Bringing Members and Partners Together

The NLC Capstone Challenge Series is a program designed to connect our Capstone and Enterprise partners with the motivated local leaders to create solutions for member needs.

In this program, member cities will be matched with strategic partners to work together on a project. This program spans eight months, kicking off in early June and culminating with an event in early 2024, where each working group will share the outcomes of their projects. The most innovative and impactful project will be recognized with an award. There is no cost to the municipality to participate in this program.

This is the third year of this program. In the previous cohorts, strategic partners worked on projects with
cities ranging in size from the city of Phoenix, AZ to the Village of Broadview, IL. The topics covered
everything from homelessness to resident engagement to virtual reality law enforcement training. Please see
the reports from 2021 and 2022 to learn more about past projects.

NLC is a convener and thought partner of this program, but it is driven by partners bringing innovative
solutions to the table and members identifying real issues in their cities. Partners have submitted project
ideas based on their expertise and history working with cities, and members now have the chance to apply
to participate in these projects, ranking their interest in each idea
. Please click on the Projects and
Participants tab to read about each project.

APPLY HERE by April 28th at 5:00 PM ET. To see the content of the application before applying, click here.
Please reach out to Annie Osborne at with any questions.

Program Details



  • Solve a problem for your municipality through an innovative public-private partnership
  • Build a strong and lasting partnership with a major company such as Esri, Accela, GM, or others
  • Get pro bono support from NLC and a corporate partner for eight months
  • Gain visibility for your municipality and project through NLC and partner marketing
  • Publish case study about your project on and in annual Capstone Challenge report
  • Highlight project accomplishments by sharing outcomes with NLC Member Councils, Committees, and other groups
  • Opportunity to gain recognition with an award at the culminating event
Projects and Participants

Projects and Participants

Advance Road Safety in your City – GM Future Roads

In this project, the selected cities will partner with General Motors Future Roads to advance road safety in their community, through the use of Safety View, a tool built in a joint collaboration between GM Future Roads and INRIX. The tool allows cities to view areas of concern in their municipality with contextual, layered data sets, providing users with the ability to quickly assess factors that impact safety for drivers and vulnerable road users in their community. GM Future Roads will work with the city to understand their needs in terms of road safety – whether it is Vision Zero planning, specific initiatives for Complete Streets, Safe Streets for all planning support, creating safe bicycle paths, identifying problem intersections, etc. They will provide data, training, and analysis to help the city complete its road safety project and help it to achieve its goals.

Understand and Address the Impacts of Redlining on Health – City Health Dashboard

In this project, City Health Dashboard will work with cities that have dealt with historic redlining to understand how it impacts modern-day health and economic disparities. The City Health Dashboard provides actionable measures of health and its economic and environmental drivers, all at the city and neighborhood level, to support cities in taking data-driven action. The 6-month project will consist of a series of collaborative mapping and consultation discussions, combining the Dashboard’s mapping and data expertise with the city representatives’ collective local knowledge. The goal is help cities integrate historic redlining maps into their equity planning processes and create action plans for impactful and lasting local change for displaced populations and disinvested neighborhoods.

Plan and Finance Green Infrastructure – Upside Tech Alliance

In this project, cities will work with the Upside Tech Alliance to plan and finance green infrastructure in their community. The Upside Tech Alliance includes four purpose-driven companies that partner with local leaders to implement technology solutions that serve the public good and drive economic growth. Two of the companies in the Alliance – Aclima and Promise – are participating in this project. Aclima works with cities to map air quality and pollution, identifying hotspots and generating visualizations to help cities and residents understand the issue. Promise helps cities recoup revenue on unpaid water, wastewater, stormwater, and electric bills, as well as parking citations and toll debt, by utilizing accessible outreach methods and offering flexible payment options. Through this project, selected cities will work with Aclima to understand the nature of air pollution in their community and the needs in terms of green infrastructure, and they will work with Promise to bring much-needed revenue back to the city that can be invested into these infrastructure projects. The Alliance will also help plan for additional federal funding applications to support the development of green infrastructure.

Build a Strategic Equity Plan for Your City – Esri

We all want to live in a more equitable world. But what does that mean in practice with budgets to abide by, constituents to listen to, and limited time and resources? How do city leaders operationalize the thoughts and data they’ve collected to make a more equitable city? How do they
make equity part of the city’s day-to-day functions and business processes? Through this Capstone Project, selected cities will work with Esri to develop a strategic equity plan by understanding their
community’s equity needs, building location into their equity strategy, operationalizing their work and findings, and measuring impact in real-time. A strategic equity plan that includes GIS helps establish a city-wide strategy for achieving equity rather than relying on ad hoc, project-by-project or department-by-department results. Strategic equity plans built with location in mind allow cities to understand their community’s needs better, identify opportunities to intervene and develop solutions that enact real change, and foster community involvement. As an end result, Esri will build a guidebook to assist all large and small cities as they build and update their strategic plans.

Using Data for Strategic Planning and Budgeting in Small Cities – Polco

In this project, Polco will work with a cohort of small cities (5,000 – 15,000 population) to strengthen overall resident engagement by identifying and prioritizing strategic focus areas and capital budget resource allocations. Polco will provide access to modules related to data, resident engagement, prioritization, and budgeting to help community leaders understand best practices for using this information to create strategic plans and Annual Capital Budgets. Polco will facilitate monthly conversations with the cohort to discuss local issues, share best practices and engagement strategies, and collaborate on how to integrate the sentiment data into strategic planning and budgeting processes. This cohort approach will also help to identify areas of common challenges, barriers, and opportunities.

Build Dashboards to Inform Affordable Housing Policies – Accela

In collaboration with the selected city, the Accela team will design and build new dashboards to monitor and inform Affordable Housing policies. Depending on the specific policies that the city wants to focus on, the project team would put key data into a visual dashboard to identify trends, recognize outliers, and track key performance indicators. Through these insights, the city would validate resource allocations or identify areas that need additional attention to achieve the city’s strategic goals on affordable housing. For example, the project team could incorporate existing initiatives such as ADUs/Infill grants to isolate those programs’ contributions to the city’s larger goals.

This Capstone Project is ideal for a city that uses Accela software in a Software as a Service (SaaS) configuration.

Implement a City Architect Advisory Board – American Institute of Architects

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) will provide a city with access to a group of architects, comprised of local AIA members, to offer advisory services related to the built environment. The city may request assistance from the advisory board on specific projects related to the built environment. If you are interested in this project, please provide some information on the types of projects you would like to pursue in your Letter of Support. Requests may range from recommendations for existing, historic rehabilitation projects, up to broad, conceptual reviews of a neighborhood to identify underutilized building sites. The advisory group will meet regularly with elected officials or their staff, and at the end of the project, the city may consider creating a formal Advisory Board or hiring a Chief Architect.

Pilot Drone Use for First Responders – BRINC Drones

In this project, BRINC Drones will work with law enforcement in the selected city to pilot the integration of drones into their search and rescue and first responder efforts. These drones are specialized for emergency response situations in which it is too dangerous to send a human in first and can be used for search and communicating inside buildings, clearing buildings, and defusing hostage and barricade situations. Through this project, the city would have access to the drones and technology and would work with BRINC to help create a better understanding of critical use cases, relevant policy for safe use within diverse communities, and improve the technology available to first

Co-Create Climate Metrics to Support Sustainability Planning – City Health Dashboard

This project pairs the City Health Dashboard team with cities ready to take action on climate and will co-create metrics that can help cities support those efforts. The City Health Dashboard provides actionable measures of health and its economic and environmental drivers, all at the city and neighborhood level, to support cities in taking data-driven action. The 6-month project will consist of a series of co-creation events between the Dashboard and city representatives to define the measurable issues of greatest importance and impact on local climate strategy. These discussions will lead to the creation of 1-2 new metrics on climate that will be added to the City Health Dashboard for your city, and eventually all 900+ cities on the Dashboard, as well as potential solutions and best practices to make measurable improvement on them.



To participate in this program, municipalities must meet the following criteria:

  • Be an NLC Member
  • Designate one point of contact within your municipality staff for each project you are interested in. This person will lead the project from the member side and work closely with the corporate partner and NLC staff.
  • Submit a letter of support from the Mayor or Chief Executive of your municipality.
  • Commit to full participation in the program. This includes:
    • Kick-off event
    • At least once-monthly meetings with working groups from June to early 2023
    • 8 hours+ of additional time each month working on the project
    • Virtual or in-person culminating event in early 2024
  • Engage with NLC staff and partners before, during and after the program.
  • Provide feedback to NLC staff throughout the process.


  • Applications Due – April 28th at 5:00 PM ET
  • Interviews and Group Matching – Mid-May
  • Announcement and first group meetings – Late May
  • Virtual Kick-off Event – Mid-June
  • Monthly Working Group Meetings – June 2023 through January 2024
  • Culminating Event – Early 2024

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a cost to participate in this program?
No, there is no cost to member cities to participate in the program. Partners have committed to completing these projects pro bono.

What is the expected time commitment to participate?
We anticipate that the time commitment will be around 8-10 hours per month from June 2023 through February 2024. Depending on the scope of the project, it may be slightly more or less than that, but this is not a full-time commitment. We ask that the point of contact attend the kick-off event in June and final event in early 2024.

If we are interested in a project but it doesn’t quite fit our municipality, can we apply for the project and workshop it with the partner if we are selected?
If the project could fit your municipality with only minor changes, please apply and you can collaborate with the partner to workshop and tweak the idea as needed. If major changes would need to be made, please reach out to NLC at before applying to discuss whether this project would be feasible for your municipality.

What will the working groups look like?
Working groups will be made up of one partner company, one to three member cities, and an NLC staff facilitator. The partner company and member city or cities will be asked to designate one person each as their lead, but they are welcome to include other team members in the working group as well.

What is the culminating event and when will it be?
The culminating event will likely be held virtually in February 2024. This event is a chance for working groups to showcase their projects, and the best projects will be recognized with an award.

What criteria will be used to judge the projects for the award?
The award will be given to the projects that are the most innovative and impactful. This is determined by a panel of members, partners, subject matter experts, and thought leaders in the field.

If you have additional questions about the Capstone Challenge Series, please click here to reach out to our representative.

More questions about requirements or participation? Click here to reach out to our representative.