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Barcelona most innovative

SHERRYLYN CLARKE, [email protected]

Barcelona most innovative

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NEW YORK (AP) – Barcelona, Spain, has captured the 5 million euro ($6.5 million) grand prize in a competition that spurs cities to develop novel approaches to improve urban life, Bloomberg Philanthropies announced today.

Four others were awarded 1 million euros ($1.3 million) each: the metropolitan area of Kirklees, England; and the cities of Stockholm, Sweden; Warsaw, Poland; and Athens, Greece.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the winners, selected from 21 finalists, in Paris. The prizes came from the billionaire businessman-turned-politician’s personal foundation.

Cities were challenged to come up with creative solutions to critical urban issues, such as youth unemployment, aging populations, civic engagement, environment and public health and safety.

Barcelona’s project focused on improving the quality of life for its elderly with the creation of a support network that would include relatives, friends, social workers and volunteers.

Kirklees proposed a social capital project that calls for pooling its idle assets such as citizens untapped time and expertise and empty unused spaces to “make the most of what it has and do more with less”.

Stockholm focused on combatting climate change by encouraging residents to produce biochar, an organic material that increases tree growth, isolates carbon and purifies storm runoff.

Warsaw proposed a transportation accessibility idea to help the blind and visually impaired navigate the city more easily by providing auditory alerts through mobile apps.

Athens’ civic engagement project aimed to create a new online platform to address “the large number of small-scale challenges accelerated by the Greek economic crisis”.

Bloomberg Philanthropies said 155 sizeable European cities from 28 countries competed for nine million euros – about $12 million – in prizes.

The Mayors Challenge in Europe was modelled on a Bloomberg Philanthropies competition that debuted in the United States last year.

In the U.S. version of the Mayor’s Challenge, the $5 million top prize went to Providence, Rhode Island. Its project called for improving poor children’s vocabulary by outfitting them with recording devices if their parents agreed, counting the words the children hear and coaching parents. The four other cities awarded $1 million apiece were Houston, Philadelphia, Chicago and Santa Monica, California.