Urban Sustainability Directors Network (USDN) Innovation Fund

The Urban Sustainability Directors Network (USDN) Innovation Fund is a financial-investment resource governed by USDN members to promote collaboration among cities to develop, test, and spread high-impact solutions for advancing urban sustainability.  The goals for the Fund are to spur active collaboration among members, accelerate on-the-ground impact of key practice fields, and position local government leaders as “go to” sources for sustainability innovation.

The Innovation Fund Steering Committee, comprised of USDN members, sets the Fund’s goals and strategies, and makes competitive grants available through both RFPs and commissioned projects. The size of the Innovation Fund has doubled each year for the last four years, reaching $700,000 in 2013. The Fund has supported dozens of projects to-date, altogether involving more than half of the USDN member base. 

The completed Innovation grants awarded by the Fund have been:

  • Scans of particular systems in urban sustainability - food systems and waste systems - to develop strategy road maps/guidance documents that cities use to decide how best to leverage change in those systems.
  • Investments in the development of a specific innovation (financing for building energy retrofitting, a tool for assessing triple bottom line benefits of investments, and approaches for promoting electric vehicle use in cities).
  • For scaling up demonstrated innovations such as adaptation planning, commercial building energy disclosure policies, eco-district development, and community engagement methods.

The Fund “has demonstrated that cities can and will provide leadership and resources for collaborative innovation and that relatively small inputs of flexible funding, guided by a group of engaged urban leaders, can influence many cities and communities of practice, leverage additional resources, and increase connectivity across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors and the many silos of local government.”

Publication Date: 2011

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