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Can you make twenty-first century cities happy?

Rapid urbanization is taking place, especially in the developing world. Many new cities are emerging and several existing cities are expanding rapidly. Case in point: Amaravati, the green field capital of Andhra Pradesh in India, is being developed with a planned population of 3.5 million!

While these cities aspire to become liveable, smart and sustainable, they face unique constraints such as competing pressures on land, limited budgets, and socio-economic diversity.


We are looking for innovative solutions under three themes

Citizen-centric governance

Making governance data-driven and participative across socio-economic classes

A. Smart governance

Harnessing data through technologies to improve decision making and service delivery

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Data-driven, transparent and efficient governance and delivery of public utilities

City administrators in developing countries have limited access to real-time hyper local data and information. Often, they need to take high stakes decisions with little reaction time, based on judgment, incomplete information or heuristics. Lack of appropriate civic technology often results in high lead times, leakages and pilferages in government service delivery in the developing world.

We are inviting solutions that arm administrators with relevant, timely and high quality data, information and analysis that can help improve decision making and delivery of public services, such as drinking water, electricity, and cooking gas. This could include solutions that leverage technologies such as GPS, GIS, IoT for gathering rich data, and artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain, and big data analytics for providing insights to administrators.

B. Citizen engagement

Engaging and incentivizing citizens to participate in city design & planning, financing, and governance

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Engaged and empowered citizens

Citizens often do have the opportunity or agency to participate in key decisions about their city or locality. When their ideas and opinions do not reach city administrators, they may feel excluded and disconnected, a key deterrent for citizen happiness.

We are looking for solutions that enable citizens to: (1) participate in planning and designing neighbourhoods and government services,(2) co-fund local interventions and infrastructure, and (3) participate in monitoring and local governance. These solutions could include, for example, tools, technologies, apps or designs that help citizens voice their ideas and opinions to administrators, co-create or co-design public spaces, co-fund civic infrastructure, provide feedback on public services or proposed infrastructure developments, and participate in governing local institutions.

Liveable communities

Creating safe, equitable, and accessible neighborhoods

A. People-friendly mobility

Offering integrated transport & mobility solutions that are accessible and environment friendly, and promote good health

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Integrated, accessible and environment-friendly mobility that promotes good health

Mobility systems in many cities of the developing world are overcrowded, poorly designed and connected, and insufficient to meet the needs of all strata of society, often resulting in poor physical and mental health outcomes for citizens. In a study on average daily hours of commute, it was reported that people in large cities spend an average of 2 hours and 20 minutes each day commuting, and that traffic and parking cause the most stress in daily life.

In light of this, we are inviting solutions that can transform the way people commute within cities by making mobility (1) accessible to citizens of all ages, gender, disabilities, and socio-economic classes, (2) multimodal, integrated and seamless, and (3) environment and health-friendly. Solutions could include, for example, designs that make public transport disabled or child-friendly, innovations that reduce emissions, technologies for carpooling and bike-sharing, technologies or designs for reducing congestion on roads, or apps that promote walking in the city.

B. Inclusive housing & public spaces

Housing & public spaces that are climate sensitive, inclusive, adaptive, and promote citizen interaction

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Climate-sensitive and inclusive housing and public spaces that promote citizen interaction

Modern cities are characterized by dense and overcrowded neighbourhoods, and habitable spaces that are often not designed in an ecologically and culturally appropriate manner (for example, cities in temperate and tropical climatic zones have aped layouts and designs from cold countries that heavily use glass and may not be suitable for such cities).Inadequate public space, coupled with sub-optimally designed private spaces, has a direct impact on the mental, physical, and emotional health of citizens.

We are inviting solutions that can be used to make housing and public spaces such as footpaths, markets, parks, and promenades more comfortable, close-knit, safe, secure, inclusive and hospitable through the use of human-centered design principles or technology. These could include, for example, innovations that create multi-use public spaces, housing solutions that promote the use of green spaces in the residences or use climate-sensitive material, or apps that make citizens feel safer.

Clean & healthy environment

Building an ecologically diverse and resilient urban ecosystem

A. Blue-green spaces

Integrating nature-inspired water and green bodies in city design to improve biodiversity and environmental resilience

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Integrated water and green bodies in city design

Many cities today have become concrete jungles, with little space for natural flora, fauna and waterbodies, oftentimes due to unplanned, ad hoc development. Research indicates a strong correlation between green spaces in a city and the happiness and wellbeing of citizens. Therefore, integrating blue-green systems in the design of cites is critical. Moreover, it is important to use natural resources wisely and ensure that they are recycled through methods such as bio-filtration. This not only helps conserve scarce resources, but also builds resilience to natural disasters (for example, through proper storm water drainage into canals, absorbent green spaces, etc.).

We are inviting design, technological and other solutions that can be used to develop, conserve/ preserve and expand water and green bodies in the city, and embed them in city planning and design. These could include, for example, vertical gardens in dense cities, apps that measure health of water bodies in a city, or solutions that map the extent and quality of green cover in a city.

B. Waste and pollution-free ecosystem

Advancing healthy living through waste management and pollution mitigation solutions

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Waste management and pollution mitigation for healthy living

With rapid industrialisation and urbanisation, pollution is a menace in most of the developing world, with the levels only increasing every year. Cities are also producing enormous amounts of waste, and with lack of scientific waste management, most of it finds its way into landfills or waterbodies.

We are inviting behavioural, technological and other solutions that can help reduce the quantum of waste that is generated, treat the waste effectively and efficiently, and reduce pollution (air, noise, water)at the city level. This could include, for example, solutions that change citizen behaviours with respect to waste disposal, technologies for decentralized waste processing, or technologies that absorb carbon dioxide/ release oxygen.

Why should you apply

Based on a rigorous evaluation of applications, up to 15 finalists will be selected to pitch their innovations to an eminent jury comprising funders, city leaders, and experts at the Happy Cities Summit: Amaravati 2018. Of the finalists, 3-4 winners will be selected based on the presentations made in the grand finale.

In addition to an all-expenses paid trip to the summit for all 3 days, finalists will get the unique opportunity to:

Sign MoUs with governments

Finalists will have the opportunity to sign MoUs with Government of Andhra Pradesh (#1 state in ‘Ease of Doing Business’) and city governments from around the world to pilot or roll-out their solutions.

Receive funding, acceleration support and win cash prizes

Finalists will be eligible to enter an advanced stage of due diligence for acceleration support from Village Capital. Winners will get attractive cash prizes and finalists can potentially secure seed funding, growth capital, or grants from leading investors and donors.

Network and get global recognition

Finalists will get the opportunity to engage with the global urban innovation community. Moreover, the summit will be covered by leading Indian and international media houses, lending high visibility to their ventures.

Who can apply & How will we evaluate

Who can apply?

To be eligible to apply:

  • The applicant must be a registered entity - i.e. it could be a company, partnership, limited liability partnership, sole proprietorship or not-for-profit organization. The competition is open to any entity registered in any part of the world
  • The solution should map to at least one theme
  • The applicant should have at the minimum a prototype in place for the proposed solution

How will we evaluate?

A panel of experts will assess applications on the following criteria:

  • Impact and uniqueness of the solution
  • Scalability and sustainability of the model
  • Quality of the management team

Key dates

Online application deadline


Extended from 18th March 2018
Announcement of finalists


Pitch by finalists at the Summit

10.04.2018 - 11.04.2018

Announcement of winners



Andhra Pradesh, the eight largest state in India, is endowed with rich natural resources & mineral wealth and boasts of the second longest coastline in the country. With visionary political leadership, strong government mandate and proactive administration, the State is poised to capitalize on its business friendly policies and robust physical, social and industrial infrastructure. Andhra Pradesh is poised to be among India’s three best states by 2022 and a developed state by 2029.

The Government of Andhra Pradesh has accorded top priority to industrial and infrastructure growth and intends to position the State as the most preferred destination for investors by providing favourable business climate, excellent infrastructure, good law and order and cordial industrial relations. Andhra Pradesh has already made an impact through its investor-friendly initiatives by being ranked as the 2nd best state in the country on Ease of Doing Business as per a report by World Bank. The State has put in place a Single Desk Portal to provide all clearances/approvals within 21 working days to set up an industry in the state.

The Andhra Pradesh Capital Region Development Authority is an urban planning agency of the capital of Andhra Pradesh, Amaravati. Amaravati is envisioned to be 'India’s happiest city’ - an inclusive people’s capital which is economically vibrant and sustaining, equipped with world class social and physical infrastructure to create unparalleled opportunities. It will meet the world class standards of livability, inclusive growth, economic opportunities and environmental sustainability. It would be the first purpose built city in the World with Urban Design derived from the ‘Happy City Principles’.

Amaravati would be the most green-and-blue city in the country with over 30% area dedicated for water and landscape features designed to give the utmost livable ambience to its residents. It is also aspired to be the first city with Navigable canals for intra-city commute (light public and tourist transit). With a design population of about 3.5Mn by year 2050 and a projected resident family population of about 0.9Mn through creation of 1.5Mn jobs. APCRDA has adopted some of the world’s best urban planning practices for Amaravati and fused them with local needs.

Omidyar Network is a philanthropic investment firm dedicated to harnessing the power of markets to create opportunity for people to improve their lives. Established in 2004 by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife Pam, the organization invests in and helps scale innovative organizations to catalyze economic and social change. Omidyar Network has committed more than $1.2 billion to for-profit companies and nonprofit organizations that foster economic advancement and encourage individual participation across multiple initiatives, including Governance & Citizen Engagement, Education, Emerging Tech, Financial Inclusion and Property Rights. To learn more, visit, and follow on Twitter @omidyarnetwork #PositiveReturns.

Dalberg Advisors is an advisory firm dedicated to social and economic development of the global poor, with the mission of bringing the best of private sector strategy to address the most pressing global development challenges. Dalberg has 17 offices across the globe and the clients span the public, private and philanthropic sectors.

Through a dedicated ‘Cities’ practice area, Dalberg works with diverse urban actors to help cities define purposeful goals and plans, identify challenges, collaborate through global networks and partnerships, experiment with potential solutions, and adapt to change continuously. In the past, we have supported inclusive and resilient urban growth through strategy, design, big data analysis and evaluation, and partnership-building.