Smart Growth America, CDC Launch ‘Champions Institute’ to Promote Complete Streets and Physical Activity

Aug 12, 2020

Smart Growth America (SGA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity are now accepting applications for the Champions Institute, a new initiative for elected officials focused on safe streets and healthy communities. This is an opportunity for elected leaders of Age-and Dementia Friendly Communities to learn more about the concepts of Complete Streets and inclusive street policies and practices.

The Champions Institute will serve to prepare mayors, city council people, tribal representatives, and other local elected-officials to act as champions supporting plans, policies, and funding that promote activity-friendly routes to everyday destinations, as part of the Active People, Healthy Nation Initiative.

What is the Champions Institute?

Selected participants will form a local leaders council, attending eight web-based learning exchange sessions beginning October 22, 2020, with new sessions every three weeks over a six-month period. The learning sessions will include equity-based principles and cover all steps from envisioning to implementation to achieve networks of more Complete Streets. Champions will not only learn from their instructors, but also their cohort, as the Champions Institute fosters a collaborative and supportive peer-learning environment.

What will I gain from participating? 

Local leaders who are selected for the Champions Institute will have the opportunity to learn from a broad array of national experts and former elected officials in the areas of public health, policy, street design, and project implementation. At the completion of the inaugural class, champions will be experts in promoting community reforms to create safer streets for all users including pedestrians, cyclists, transit riders, and motorists. Champions will be prepared to support plans, policies, and funding that promote the CDC’s Active People, Healthy Nation℠ initiative and activity-friendly routes to everyday destinations, in their communities, regionally, and nationally. Smart Growth America will provide continuing support to the local champions as they serve their communities and as they act as emissaries to other local leaders, growing a network of champions across the country building activity-friendly routes to everyday destinations.


SGA seeks a diverse range of local leaders for the Champions Institute. There are a few eligibility requirements:

  • Eligible participants in the Champions Institute include: mayors, city council members, county commissioners and tribal representatives, and other local elected-officials.
  • 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.
  • 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.

How to apply

Applications for the Champions Institute are now open and can be completed using SGA’s application form. The deadline to submit applications is September 10 at 11:59pm ET. Pre-application assistance and inquiries should be directed to:

Apply for the Champions Institute

Learn more

Join SGA for an informational webinar on August 20 at 4:00pm ET, hosted by Smart Growth America’s Senior Policy Advisor John Robert Smith, and Deputy Director of Thriving Communities Emily Schweninger. The webinar will provide applicants with an opportunity to learn more about the Champions Institute and the application process. Register for the webinar now.