Champions Institute application info and FAQ

Smart Growth America is now accepting applications for the Champions Institute, an opportunity for local leaders to gain expertise and skills needed to grow activity-friendly routes to everyday destinations in their communities.

We recently held an informational webinar about the Champions Institute outlining the program and how to apply.

Frequently asked questions

What do I need to do to apply?
Complete and submit an application online on this page:

Applications have been extended to June 30, 2022 at 11:59 p.m. ET.

When will I be notified if selected?
All applicants will be notified of their selection status the week of July 11.

Who can apply?

  • Eligible participants must currently be in elected office at the local level.
  • Eligible participants should represent jurisdictions within the United States. This includes jurisdictions within the boundaries of the 50 states, District of Columbia, and territories of the United States.
  • Applicants should be able to commit the time required to actively participate in the Institute. Champions must attend Institute events, and may not delegate attendance to staff or other persons.
  • Applicants don’t need to be existing experts, but should have an interest in developing their capacity and expertise in establishing Complete Streets and activity-friendly routes to everyday destinations.

What should I include in my application?
Applicants should demonstrate a body of work and/or an interest in improving safety and access for road users who are on foot, bicycles, or other mobility devices. Evidence of these measures can include, but are not limited to, Complete Streets policies or other examples of the community’s work toward making streets and other public spaces safe for all users.

Will the content of applications be made public?
No, applications will only be shared among SGA staff actively involved in reviewing them.

I’ve just recently been elected to my office, but will not be sworn in until after the Champions Institute begins. Can I still apply?
Yes, applicants are eligible as long as they take office during the program.

I’m up for reelection this fall during the Champions Institute program and may not win. Can I still apply?
Yes, successful applicants can remain in the program even if they are not reelected, but please make note of this in your application.

How many people will be selected in this program?
We plan to admit 20 motivated and dynamic participants. This size class will be small enough that each individual can receive enough attention and large enough to represent a diverse cross section of American communities.

I submitted an application but do not see a confirmation email. Do we have the ability to send in our applications directly?
If you don’t see a confirmation email, check your spam folder. It’s possible the automatically-generated email will go there. Please confirm in your email that the sender is not marked as spam. If you are having further issues, please email Anushka Thakkar at [email protected]

When will the Champions Institute begin?
The Champions Institute will launch in late September 2022.

Can I appoint a staff member to sit in on the modules instead of me?
No, participants in the Champions Institute are expected to attend all sessions themselves. Staff may assist participants, but may not replace them.

What kind of workload can I expect for Champions Institute participants?

Participants can expect to be assigned materials to read and review, along with targeted observations to make about their communities, between modules. During modules, participants are expected to be actively engaged in listening and discussing the material.

Participants will develop a work plan for their community to implement activity-friendly routes to everyday destinations within their communities. Participant work plans will also a mid-point report-out virtual session, a final report-out session, and a brief final report.

What role can local constituents play?
Local constituents can share information on Complete Streets and the Champions Institute with their local elected officials and encourage them to participate. Constituents can communicate how more complete streets and activity-friendly routes to everyday destinations would improve their community and benefit people like themselves.

When does the Champions Institute conclude?
Courses run through December and participants begin their work plan in January. Participants will provide updates on their work plans, culminating in a convening in June 2023.

Are multi-person teams allowed?
Participants can have support from their professional staff or others. Support staff may attend the sessions with them, to learn alongside them and support the work plan and monitoring process.

How many hours are going to be involved to properly commit to the Champions Institute?
The program includes six two-hour courses with up to one-hour of reading in preparation for each course. The final two modules, where participants will craft their work and Implementation plan, will require more time.

Is there a fee to participate in the Champions Institute?
There is no fee. Thanks to our partners at the CDC/DNPAO, participants will have access to all resources and experts in the Champions Institute for free.

Will we know the time of the modules before we apply?
Modules are currently being scheduled. They will take place on Thursdays from 4-6pm ET, but the exact dates are still tbd.

Do we need to have funding available for a project that we will implement after the program?
Communities don’t need project funding in place to develop a plan. Participants can also develop a project that is strictly about developing a policy, or long range plan that wouldn’t involve capital expenses. Participants could also develop a plan that is about changing an existing project.

Our ethics rules disallow us from accepting certain things that could be construed as gifts.  Beyond gaining knowledge and the course materials, is there any compensation, gifts, or benefits that I should be aware of before applying?
No. Information, support, and access are the only things of value here.

You didn’t answer my questions! Where can I go for more information?

Thank you for your interest! For more information contact Anushka Thakkar at [email protected]

Complete Streets