The Global Urban Challenge

More than half of the world’s population currently lives in cities and this urbanization is accelerating to 70 percent by 2050, especially in Africa and Asia. Cities benefit from economic growth, but also struggle to accommodate rising demands for services. Cities are home to growing, underserved poor communities.

Reaching urban women and girls with reproductive health services is essential to a brighter future for families and cities. Empowering a woman or girl to decide whether and when to have a child unlocks her future to pursue an education, a job opportunity or start or grow a family. This leads to many benefits:

  • Better health for children, women and families
  • Increased attendance and better performance in schools
  • Improved economic conditions for communities
  • Lower healthcare costs
  • Less stress on urban infrastructure

Business Unusual

The Challenge Initiative offers a groundbreaking opportunity to have a dramatic impact on reproductive health for underserved urban poor communities. Building off evidence from the Urban Reproductive Health Initiative (URHI) in four countries, this is a new paradigm for expanding URHI’s proven solutions to new cities and geographies:

  • Demand-driven and city-led: Cities choose to participate and run their program with support from the Initiative
  • Access to a Challenge Fund: A highly-leveraged investment platform enables donors to support effective urban programs
  • Entrepreneurial approach: Regional accelerator hubs operate on lean funding and builds in cost-efficient and cost-effective programming
  • TCI University: This learning platform offers orientation and practical support, including program tools, training sessions, technical coaching and continuous learning through a community of practice
  • Visionary financing framework: The Initiative’s technical assistance and development financing models a novel approach that can be used for other sectors

Opportunities for Cities

Cities have the unprecedented opportunity to take a proven reproductive health program and shape it for their local needs. With support from the accelerator hubs, cities take the lead in designing and implementing a program that fills critical gaps. Early adopters of the Initiative will be pioneers and global leaders in the expansion of urban reproductive health programs and of new models for urban development.

Interested cities submit a simple expression of interest and receive assistance with a short program proposal.

  • Cities that demonstrate the demographic need, political commitment and pledge local resources (funding or in-kind) receive financial support and state-of-the-art technical coaching
  • Participating cities also join the Initiative’s global community of practice, where cities, donors, reproductive health champions and urban planners connect and access valuable resources

Opportunities for Donors

Donors who invest in the Initiative’s Challenge Fund have the opportunity to fund proven, efficient reproductive health programs that are low risk and high reward. With support from the accelerator hubs, cities take the lead in designing and implementing a program that fills critical gaps. All investments go towards city programs, leveraging existing resources like the regional accelerator hubs and TCI University. An additional advantage for donors is access to the Initiative’s global and regional communities, as well as the same cutting-edge technical support as participating cities.

Growing the Challenge Fund will allow more cities to fund reproductive health programs, giving more women and girls—and more cities—a brighter future.

The Challenge Initiative’s Partners

The Initiative is led by the Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The Initiative’s regional accelerator hubs are led by technical teams of urban reproductive health experts and may be expanded as more countries participate.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation provided the start-up funding for the Initiative, which covers the costs of running the global headquarters and accelerator hubs, plus technical support. The foundation also provided seed funding for the Challenge Fund and a commitment to work with government and individual donors, foundations, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector to increase the Fund and expand city participation.