NSF Civic Innovation Challenge Awards $19M for Climate Change Resilience and Community-Driven Innovation

US Harbors is thrilled to be partnering with the Gulf of Maine Research Institute on the continuation of our program to help local communities monitor coastal tide and flood levels. You can look forward to seeing the real-time water-level data from these sites here on our US Harbors platform. If your community does not yet have a observational station and is interested in getting one, please contact us for more information!

The NSF program will help community-university partnerships combat climate change and improve access to essential resources and services.

When a natural catastrophe strikes, how effectively are communities able to marshal access to resources and services? Across the nation, 19 teams of civic leaders and university scholars are working together to improve community effectiveness in responding to these challenges, supported by $19 million from the U.S. National Science Foundation in partnership with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate and the Department of Energy. Additional awards funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture will be announced shortly. These teams have been selected to conduct and evaluate ready-to-implement pilot projects that are scalable, sustainable and transferable to other communities.

The Civic Innovation Challenge (CIVIC) aims to flip the community-university dynamic, inviting civic leaders to identify priorities ripe for innovation and then partner with universities to develop community-driven solutions. Following a six-month planning phase, 19 teams have been awarded $1 million to conduct and evaluate pilot projects within a 12-month timeframe as part of the second stage of the CIVIC research and action competition. NSF leads the program thanks to funding through the agency’s Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering; Directorate for Engineering; Directorate for Geosciences; Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences; and Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, which enhances the research competitiveness of targeted states, territories or commonwealths by strengthening science, technology, engineering and mathematics capacity and capability.

“We are proud to see how investments like the Civic Innovation Challenge awards are igniting a powerful synergy between civic leaders and universities to develop community-driven solutions that forge resilient and equitable futures,” said Margaret Martonosi, NSF assistant director for Computer and Information Science and Engineering. “These $19 million awards represent a commitment to fostering innovation that is effective for American communities and creates opportunities everywhere. We are excited to see how these pioneering pilot programs produce scalable, sustainable, and transferable solutions that empower communities to thrive.”

“The CIVIC Innovation Challenge embodies our dedication to cutting-edge solutions, igniting partnerships and advancing the science that prepares and protects our nation,” said DHS Under Secretary for Science and Technology Dimitri Kusnezov. “The discoveries and solutions generated by this effort will help save lives and enhance resilience for communities across the country.”

CIVIC is comprised of two tracks. Ten teams were selected for Track A, which focuses on living in a changing climate, including pre-disaster action based around adaptation, resilience and mitigation.

The awards for Track A and their Stage 2 goals are listed below:

  • Community Resilience through Engaging, Actionable, Timely, High – REsolution Air Quality Information (CREATE – AQI), led by The University of Utah, will engage student athletic coaches to create neighborhood-scale, actionable air quality information to help reduce exposure to air pollutant hazards, particularly for children participating in athletics.
  • Smart Kids and Cool Seniors, led by Rutgers University-New Brunswick, will assist low-resource urban residents as they adapt to increasing heat stress and local air pollution by implementing a network of sensors, including sensor-equipped backpacks provided to youths living in public housing.
  • Codeveloping local flood thresholds and high tide flooding predictions with community science and innovative technology, led by the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, will engage the community in a science program that collects geo- and time-referenced observations of local flood events using low-cost tide gauges to improve pre-disaster action.
  • Kickstarting a youth-centered green economy for the environmental justice community of East Boston, led by Eastie Farm, will engage local youths in urban farming, coastal restoration and social science-driven community involvement to create a vibrant green economy with improved resilience to climate change.
  • Leveraging existing fiber-optic cables to identify and manage urban environmental hazards, led by Penn State, will develop a real-time, high-resolution monitoring framework using pre-existing fiber-optic cables in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to predict, prevent and mitigate climate hazards across the city.
  • Reimagining Urban Resilience and Education Hubs Using a Community-Engaged, Equity-Centered Approach, led by the University of Central Florida, will pilot a Resilience, Education, and Advocacy Center for Hazard preparedness hub that will provide pre- and post-disaster necessities and connectivity to historically marginalized communities.
  • Youth-centered civic technology, science, and art for improving community heat resilience infrastructure, led by Virginia Tech University, will engage youths from historically marginalized communities using a novel approach that integrates arts, science, technology and spirituality to facilitate healing from trauma related to climate change.
  • Assessing the Performance of Green Stormwater Infrastructure for Climate Adaptation and Coastal Resilience in the City of Cape Canaveral, Florida, led by Stetson University, will implement stormwater management practices aimed at reducing flood risk, improving water quality and creating valuable green space amenities.
  • Novel Fuel-Flexible Combustion to Enable Ultra-Clean and Efficient Waste-to-Renewable Energy in Changing Climate, led by Baylor University, will pilot a climate-smart, waste-to-energy multi-fuel combustor on the Hannah Hill landfill in Waco, Texas, to help reduce methane and key air pollutants.
  • Targeted Micro-retrofits based on Building Envelope Scans using Drones, GPR, and Deep Neural Networks, led by New York University, will implement thermal-sensing drones and an autonomous robotic data collection platform equipped with advanced sensors to help reduce the time and cost of traditional building inspection methods.

Nine teams were selected for Track B, which focuses on bridging the gap between essential resources and services and community needs.

The awards for Track B and their Stage 2 goals are listed below:

  • Bridging the Gap between Essential Emergency Resources and Services and the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community in Monroe County, NY: A Geospatial-Visual Approach, led by Rochester Institute of Technology, will develop the nation’s first Deaf community hazard-mapping geospatial toolkit called ‘Deaf Map’ to empower Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing communities to identify, characterize, map and communicate community hazards with public service agencies.
  • Bridging the Rural Justice Gap: Innovating & Scaling Up Civil Access to Justice in Alaska, led by the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, will scale up the Community Justice Worker program, which trains individuals embedded in Alaska’s rural communities to provide formal legal advocacy and practice insights for individuals living in underserved rural communities.
  • Creating the West Virginia Flood Resilience Framework for comprehensive disaster response and long-term community recovery, led by the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, will implement a freely available online resource that will improve knowledge about flood risk, floodplain management and comprehensive disaster preparation for residents living in flood-prone communities.
  • Participatory Civic Technology to Close the Last-Mile Disaster Relief Gap in Puerto Rico, led by the Foundation for Puerto Rico, will implement a software application with an inclusive community engagement program to empower residents to act as “community ambassadors” and connect essential resources and services with community needs during natural disasters.
  • Community Informed AI-Based Vehicle Technology Simulator with Behavioral Strategies to Advance Neurodiverse Independence and Employment, led by Vanderbilt University, will implement an artificial intelligence-based vehicle technology simulator specifically designed for individuals with autism to improve access to transportation.
  • Everyday Respect: Measuring & Improving Police Officer Communication During Motor Vehicle Stops, led by the University of Southern California, will implement a project investigating communication dynamics during traffic stops using audio and video footage from body-worn cameras to improve police-civilian communication and public safety.
  • Participatory Action Research to Enhance Equity and Prevent Moral Injury in Community Paramedicine, led by San Jose State University, will implement a participatory action research approach to prevent moral injury among first responders, such as EMTs or paramedics, and improve their equity-based understanding and practices when working with vulnerable populations.
  • Streamlining and Supporting Access to Public Assistance Programs in Louisiana, led by Tulane University, will develop a streamlined application portal for Louisiana families to apply for multiple social safety net programs that provide nutrition, healthcare, early childhood education and additional earnings for low-income families.
  • Placekeeping: A Co-designed Model for Intergenerational Co-housing and Coalition Building in a University-Adjacent Community, led by Drexel University, will develop a novel multi-generational co-housing model that preserves long-term homeownership, creates affordable opportunities for new homebuyers and reduces student housing costs for underserved communities of color.

To learn more about CIVIC, visit the Civic Innovation Challenge website.