News and Announcements / News and Announcements

The Rockefeller Foundation and Unreasonable Institute Launch $1 Million Competition for Next Generation Leaders to Identify Innovative Solutions to Urban Challenges

Ten winners will be awarded $100,000 each and will participate in an intensive nine-month program.

‘Future Cities Accelerator’ will also provide winners with access to additional funders and technical resources to scale their innovations to address complex urban challenges.

San Francisco, CA—The Rockefeller Foundation and Unreasonable Institute today announced the launch of the Future Cities Accelerator, a $1 million urban innovation competition to spur next generation leaders to develop revolutionary solutions to complex urban problems facing poor or vulnerable people in cities across the country. Ten winners will receive $100,000 each and will participate in a 9-month intensive program giving them access to business leaders, investors, and technical support to develop their programs.

The Future Cities Accelerator, powered by The Rockefeller Foundation and Unreasonable Institute, calls on next generation innovators to submit proposals that are scalable for greater impact in solving urban challenges like crime, pollution, education, inequality, infrastructure, climate change and more. The competition launched today, August 12, and applicants have until September 25 to submit proposals. The Unreasonable Institute will manage the process, which includes multiple rounds of examination and review. Final winners will be announced on January 4, 2017. Each winner will have access to a series of high-profile mentors including Tom Chi, formerly of Google X and Co-Founder of Google Glass; Jamie Van Leeuwen, Senior Advisor to Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper; and Dan Rosen, Founder and President of Mosaic; and will attend a five-day accelerator at Unreasonable Institute’s headquarters in Boulder, CO where they will be given an opportunity to engage with potential partners and investors.

“Cities today are growing, and so are their challenges, which puts them at a crossroads—continue down the same path or transform to better prepare for the shocks and stresses of the 21st century. Fortunately cities are also where solutions are emerging, and The Rockefeller Foundation seeks to encourage this innovation from next generation leaders across all sectors. We believe transformation is key, and this competition is designed to spark the development of catalytic solutions that can be exported around the world,” said Judith Rodin, president of The Rockefeller Foundation.

“In recent years, we have seen storms batter coastal cities like New York, New Orleans and Houston; riots and violence rock Dallas, Baltimore and St. Louis; and cities like Detroit struggle through the loss of their manufacturing and jobs. As we seek solutions to these 21st century challenges, we want to encourage innovation and risk-taking, and draw upon the talent of our next generation leaders,” said Josh Murphy, senior program associate at The Rockefeller Foundation.

“It’s easy to think there’s nothing we can do about the tragedies in our cities we read about in the news every single day” said Teju Ravilochan, co-founder and CEO of Unreasonable Institute. “But there are so many people across the United States on the frontlines, driving change as we speak. We get to find them and help them. We get to tell their stories. And thanks to The Rockefeller Foundation, we get to provide them with funding and guidance to amplify their work. That gives me hope.”

The Rockefeller Foundation has long viewed cities as places of innovation and ingenuity, and is committed to building resilience and more inclusive economies within them. The Future Cities Accelerator is the latest partnership in a series of innovative urban challenges spearheaded by the Foundation. Most recently, 100 Resilient Cities, an urban challenge pioneered by The Rockefeller Foundation, announced its 100th city, the milestone for which the initiative was named.

Today’s announcement came at the Millennial Tech & Change Summit in San Francisco, sponsored by Comcast NBC Universal. The event also included panels moderated by local mayors, with entrepreneurs and others speaking on a variety of topics including innovation, resilience, and inclusive economies.

About The Rockefeller Foundation
For more than 100 years, The Rockefeller Foundation’s mission has been to promote the well-being of humanity throughout the world. Today, The Rockefeller Foundation pursues this mission through dual goals: advancing inclusive economies that expand opportunities for more broadly shared prosperity, and building resilience by helping people, communities and institutions prepare for, withstand, and emerge stronger from acute shocks and chronic stresses. To achieve these goals, The Rockefeller Foundation works at the intersection of four focus areas—advance health, revalue ecosystems, secure livelihoods, and transform cities—to address the root causes of emerging challenges and create systemic change. Together with partners and grantees, The Rockefeller Foundation strives to catalyze and scale transformative innovations, create unlikely partnerships that span sectors, and take risks others cannot—or will not. To learn more, please visit

About Unreasonable Institute
Unreasonable Institute gets entrepreneurs what they need to scale solutions to the world’s biggest problems at diverse in person programs (ranging from 5 days to 5 weeks). Unreasonable Institute does this by identifying entrepreneurs with the potential to address problems like poverty, lack of education, and social injustice at scale, and then by swarming them with training, hand-picked mentors, funders, and partners to help grow their impact. Since launching in 2009, they’ve launched programs in 30 locations in 24 countries. Their 150 alumni of their first five programs have raised over $100 million and measurably benefitted at least eight million lives.

Media Contact:
Stephanie Reichin,