Catie Boehmer

Fifteen teams from across North America have been selected as finalists for the Thriving Cities Challenge, an incentive prize launched by the Center last fall. As many as five teams will be chosen as winners following a virtual pitch event in September as part of the Center’s third annual symposium.

“We’re excited to have such a strong group of finalists focused on innovative work in cities all over North America,” says Center Director Beth Conover, “and we look forward to building a community of interest focused on urban climate resilience, green space, and racial equity.”

The Thriving Cities Challenge is the Center’s second annual Conservation Impact Prize and was created to fund innovative nature-based solutions that improve the equity, health, and resilience of urban communities in North America. New to this year’s Challenge, each finalist team will receive a $10,000 capacity-building grant this summer, along with training and mentorship opportunities to help strengthen and further develop their proposed projects. Following the pitch event, winning team(s) will be selected based on their potential to advance climate resilience and racial equity, and awarded $50,000-$100,000 to implement their idea(s). Funding for the Challenge has been provided by the VF Foundation, the Kendeda Fund, the Bullitt Foundation, the Blackstone Ranch Institute, and an anonymous donor.

The fifteen finalists were chosen from a pool of 52 applicants, whose work represents a range of community-led efforts across the United States and Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico, as well as several Tribal nations and Indigenous groups. Proposals were reviewed and scored by a diverse committee of expert evaluators, drawn from leadership in philanthropy, academia, and the nonprofit and for-profit worlds. The finalists (in no particular order) are:

  • “Rooting & Blooming: Cultivating a Fruitful Commons at Festival Beach Food Forest & Community Garden,” submitted by Festival Beach Food Forest in Austin, Texas
  • “Empowering Community-Based Organizations for Green Infrastructure Planning and Development,” submitted by the Council for Watershed Health in Los Angeles, California
  • “Anchoring Community, Resilience, and Equity through Rogell Park,” submitted by EcoWorks in Detroit, Michigan
  • “NYC Foodways Collective,” submitted by Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice in the Bronx, New York
  • “Catalyzing Watershed-Scale Change and Preserving Puebloan Lifeways in the Middle Rio Grande Corridor,” submitted by Trees, Water & People in the Middle Rio Grande urban corridor of New Mexico
  • “Resilience Ecology Shade Transit (REST) Stops for Community Climate Justice, Resilience, and Health,” submitted by LINK Houston in Houston, Texas
  • “Equitable Engagement in Climate Resiliency through the Albuquerque Backyard Refuge Program,” submitted by Friends of Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge in Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • “Addressing Climate Injustice through Community-led, Nature-based Solutions,” submitted by GreenRoots in Chelsea, Massachusetts
  • “Cleveland’s Urban Tree Hub,” submitted by the Western Reserve Land Conservancy in Cleveland, Ohio
  • “Witness Trees,” submitted by Turner Station Conservation Teams in Baltimore, Maryland
  • “Montetik: The wooded crown that protects San Cristobal de Las Casas, a magical city,” submitted by Pronatura Sur in Chiapas, Mexico
  • “Connecting the C’s: Color, Class, Climate, Conservation, and Collaboration for a Thriving Community,” submitted by Education, Economics, Environmental, Climate and Health Organization (EEECHO) in Gulfport, Mississippi
  • “Alley Activation as a Neighborhood-Based Sustainability Strategy,” submitted by Canfield Consortium in Detroit, Michigan
  • “From Redlining to Green: Natural Solutions through Small Business Leadership,” submitted by the National Wildlife Federation in Denver, Colorado
  • “Connecting Canopies regional urban forestry conservation collaboration,” submitted by the Blueprint Foundation in Portland, Oregon

Learn more about these finalists on the Challenge website. The finalists’ pitch event in late September will also be open to the public; check back soon for details and ticket information at