"Take Back Our City" Wins Top Prize at the 8th Annual Penn Public Policy Challenge

March 1, 2017

Congratulations to team “Take Back Our City” for winning the 8th Annual Penn Public Policy Challenge! This past Sunday, five teams competed in the Penn Finals hosted at Perry World House. Congressman Dwight Evans, a long-time supporter and judge of the competition, said that this year’s crop of teams included some of the strongest teams he has seen. After five different presentations and forty-minutes of judge deliberation, "Take Back Our City" was chosen as this year’s winner and awarded a $5,000 grand prize to further develop their project proposal. 

"Take Back Our City’s" initiative seeks to provide Philadelphia citizens with a way to dispose of their unused and expired medications via prescription drop boxes in pharmacies throughout the city. The team is also working to partner with Philadelphia pharmacies to send out text message reminders to return expired medications. This initiative is not meant to cut down on the amount of people who already have opioid use disorder, but to serve as a preventative measure to keep prescription drugs out of the hands of young people that may misuse them. This project is a solid step forward for the City of Philadelphia against the opioid epidemic.

The team, comprised of four students from the School of Social Policy and Practice, chose to focus on opioid misuse and a prescription take-back plan after one team member’s childhood friend passed away of a heroin overdose in 2016. The friend’s addiction to heroin started in-part because of his misuse of prescription drugs found in his medicine cabinet at home. Once prescription drugs and opioids became too costly, he turned to a cheaper alternative, heroin. Team Members, Matt Miclette, Memphis Madden, Sarah Parkinson, and Anne Futterrer are dedicated to this project, and look forward to connecting with anyone who can help them make their idea a reality.

The judges ultimately chose "Take Back Our City" as the winner due to the timeliness of the problem and the potential for Philadelphia to become the first of its kind to implement such a campaign. As the winner of the Penn competition, the team has the chance to compete in the National Public Policy Challenge Invitational. Nationals will be hosted in Philadelphia at the National Constitution Center over the weekend of March 24th - March 26th, and the competition will include teams from universities around the country. 


  1. Councilwoman Cherelle Parker, Philadelphia City Council
  2. Matthew Stitt, Chief Financial Officer, Philadelphia City Council
  3. Congressman Dwight Evans, United States
  4. Omar Mencin, Director of Investments & Information Technology, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania
  5. Senior Fellow Elizabeth Vale, Fels Institute of Government 
  6. Bret Perkins, Vice President of External and Government Affairs, Comcast Corporation

Finalists and their Proposals:

  1. Philly Linked: seeks to link Philadelphia’s returning citizens to employers by encouraging use of incentivizes for hiring of workers who are too often perceived to be “high risk” hires.
  2. PHEAST: Seeks to provide nutritious, satisfying, and most importantly affordable meals to the people of Philadelphia, regardless of income or neighborhood via a Food Truck concept.
  3. Take Back Our City: Seeks to increase the number of pharmacies in the city that take back expired prescription medications that have exceeded their prescription date.
  4. City Sense: Seeks a partnership with the city to Provide Analytics software to capture lost revenue in Water Utility
  5. Food (Re)Connect: Seeks to increase efficiency and momentum within the Hunger relief community in Philadelphia by revitalizing the popular Food Connect App that was created during the DNC this past summer.



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Contact Information

Fels Institute of Government
University of Pennsylvania
3814 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Phone: (215) 898-2600
Fax: (215) 746-2829