AECOM and Van Alen Institute launch “Urban SOS: Fair Share,” challenging multidisciplinary student teams to tackle cities’ most pressing issues

LOS ANGELES (May 18, 2016) — AECOM and Van Alen Institute today launched the annual Urban SOS competition, inviting university students to become the visionaries of tomorrow by taking on some of the most pressing challenges faced by the world’s cities. The contest is presented in partnership with ‘100 Resilient Cities — Pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation.’

This year’s competition is themed “Urban SOS: Fair Share.” The competition challenges students to apply the tools and technologies of the sharing economy in support of more equitable access to resources, sustainable built environments and enriched lives for urban residents. It is the seventh in a series of student competitions organized by AECOM and builds off of Van Alen Institute’s 120-plus-year history of organizing student design competitions.

The sharing economy is revolutionizing mature industries worldwide and people’s appetite for borrowing, renting and sharing continues to grow. Research has shown that as digital natives, today’s students are adapting to the sharing economy faster than any other demographic, and as such, are uniquely placed to think big and reimagine how design and the concepts of the sharing economy can be fused to tackle urban challenges.

“Urban SOS: Fair Share” asks students to understand the social complexity of the sharing economy from a multidisciplinary perspective not often taught at the university level. The competition challenges teams of up to four students from different disciplines to come together to identify a problem or need that current infrastructure struggles to serve. The problem may be global in nature, but teams must identify a specific site and city for their proposal. They will determine how design and technology can create a sharing system with both digital and physical components that address this need.

“Fair Share” asks students to consider these questions, among others:

• How can physical design strategies and digital sharing platforms together create more equitable access to services and resources in underserved communities?

• How could government agencies share spatial and technological assets (such as schoolyards, the internet, books, buses, computers, office spaces and information) with the people who need them the most? How could design help transform these assets to better meet public needs?

• Can technology enable and empower communities to care for their neighborhoods (i.e., parks, streets), people (especially senior citizens, kids after school), and cultural assets that don’t get the attention they need?

“The goal of ‘Urban SOS’ is to inspire the world’s future leaders to envision and realize more resilient cities,” said Stephen Engblom, global director of AECOM Cities. “The past six years of the competition have allowed us and our key partners, Van Alen Institute and ‘100 Resilient Cities — Pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation,’ to imagine more complex cities and urban solutions through the next generation of big thinkers.”

“We’re excited to launch ‘Urban SOS: Fair Share’ and watch student teams tackle the most pressing challenges of our time through the lens of a hot topic like the sharing economy,” said Van Alen Institute Executive Director David van der Leer. “Design can be catalytic: These student projects have the capacity to propel processes around the globe and change thinking across the field of design. This competition gives students the chance to shift policy paradigms across time, for their futures and ours.”

Entries should be submitted by midnight EDT on September 12, 2016, at Expert juries of global thought leaders in five cities around the world will select competition finalists, who will advance to the final round in Los Angeles to present their proposals before an interdisciplinary panel. Winning teams will receive a combination of cash and in-kind support from AECOM to help bring their project to life.

AECOM is built to deliver a better world. We design, build, finance and operate infrastructure assets for governments, businesses and organizations in more than 150 countries. As a fully integrated firm, we connect knowledge and experience across our global network of experts to help clients solve their most complex challenges. From high-performance buildings and infrastructure, to resilient communities and environments, to stable and secure nations, our work is transformative, differentiated and vital. A Fortune 500 firm, AECOM had revenue of approximately $18 billion during fiscal year 2015. See how we deliver what others can only imagine at and @AECOM.
Facebook: /UrbanSOS
Twitter: @AECOMUrbanSOS

About Van Alen Institute
At Van Alen Institute, we believe design can transform cities, landscapes, and regions to improve people’s lives. We collaborate with communities, scholars, policymakers, and professionals on local and global initiatives that rigorously investigate the most pressing social, cultural, and ecological challenges of tomorrow. Building on more than a century of experience, we develop cross-disciplinary research, provocative public programs, and inventive design competitions.
Facebook: /vanaleninstitute
Twitter: @van_alen
Instagram: @van_alen

About 100 Resilient Cities — Pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation
100 Resilient Cities — Pioneered by The Rockefeller Foundation (100RC) helps cities around the world become more resilient to the physical, social, and economic challenges that are a growing part of the 21st century. 100RC provides this assistance through: funding for a Chief Resilience Officer in each member city who will lead the resilience efforts; resources for drafting a resilience strategy; access to private sector, public sector, academic, and NGO resilience tools; and membership in a global network of peer cities to share best practices and challenges. 100RC currently has 66 member cities. For more information, visit:
Facebook: /100ResilientCities
Twitter: @100ResCities

AMERICAS 16-0502

AECOM Media Contact:
Brendan Ranson-Walsh
Vice President, Global External Communications

Van Alen Institute:
Steven Thomson
Programs & Communications Manager
1.212.924.7000 x 12

100 Resilient Cities:
Andrew Brenner
Senior Manager, Global