TED, the non-profit organization that brings together thinkers and entrepreneurs, isn’t known for thinking small.

For years, some of the world’s great thinkers and doers, from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers’ John Doerr, to former President Bill Clinton, have graced the stages of TED conferences and shared their thoughts and ideas about the future.

This year’s no exception, as the group announced that its TED Prize winner for 2012 is really more an idea and plan than anything else. While in the past, individuals with their own plans have received the $100,000 prize, this year, a concept called the City 2.0 wins the prize, announced Wednesday night at the annual TED Conference in Long Beach, California.

If the idea seems fuzzy, it’s almost deliberately so. TED curator Chris Anderson says his organization is looking to do nothing less than help people throughout the world to crowdsource how they want to live in the future.

“This is a global call for collaborative action on one of the biggest issues of our day,” said Anderson. “The new platform we’re launching today is designed to empower citizens to connect with each other to help reshape their own cities. And it’s designed to be open-tent. Numerous other organizations and individuals have been involved in this issue for years, and this platform allows them to share their successes, resources, and insights with the rest of the world.”

With support from such organizations as the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, IBM, and Razorfish, TED launched a website, the City 2.0 that invites ideas from people anywhere in the world for city building.

In addition, the organization will split the $100,000 prize into $10,000 grants that will go to 10 local city building initiatives, to be announced at TED Global, held in Edinburgh, Scotland, in June.

It’s a very interesting proposition that TED has come up with. But it merits some skepticism.

There’s little doubt of either the intellectual or financial firepower behind TED (tickets to the Edinburgh event, for instance, cost $6,000), but one does have to wonder if even a prestigious organization can really reshape the way cities develop in the future.

In other words, how will TED’s the City 2.0 play with the planning commission?

For more on grants and grant writing, visit Grant Pros.


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