Climate Smart Cities Challenge: Technical support to challenge definition, innovation competition, communications and provision of an innovation management platform.

Reference:                             CFP/1-2021-CSCC

Size of Grant:                        Up to USD 92,000

Submission Deadline:          19 September 2021, 6pm East Africa Time

Submission:                          Applicants shall submit their CFP response by email until the specified deadline above to the attention of Pontus Westerberg to this e-mail address:


Project Key Information

Lead Organization Unit:                  Innovation Unit, Knowledge and Innovation Branch

Region/Country:                               Global, with special focus on the cities of Bogotá, Bristol, Curitiba and Makindye Ssabagabo

Maximum proposed value:             Up to USD 92,000

Partners:                                            Viable Cities, Vinnova, the cities of Bogotá, Bristol, Curitiba and Makindye Ssabagabo


Purpose of the Call for Proposals

The purpose of the Call for Proposals is to solicit proposals from interested non-profit and/or civil society organizationsto provide technical support the project “Climate Smart Cities Challenge’, a city-based open innovation initiative that invites technologists, businesses, innovators and investors to develop, test and scale cutting-edge solutions in a specific city or set of cities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to making these cities more climate smart. UN-Habitat is working with the cities of Bogotá (Colombia), Bristol (United Kingdom), Curitiba (Brazil) and Makindye Ssabagabo (Uganda) to develop a deep understanding of stakeholder and community needs, climate challenges faced by the city and set incentives to identify innovative climate smart solutions.

We are now looking for a non-profit organization to lead the innovation competition phase of the project. Applicant organizations should wish to participate as a partner in the Climate Smart Cities Challenge and should be able to contribute complementary in-kind resources (human resources, knowledge, funds, in-kind contributions, supplies and/or equipment) to achieve the common objectives of the project as outlined below and subsequently agreed in an Agreement of Cooperation between UN-Habitat and the organization. This call for proposals is addressing organizations that are specialized to carry out innovation management, challenge-driven innovation, challenge prizes and communications and who can take the lead on the innovation competition, including the following:

  • Develop challenge competition briefs, including eligibility criteria, selection criteria and review/scoring processes. Lead an outreach campaign to solicit high-quality proposals from innovators globally, including from the four countries Brazil, Colombia, Uganda and United Kingdom.
  • Provide an innovation management platform/website that can solicit applications from innovators, including website copy, application forms, guidelines for submission, terms and conditions, competition criteria, challenge brief summaries and innovator profiles for announcement.


Who we are

About UN-Habitat

UN-Habitat, the United Nations agency for human settlements, helps the urban poor by transforming cities into safer, healthier, greener places with better opportunities where everyone can live in dignity. UN-Habitat works with organizations at every level, including all spheres of government, civil society and the private sector to help build, manage, plan and finance sustainable urban development. Our vision is cities without slums that are liveable places for all, which do not pollute the environment or deplete natural resources. At the dawn of a new urban era, with most of humanity now living in cities, UN-Habitat is at the frontline of the battle against fast growing urban poverty and the scourge of climate change that is caused by poorly planned urbanization and threatens the lives and livelihoods of entire cities and communities. As the United Nations gateway for cities, UN-Habitat is constantly improving its focus and responsiveness to the aspirations of cities and their residents.


The Innovation Unit

For UN-Habitat, innovation means embracing new ideas, up-to-date means and fresh approaches to our work. It is based on horizontal and collaborative working practices that consider diverse contexts and perspectives. Innovation can be digital or non-digital, and take shape as a process, a practical tool or application or as a culture. Approached from a collaborative perspective, it can help to efficiently deliver impacts at scale, put people at the centre of the development process and ensure that no one and no place is left behind.

UN-Habitat’s Innovation Unit was created in 2020 and has four focus areas:

  1. Promote an innovation culture at UN-Habitat for improved sustainable urbanization outcomes.
  2. Develop relevant knowledge and tools to strengthen innovation at UN-Habitat.
  3. Act as an enabler and broker for new ideas and partnerships for inclusive and at scale impacts.
  4. Promote innovation in project and programme design and implementation by providing advice on tools, methodologies, technologies and partnerships.

The Innovation Unit hosts the United Nations Innovation Technology Accelerator for Cities (UNITAC), leads the agency’s work on digital cooperation, provides technical support to UN-Habitat’s flagship programme on People-Centered Smart Cities, and is developing UN-Habitat Innovation Challenges, an approach to urban innovation based on open and challenge-driven innovation that can help cities and human settlements effectively engage with innovators in improving their cities and its service delivery.


About the project

The Climate Smart Cities Challenge is a global innovation initiative that makes use of innovation approaches such as challenge-driven innovation to match cities with smart solutions that help them achieve their climate goals. A central aspect of the approach is innovation competitions that match cities’ identified needs (“challenges”) with concrete and innovative solutions, often from the private sector. These competitions incentivize innovators to come up with solutions to the challenges, helping cities innovate and identify climate smart solutions that can be tested and implemented through different stages.

To match the best solutions with the identified challenges, the competition is openly publicized, offering a reward to the team that comes up with the best solution. The open and participatory nature of the process allows stakeholders with different expertise in challenge definition, market dialogue, solution design and implementation and project bankability to the negotiating table. The solutions identified through the challenge competition are tested later, with results being used to design large-scale procurement and implementation processes. The final outputs are products and services that have been developed in a collaborative manner and that respond to the needs and targets of municipalities and residents, while they are designed with the expertise of the private sector and aligned to the economic goals of investors. The challenge-driven innovation process helps municipalities innovate and test new solutions while bringing them closer to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The first stage of the Climate Smart Cities Challenge was an open call for cities, which asked cities around the globe to:

  • Outline their city’s aspirations to reduce or eliminate greenhouse gas emissions and create a sustainable future for its residents,
  • Present a problem that is specific and solvable in the near-term, meaning potential solutions could be introduced, adapted and scaled within the next five years, and
  • Indicate a willingness to work with a global community of problem-solvers and investors and to commit resources to test and implement solutions to the problem in their city.

The open call launched on 9 November 2020 and closed on 22 January 2021. Four cities were selected to take part in the subsequent phases: Curitiba Municipality (Brazil), Bogotá Municipality (Colombia), Bristol City Council (United Kingdom), and Makindye Ssabagabo Municipality (Uganda). Since April 2021, UN-Habitat has been working with these four cities to engage stakeholders and communities and develop city challenge briefs. The challenge briefs will inform innovators and investors about the specific challenge at hand, and what they could do to address the challenge as part of the competition.


What we are looking for

We are now going into the competition part of the initiative and need to identify a competition partner to work with the Climate Smart Cities Challenge team to lead it. The partner will work directly with UN-Habitat’s Innovation Unit, the four cities and other partner organizations such as Viable Cities. The partner organization needs to have demonstrated experience in challenge-driven innovation, challenge prizes and leading/implementing innovation competitions or similar processes.


Challenge definition and competition briefs

  • Conceptualize and deliver the innovation competition.
  • Develop a challenge competition brief, including eligibility criteria, selection criteria and review/scoring process for each of the four city competition processes.
  • Provide technical input to the development of the city challenge definition briefs, including interviews with city stakeholders, copy editing and ensuring that the city challenge briefs provide the right incentives to encourage innovators to participate in the challenge.

Outreach to innovators and cities

  • Lead an outreach campaign to solicit high-quality proposals from innovators globally, including from the four countries Brazil, Colombia, Uganda and United Kingdom.
  • Design and host four online events webinars to publicise the challenge opportunity and answer questions from interested parties.
  • Develop an engagement strategy with proposed draft texts for dissemination on respective websites and (social) media platforms.
  • Updated FAQs and respond to queries.


Reviewing and selecting innovative solutions

  • Provide an online innovation management platform that can solicit applications from innovators and enable the Climate Smart Cities partners to assess and select winning submissions.
  • Provide website copy, application form, guidelines for submission, terms and conditions, FAQs, competition criteria, challenge brief summaries and innovator profiles for announcement.
  • Develop the competition entry review process, including assessment criteria, securing external reviewers, briefing reviewers and preparing the final communication and announcements.


Expected Activities and Outputs


Due date


1. Challenge development and finalisation


  1. Four final challenge statements
  2. One challenge competition brief

2. Competition website and related communications activities


  1. Website with all documents and collateral 
  2. Instructions/guidebook how to apply 
  3. FAQs

3. Reviewing and selecting innovative solutions


  1. Secure external reviewers/judges
  2. Comparative descriptions of platforms available
  3. Customized online platform
  4. Application form and process
  5. Final criteria and guidelines for submission
  6. Privacy policy
  7. Terms & Conditions

4. Open period outreach to innovators

Nov - Dec

  1. Manage and conduct outreach campaign
  2. Four online events with cities and companies
  3. Updated FAQs and responses to queries
  4. Secure four quality submissions per city

5. Finalist selection and announcement

Jan 2022

  1. Briefing guidance for reviewers
  2. Host one briefing session for reviewers
  3. Prepare and run selection meeting
  4. Website copy for finalist announcement


Eligibility Criteria


Submission Details/ Documents Required

Legal Status

  • Certificate of registration/incorporation i.e.,
  • Proof of registration.

Organization profile and details

  • Clear organization profile and structure of the organization indicating:
    • Organization’s vision, mission and objectives
    • Management structure
    • Members of the Governing Board and their Designations Proof of membership to professional associations, if any.

Financial Capacity

  • Audited company financial statements (balance sheet and income statement) and auditors report for the last two years

Exclusive bank account

  • Is the organization willing and able to have a separate bank account for the funds provided by UN-Habitat?

Integrity and Governance

  • The organization should complete and submit a signed Partner Declaration Form
  • Provide the profiles of the Chairperson of the Board of Directors, Head of the Organization and Chief of Finance


Selection Criteria

All proposals will be assessed using the following criteria.


Submission details/ documents required

1.1 Does the organization have the relevant experience and proven track record in implementing activities in the areas of the project?

Has it managed in the past projects of similar technical complexities and financial size?

Is the project linked with the core business of the organization?

  • List of projects executed in the last 2 years (value, location, donors, nature of projects, execution stage – completed or ongoing).
  • Demonstrate how the experiences in past projects are relevant in the execution of the current proposal
  • References from past donors

1.2 Does the organization have qualified technical staff with the experience and the technical skills required by the project?

What is the staff size, type, qualification and education background?

  • CVs of key management staff, technical and non-technical staff that will be involved on the project
  • How many technical staff do you have in the concerned country for implementing the project? Is there reasonable assurance that such technical staff required by the project will continue to be available as needed in the project?

1.3 Does the organization have a clear and strong link with an identifiable constituency relevant to the targeted population of the project?

Does it have the ability to impact on the targeted population and on the issues?

Does it have strong presence in the field and for how long?

Does it have adequate capacity to work in key areas/regions where the proposed field activities will be implemented?

  • Demonstrate, describe and provide proof of local operational presence, including link and ability to impact the targeted population.

1.4 Does the organization possess adequate physical facilities, office equipment, transport, etc. to implement the activities?

  • Provide location and list of office facilities, vehicles and office equipment locally available to implement the project.

1.5 Does the organization have formal procedures to monitor project execution (e.g. milestones, outputs, expenditures…)

  • Provide formal project monitoring policies and procedures

2.1 Has the organization been in operation over a period of at least 2 years to demonstrate its financial sustainability and relevance?

  • State the years of operation
  • Financial statements for the last 2 years

2.2 Does the organization have qualified staff in finance? Is the current accounting system computerized and does have the capacity to collect and provide separate financial reports on the activities executed under the Agreement of Cooperation?

Does it have systems and practices to monitor and report whether the project deliverables and expenditures are within agreed time and budget?

Does it have minimum segregation of duties in place (separation between project management, finance/accounting and executive office)

  • CVs of key finance and accounting staff
  • Description and key features and controls of the accounting system used
  • Organization structure / organogram

2.3 Does the organization have the capacity to procure goods and services on a transparent and competitive basis? (if applicable) check for procurement unit with experienced staff

  • Copies of procurement policies and procedures. The procedures should show how your organization procures locally and internationally.

2.4 Does the organization have formal procedures and controls to mitigate fraud such as multiple signature signatories on bank accounts, reporting and prosecution of incidences of fraud?

  • Describe anti-fraud controls and provide formal procedures

2.5 Does the organization have capacity to provide in-kind, financial, personnel contribution as UN-Habitat Implementing Partner in this present project? Please give details of contribution nature and size.

  • Describe nature and value of contribution (in-kind or cash)

3.1 Is the budget for each component of the activity to be performed by the Implementing Partner

(i) cost-effective (i.e. the cost should be economical and prudently estimated to avoid any under/over estimation)

(ii) justifiable/well supported and

(iii) accurate and complete?


Budget Proposal

  • BOQ (if applicable)
  • Other supporting documents

4.1 Is the technical proposal sound and does it respond adequately to the specifications and requirements?


Technical Proposal document


The applicant must submit a technical

proposal using this template: Technical

Proposal Document (Annex B)


Please use this to clearly show how you intend to deliver the proposed project.

 4.1.1 Challenge development and finalization

  • Experience of planning, leading and implementing challenge prizes, open innovation competitions, challenge-driven innovation initiatives or similar

 4.1.2 Competition website and related communications activities

      • Experience of developing innovation management online platforms or challenge prize websites, along with associated content and communications activities.

 4.1.3 Reviewing and selecting innovative solutions

      • Experience of establishing processes and systems for assessing, reviewing and selecting innovative and smart solutions.

4.1.4 Open outreach to innovators

      • Experience of outreach to and incentivizing innovators to participate in innovation contests.

4.1.5 Communications, advocacy, outreach

      • Experience of communications, PR and advocacy.

Cumulative score for ratios



Instruction to Applicants

  1. Proposals received after the deadline will not be considered.
  2. Applicants shall submit their proposal by email until the specified deadline above to the attention of Pontus Westerberg,
  3. Please use the templates provided in the Annex.
  4. Proposals and accompanying documents submitted to a different email addresses will not be considered.
  5. Any clarification queries and correspondences should be sent by email.
  6. Proposals failing to provide the requested information will be disregarded.
  7. All costs must be in USD.
  8. The proposal language is English.
  9. The technical proposal will be evaluated based on whether it responds adequately to the specifications and requirements of the call for proposals. All proposals will be assessed on a comparative basis against the criteria specified in the call for proposals document. Interested organizations must provide information indicating that they are qualified to perform the services (brochure, description of similar assignments, experience in similar conditions, availability of appropriate skills among staff, etc). Along with this technical proposal, please submit a visual and or narrative portfolio of similar projects that the applicant implemented in the area of activities of the project. We have specified mandatory experience which must be demonstrated marked with an (*) under “Selection & Evaluation Criteria”. Please submit relevant supporting documents verifying your organization’s experience in the required areas.
  10. A two-stage procedure will be utilized in evaluating the proposals, with evaluation of the Technical Proposal (comprising of technical capacity, financial and administrative management capacity, and the technical proposal) being completed prior to any Financial Proposal being opened and compared. Applicant’s submission of technical proposal and accompanying documents submitted in template Annex B and financial proposal in Annex C will be evaluated using the criteria specified in the call for proposals.
  11. All shortlisted applicants will be notified, and their respective project managers asked to participate in in a technical session organized by UN-Habitat to help evaluate the technical performance of the applicant organization.
  12. Only successful applicant organizations will be notified.
  13. Organizations will be selected in accordance with the procedure set out in the UN-Habitat IP Management Policy and Standard Operating Procedures
  14. This Call for Proposals does not entail any commitment on the part of UN-Habitat, either financial or otherwise. UN-Habitat reserves the right to accept or reject any or all proposals without incurring any obligation to inform the affected applicant(s) of the grounds.



You can download the key documents below:

  1. Annex A - Partner Declaration Form
  2. Annex B - Technical Proposal Form
  3. Annex C - Budget Template / Financial Proposal

For more information, please contact Pontus Westerberg,