How San Francisco is Creating a Blueprint for Urban Transformation

(BPT) - Downtown San Francisco, known as a global hub for technology and innovation, is at a crossroads. Like many urban areas, it faces a unique set of challenges exacerbated by the pandemic. Addressing the very real humanitarian challenges in San Francisco is a critical and immediate need, but longer term, more comprehensive transformation will take the concerted efforts of many stakeholders. In response to this need, the Yes San Francisco (Yes SF), Urban Sustainability Challenge, an initiative designed to help catalyze the city's transformation, was launched by Deloitte, Salesforce, and the World Economic Forum along with additional collaborators Citi and San Francisco Chamber of Commerce to empower the creativity of innovators in support of urban sustainability and economic development.

A Challenge Spurred by Innovation

San Francisco's downtown area is facing a crisis, with commercial office vacancy rates driving a significantly slower pandemic recovery than 50 other major cities. Office-based industries account for nearly three-quarters of the city's GDP. Beyond economics, cities like San Francisco contribute disproportionately to global energy demand and CO2 emissions making sustainable transformation both a local and a global imperative.

Corporate and community leaders recognize the need to revitalize the city and create a blueprint for other cities to follow. As a result, the first location-based UpLink Challenge was created, and it was more than a call for ideas. The Yes SF, Urban Sustainability Challenge creates a competitive platform for entrepreneurs to propose scalable, sustainable solutions designed explicitly for downtown San Francisco targeting water conservation, waste management, energy conservation, urban green spaces, and more.

The Challenge, already aligned with initiatives like San Francisco's Climate Action Plan and the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goal 11, received nearly 150 applications. Just this week, the World Economic Forum named 26 finalists, each showcasing a wide range of innovative solutions, technologies, and ideas. Up to 20 Top Innovators will be named in October 2023.

Submissions were received from a wide range of innovators from around the globe bringing thoughtful, creative solutions to revitalize the city. Innovations include new approaches to energy that brings affordable, scalable options to help increase residential and business occupancy rates; sustainable reuse of water that could ignite the creation of new jobs within the city; solutions that reduce San Francisco's carbon footprint to help meet its sustainability goals; innovative uses of existing buildings and spaces, and more.

Collaboration: The Heartbeat of Sustainable Change

What sets this Challenge apart is the ecosystem that supports it. The coalition of more than 20 organizations including Deloitte, Salesforce, World Economic Forum, Citi, the San Francisco Chamber, and more are committed to its success, by lending their experience through various resources ranging from financial funding by certain members of the coalition to strategic insights to access to their extensive networks to help support the implementation and sustainability of these groundbreaking projects. The result is a roadmap to revitalization that isn't just for San Francisco; it offers a framework of opportunity that other cities can adapt and scale to their unique challenges.

A Lasting Impact Around the Globe

The final selection of innovations named in October will receive recognition and resources to move their ideas forward. But the overall vision is bigger than identifying new innovations; it's about igniting a movement for sustainable urban development. By nurturing these new initiatives, San Francisco hopes to create a ripple effect extending far beyond the Bay Area.

In a time of unprecedented challenges, the Yes SF, Urban Sustainability Challenge serves as a timely reminder that innovation and collaboration can help pave the way for a more sustainable and equitable future.

November 7, 2023