 miles of coastline, a rising sea level, sinking land and intensifying precipitation events, Norfolk is at significant risk of flooding. In fact, the city is planning for 1.5’ of sea level rise by 2050, 3’ by 2080 and 4.5’ by 2100. Tidal flooding regularly inundates areas and “rain bombs” dump inches of rain in a short period of time, damaging structures and putting the city’s 250,000 residents in harm’s way.

The Idea

To proactively address future flooding and protect the built environment and residents, a new zoning code was implemented, including:

  • Elevated building requirements (between 16” to 3’ above base flood elevation)
  • A Coastal Resilience Overlay (limited parking and impervious pavement, additional landscaping and open space); and Upland Resilience Overlay (reduction of resilience requirements allowed in exchange for placing conservation easements on higher-risk properties)
  • A Resilient Quotient, a point-based system for new development to mitigate risk and support sustainable practices

This first-of-its-kind zoning code openly addresses climate change and challenges the building industry to invest more in properties up front to help lower flood insurance costs and mitigate future damage.

Learn more.

Read about the finalists in this category:

Schools as a Center of Sustainability – School Board Member Laura Capps, Santa Barbara, California

Sustainable Communities – Mayor Josh Maxwell, Downingtown, Pennsylvania

Empowering Disadvantaged Communities: West Sacramento On-Demand: Mobility for All  Mayor Christopher Cabaldon  West Sacramento, California

The Problem

In recent years, West Sacramento has seen a decline in transit ridership due to rising costs and lack of convenience. The lack of transit alternatives has resulted in parking demand challenges and has negatively impacted certain demographics like a growing senior population.

The Idea

West Sacramento On-Demand is a unique micro-transit service that closes the gap between ridesharing services and traditional bus routes to serve all members of the community at a low flat-rate. The city used local Transportation Development Act (TDA) funds to partner with Via and deploy rideshare as a public transportation option. Ridership now exceeds 10,000 monthly and user feedback is positive. Seventy-five percent of riders say their satisfaction with the city’s transportation system has grown; 66 percent say they feel safer getting around town; 59 percent have a greater sense of independence; and 41 percent say their access to healthy foods and medical care has increased. West Sacramento has already started building a coalition to remove funding roadblocks for this type of innovative transit option across the county. The city has partnered with the city of Arlington, Texas, and over 50 domestic and international government organizations have contacted the city to learn more.

Learn more.

Read about the finalists in this category:

Fair Fees and Fines for Vulnerable Residents – Treasurer José Cisneros, San Francisco, California

Helping Understand Barriers (HUB) Prosecutor Diversion Program – City Attorney Zach Klein, Columbus, Ohio

Rebuilding Community: Transit Corridor Opportunity Program   Councilmember Nirva LaFortune  Providence, Rhode Island

The Problem

Many challenges that communities face, such as last-mile connections, access to reliable transportation, affordable housing and employment opportunities, are interdependent but often approached individually. Like many cities, Providence has lacked a comprehensive solution that can help mitigate these systemic issues.

The Idea

The Transit Corridor Opportunity Program (TCOP) promotes private and public partnerships to increase housing and economic development in high-transit corridors. By incorporating goals for transportation, land use, economic development, and arts and culture in the planning process, TCOP addresses multiple issues with a comprehensive approach. The program benefits residents, small businesses, entrepreneurs and the local economy.

Learn more.

Read about the finalists in this category:

The Law Enforcement Trust and Transparency Act – Councilmember Will Jawando, Montgomery County, Maryland

Mobile Mayor – Mayor Libby Schaaf, Oakland, California