Bloomberg Philanthropies is awarding $5 million to Providence, R.I., to develop a program aimed at improving the vocabulary of children in less affluent families. The Mayors Challenge asked cities to submit ideas that would address their biggest challenges. Ideas from more than 300 cities were judged based on their vision, ability to implement, potential for impact and replicability. Aside from the grand prize, four other cities were awarded innovation prizes and will receive $1 million.

The winning initiative — Providence Talks – will give recording devices to volunteer families that will track adult word count and the number of conversations that children in the home engage in. The families will receive the data during a monthly meeting and receive coaching and information on community resources. Providence also could use the data to decide where to locate new city resources. The proposal was based on research that children in less affluent homes hear fewer words per day, which can lead to vocabulary gaps. "Providence has identified a new model of early childhood education that is direct, simple and fundamentally revolutionary," said New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Other winners include Houston, Chicago, Philadelphia and Santa Monica, Calif.

  • Houston's One Bin For All proposes to create a one-bin system that would make recycling easier for residents. Through a public-private partnership, the city plans to construct and operate a recycling and sorting facility that can handle mixed waste. The goal is to increase Houston's current recycling rate of 14 percent to 75 percent. This idea was also picked as the "fan favorite" among 20 finalists and will receive a $50,000 grant from IBM.
  • The Chicago SmartData Platform will build the first open-source predictive analytics platform, aggregating the plethora of information that's now available to help leaders make better and faster decisions. The city says it could use the platform to address issues like weather emergencies and traffic accidents.
  • The Philadelphia Social Enterprise Partnership will create a procurement process that allows entrepreneurs and social innovators to respond to RPFs and help generate solutions to city problems. The city plans to address three challenges per year. It will reframe issues as opportunities for innovators; bring the best ideas to Philadelphia for review; and then create a system where city government will first test the solutions.
  • The Wellbeing Project will make Santa Monica the first U.S. city to measure wellbeing and integrate it into policy-making. The city will work with economists, behavioral scientists and psychologists to create an index focusing on economic vitality, social relationships, health, education and local environment. Leaders then will look at where wellbeing is strong and weak to make better-informed decisions and more effectively direct scarce resources.

Additional details and videos of the winning projects are available here. As part of the contest, finalists attended a camp where they received help in refining their ideas. Watch video from the camp below.