Browse the winners and finalists of the 2021 Ideas Challenge by category:

Winner: Responding to immediate post-pandemic needs & building a stronger safety net


Winner: Rebuilding jobs and the economy


Winner: Expanding access to education and building college & career pathways


Winner: Securing our communities and our planet


Winner: Healing our democracy and rebuilding community


The biennial Ideas Challenge is a contest for NewDEAL Leaders to share innovative policies, from ideas just in planning to policies already under implementation. The Challenge provides the NewDEAL with an opportunity to recognize some of the most extraordinary and innovative work the members of our network are doing, and to continue to help what works spread. See our Ideas page to browse past winners, finalists, and submissions.

Build Back Better:

Ideas to help guide an equitable economic recovery and rebuild a post-COVID America that works better for everyone

Elected officials have a unique opportunity to reimagine and transform many parts of our society as we rebuild from the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rather than rebuilding the status quo, we can build something better that unites Americans, addresses the systemic injustices that hold many people back, and sets our country up for a bold future of cleaner infrastructure and industry, schools that create an informed workforce for a robust economy, and equitable opportunities for all Americans to achieve their potential.

The challenges are great: The COVID-19 pandemic is not yet over, and vaccination distribution remains essential for us to exit the public health side of the crisis. Many Americans face joblessness and even homelessness as a result of the pandemic, and as eviction moratoria expire and other relief programs end, even more Americans may be in danger of falling into deep poverty. Extreme weather events threaten our tenuous progress, as the changing climate increases the chances and severity of wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes, and more. The hate and discrimination stoked by the Trump Administration continues to result in violence around the country. And as we grapple with the impact of 400 years of discrimination built into our system, we struggle to find ways to ensure that minorities, women, immigrants, and other highly-impacted groups can have access to the same support structures as other Americans.

We now have a partner in the White House for this work, as the Biden-Harris administration has made these same goals a priority and shown their intention to offer leadership and support in this enormous undertaking. But state and local governments remain key actors who are getting the work done, and who have the flexibility and on-the-ground knowledge to find innovative solutions that respond to the actual needs of Americans every day. NewDEALers are at the forefront of these efforts to make good on the promise of states and cities as laboratories of democracy. This year’s Ideas Challenge aims to identify and elevate into our national conversation the most effective solutions they are pursuing to Build Back Better, so those ideas can carry us into a brighter future.

We welcome submissions in the following categories:

with ideas to help address Americans’ short-term financial instability, joblessness, housing insecurity, and other needs, while also reimagining safety net systems like unemployment and welfare to better meet Americans’ needs now and beyond the pandemic

with ideas that help us rebound from the lows of the pandemic, get Americans working for pay that allows for a better quality of life, and address inequities

with opportunities and technology at every level — from early childhood to post-secondary — to prepare students to make the most of their abilities

with ideas for states, cities, and regions to address climate change with cleaner and more resilient power, transportation, and infrastructure.

by promoting the right to vote and access to do so, effectively and efficiently solving problems, and engaging people in civic society