The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Feb 13, 2013

The Forever St. Paul Challenge: an open call and a million-dollar grant for the best idea to improve the city

Posted by sschouweiler

What do you think would make St. Paul an even better place to live? Submit your idea to the Forever St. Paul Challenge, and you might just find yourself with a million dollars to make it happen. The contest, co-presented by the Saint Paul Foundation and Minnesota Idea Open, invites informal proposals from Minnesota residents of all walks of life; anyone 12 and older is welcome to submit an idea for consideration, and any issue or area of interest is fair game. Nonexperts and urban planning wonks alike are encouraged to put on their thinking caps and weigh in with creative problem-solving, inspired initiatives, and other thoughtful city-making ideas on the issues most important to them.

Forever St. Paul Challenge organizers are hosting a number of Idea Open Houses throughout the city in March to galvanize the conversation: interested citizens can brainstorm, collaborate and work together to think about ways to improve St. Paul.

Ta-Coumba Aiken's design for the Guiness Book of World Record-breaking Lite Brite mural, to be unveiled this Saturday, Feb. 16 at the Union Depot in Lowertown. Photo courtesy of Minnesota Idea Open

Entrants are invited to submit their ideas via email, post, voicemail or at any of the Idea Open Houses; you need not type up a formal proposal informal submissions are welcome anytime from February 13 through April 3. When the call for submissions closes in April, a diverse panel of jurors – artists, designers, business owners, policy makers, media personalities and nonprofit professionals – will judge several rounds of semifinalists and finalists, finally selecting a winning entry from the grassroots pool of ideas, assessing each submission on the basis of its impact, innovation and sustainability.

The ultimately winning idea will garner its creator $1,000 in prize money to keep, plus a one-million dollar grant to the organization of their choice (verified and approved by the Saint Paul Foundation) to ensure its implementation. The person who submits the Forever St Paul Challenge-winning proposal may be as involved in the development and execution of their plan as they choose; credit for the idea, not to mention bad-ass bragging rights, will be theirs, regardless.

Minnesota Idea Open has presented such challenges annually, but never for stakes so grand. According to a recent report by Minnesota Public Radio, the winning grant amount is usually closer to $15,000. This year’s million-dollar pot is funded through monies leftover from fundraising by the host committee for the Republican National Convention, held in St. Paul in 2008.

The youngest community volunteer to turn out to help the artist fill the mural with Lite Brite pegs. Photo courtesy of Minnesota Idea Open. The youngest community volunteer to turn out to help the artist fill the mural with Lite Brite pegs. Photo courtesy of Minnesota Idea Open

The 2013 Forever St. Paul Challenge officially opens today, February 13 and will kick-off this weekend with a community “Lite Brite Launch Event” on Saturday, February 16 at the Union Depot in Lowertown, St. Paul. Artist Ta-Coumba Aiken will attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the ‘Largest Picture Made of Lite-Brite’” with an enormous art installation, 12-feet tall by 24-feet long, filled with more than 520,000 Lite-Brite pegs. There will be live music, food and family-friendly games beginning at 3 p.m., culminating in a lighting ceremony for Aiken’s Lite Brite mural at 7 p.m. with Mayor Chris Coleman, Carleen Rhodes, special guest speakers and a Guinness World Record judge. The event is free and open to the public, but visitors are encouraged to RSVP here if they’re planning to attend.

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