Knight Blog

The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Annual TED prize awarded to the city of the future

Feb. 29, 2012, 9:48 p.m., Posted by Damian Thorman

Video: Razorfish

Just moments ago here in Long Beach, Calif., TED unveiled the details of its annual prize in support of “one wish to change the world.” This year, the award is not going to a person, but to an idea: the City 2.0, the city of the future.

Over the coming year, TED will be asking leaders, innovators and citizens to create a new urban way of living, where 10 billion people can live healthily and sustainably. 

With Knight Foundation support, a new platform,, will allow people everywhere to help create their own future city. Citizens will able to propose – and lead – projects to upgrade their own cities on issues important to them – from transportation to public housing and recreational space and more. Civic and business leaders from around the globe will share ideas and resources.

In essence, as TED says, it’s a design challenge for one of the biggest issues of our day.

Philadelphia celebrates its BME Leadership Award Winners

Feb. 29, 2012, 3:22 p.m., Posted by Donna Frisby-Greenwood

Award-winning actress Sheryl Lee Ralph, Mayor Michael A. Nutter and other leaders helped celebrate the winners of the BME Leadership Award in Philadelphia Monday night.

The award is given to black men who step up to lead and engage others in their community. The honor comes with a combined $243,000 for the winners to reward their work and inspire others to step forward. The funding will provide outreach to recent returning war vets by Vietnam Vets, provide after-school programming and therapy for autistic children, explore the experience of black men through a theater performance and more.





Knight Foundation and its partners in Technology for Engagement attend TED2012

Feb. 28, 2012, 3:21 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

By Brett Hudson

My colleagues and I who are part of Knight’s Technology for Engagement Initiative are at the TED conference this week in Long Beach, Calif.  TED convenes some of the greatest minds around the globe to explore ways to foster a more informed, collaborative and innovative society.  

These goals are at the core of Knight’s Tech for Engagement Initiative, which funds digital technologies that inspire civic dialogue and collective community action. Leaders of several of our funded projects are participating in TED.

On Monday, Eric Gordon, who leads Community PlanIt, an online engagement platform for local planning efforts, led Knight’s TED Master Class called “3 Tools for Democracy in the Digital Age.” The class included a lively discussion with the TED Community on tools that place citizens at the center of decision-making in their communities.

Paula Ellis, vice president/strategic initiatives at Knight Foundation, who led the master class, reports:

Knight News Challenge Networks: Open is better

Feb. 28, 2012, 10:40 a.m., Posted by John Bracken


Photo Credit: Flickr User Jason A. Samfield

Note: To apply for the News Challenge, and read our FAQ, visit

A friend recently wrote that “open-source licenses are one of the most confusing things on the planet.” We see a need to better explain the open source rules for the Knight News Challenge, and our rationale for developing them. A couple of recent Twitter threads make it clear that there are outstanding questions about our policies.

At Knight Foundation, we are fans of open source software. Our mission as a foundation is to inform and engage communities. We want the tools and platforms that we fund to be widely used. We believe projects built using open source code are more likely to spread, and be built upon, than those that rely upon proprietary software. Panda and Overview , two projects supported through the 2011 News Challenge, are now open for developers to work on.  Earlier this month, our collaboration with Mozilla Foundation relaunched as OpenNews, and “is about helping journalism thrive on the open Web.” All told, we’ve provided support to some 76 open source projects since the News Challenge launched in 2007.

One criteria we use when selecting Knight News Challenge winners is potential social impact. We think that the use of open source code is a key part of achieving that impact. However, as my colleague Jose Zamora recently wrote (and as the head in the wall points out partway through this video), we will also accept proposals that use other licenses or proprietary code. To be clear: we prefer projects that are open source. But if you or your company have a rationale for a non-open source project, we will consider it.

Each year, we receive questions, and criticism, about our use of the General Public License. This year, some have again argued that we have chosen the wrong open source license. For now, GPL is the standard license we’ve selected to offer to our grantees.  We are also open to consider other licenses on a case-by-case basis.

@MEnista: U.S. won’t solve serious problems if we don’t tap into power of Millennials

Feb. 28, 2012, 9:19 a.m., Posted by Elizabeth R. Miller


During a summit in San Jose, students use interactive keypad voting to discuss what policy makers, college faculty/administrators and students themselves can do to improve college completion rates in their community.

In communities across the country, empowers and invests in Millennials to create and implement solutions to social problems. With support from Knight Foundation, the organization is bringing its Millennial-led engagement efforts to five Knight communities: Detroit, San Jose, Charlotte, Philadelphia and Miami.

Recently, Maya Enista Smith, CEO of talked with Knight about the project at the Gathering of Leaders in Miami, which brings together social entrepreneurs to help them accelerate social change.

Knight Foundation:’s mission is to empower and invest in Millennials to create and implement solutions to social problems. What is your programming model?

Maya Enista: Our model is to convene, invest and train in this generation of leaders to solve the problems that they face in their communities. We believe that young people are best equipped to solve these problems and it is our role to support them. For example, we recently convened a group of 100 community college students in San Jose, Calif. to talk about the obstacles that they face with respect to community college completion. We provided the students with the opportunity to work collaboratively to propose solutions to those challenges and asked them to compete for a share of $25,000 to identify and support the most innovative solutions. Now with funding, undocumented students that face financial and emotional challenges will have a place where they can go to talk to someone, print their papers, use the Internet and gain moral support with peers.  A mentorship and counseling program will also help foster care children properly transition into college life, and video and editing support will be available for student organizations on campus who are doing good work but who have trouble making their ideas and solutions visible. All of the winning project descriptions are available online.           

Knight News Challenge on Networks opens: Your shot at a share of $5 million

Feb. 27, 2012, 12:12 p.m., Posted by John S. Bracken

Note: To apply for the News Challenge, and read our FAQ, visit

Today, and for the following 19 days, the Knight News Challenge is open for business. The theme of the challenge is Networks. 

The most common question I’ve been asked since we announced the challenge is exactly what we mean by Networks. We’re trying not to define the term too narrowly, but I thought a look at David Sarnoff, the creator of the broadcast network in the U.S., might provide some insights into our motivations. (We’re launching the Networks challenge on the anniversary of Sarnoff’s birthday, coincidentally.)

In the 1950 film Mid-Century: Half Way to Where?, Sarnoff foresaw the coming “pocket-sized radio instruments [that] will enable individuals to communicate with anyone anywhere.” According to Cisco, the number of those “pocket-sized instruments” will equal the number of people on the planet by the end of the year. David P. Reed later extended “Sarnoff’s Law” (a broadcast network’s value is proportional to the number of people it reaches) to make the case that networks can scale exponentially. Today’s communications networks are different from the broadcast tower and its one-to-many reach. The Internet, and the mini-computers in our pockets, enable us to connect with one another, friends and strangers, in new ways. Witness the roles of networks in the formation, coverage and discussion of recent events such as the rise of the Tea Partyflash mobs, the Arab Spring, last summer’s UK riots and the Occupy movement. 

We’re looking for ideas that build on the rise of these existing network events and tools - that deliver news and information and extend our understanding of the phenomenon. Anyone - businesses, nonprofits, individuals - can apply. On the application form, we’re asking you seven questions - about you, your idea, the problem you want to attack and the network you want to leverage. We’re not asking for business plans or budgets - those questions will come later. 

For now, we want to hear a concise description of what you want to do. To encourage your brevity, we’ve listed word limits for each question. We won’t reject your application if you go over the limit - you can write 203 words instead of 200 on why you think your idea will work.  But the ability to successfully convey thoughts with precision is a criteria we will use in reviewing the applications. 


The East Village Other: celebrating a pioneering underground newspaper

Feb. 26, 2012, 7:29 a.m., Posted by Elizabeth R. Miller

Starting Feb. 28, a new exhibition will celebrate the life and death of one of New York City’s most beloved underground newspaper - The East Village Other.

The exhibition, “Blowing Minds: The East Village Other, the Rise of the Underground Comix, and the Alternative Press, 1965-1972,” will include original copies of the newspapers, enlarged covers of its seminal issues and artifacts from its Second Avenue offices.
The East Village Other, described as a “pioneering underground newspaper,” published bi-weekly for seven years. It is cited as an important parts of the counterculture newspaper scene and also helped give birth to the underground comix movement.

Exploring the role of the 21st century library in an age of e-books and online content

Feb. 25, 2012, 9:03 a.m., Posted by Elizabeth R. Miller



Photo Credit: Flickr user Jeff Wilcox.

In the age of e-books and online content, what's the role of the 21st century library?

That question brought together library directors from Knight communities across the country last weekend.

During the conference, the American Library Association shared its vision for the future of libraries. Here’s a sample of the association’s framework, also included in “Confronting the Future: Strategic Visions for the 21st Century Public Library”:

1.) Physical to Virtual

In the past, libraries have existed exclusively as physical spaces, but this is changing as content moves online and libraries take steps to better meet community needs.

For example, in Philadelphia, Knight-funded free library “hot spots” bring computer access, classes and the Internet to four locations around the city. The spots include computers, printers and reference collections of free library materials. They’re staffed by computer assistants to train users and offer free instruction and open-access computer time. 16,000 people visited these hot spots in just the first year.

How one community foundation funded a new journalism powerhouse

Feb. 24, 2012, 12:42 p.m., Posted by Lisa Williams

Declining ad revenue and a tough economy led to hard times for news organizations in New Jersey.  Rounds of layoffs at the Star-Ledger - which is one of the primary sources of news from New Jersey's statehouse - had led to deep cuts in coverage of important public policy issues.  

But could a small organization - with a website and a staff of four - really make a difference?  


Reporter John Mooney - who had spent many years covering New Jersey's statehouse as a reporter and Hans Dekker of the New Jersey Community Foundation - were willing to give it a try.  

Only a week after the site launched, the Spotlight reporting team published a story about misuse of funds at a public utility company that triggered a state Attorney General investigation.  

Success had its own rewards and challenges, says Dekker.  "One of the challenges of funding a journalism organization is that you might end up funding coverage that makes some donors uncomfortable."  

Community Information Challenge application is a two-stage process

Feb. 24, 2012, 9:06 a.m., Posted by Michele McLellan


The Knight Community Information Challenge requires a short initial application. Then selected applicants are invited to submit a longer, more detailed proposal.

The initial application, due Feb. 27, must be completed online and gives us enough summary information to understand the idea.

If we like your idea, you will be invited to complete a full proposal with more detail on how you plan to implement it and what it will cost.

7 questions on the new Knight News Challenge application

Feb. 23, 2012, 1:44 p.m., Posted by Jose C. Zamora

Note: To apply for the News Challenge, and read our FAQ, visit

On Monday, we will open the Knight News Challenge on networks. Just as we have revamped the contest, we have come up with a more streamlined application form.

As John explained in our first post and in this video, the challenge is evolving to be offered three times this year, an attempt to be more nimble and move at the pace of technology development.

Along with this new focus, we have simplified the application form. Based on conversations with previous News Challenge applicants and outside reviewers, we devised the following seven questions.

  1. What do you propose to do? [20 words]
  2. Is anyone doing something like this now and how is your project different? [30 words]
  3. Describe the network with which you intend to build or work. [50 words]
  4. Why will it work? [100 words]
  5. Who is working on it? [100 words]
  6. What part of the project have you already built? [100 words]
  7. How would you sustain the project after the funding expires? [50 words]

Two art leaders join Knight’s national arts advisory committee

Feb. 23, 2012, 9:01 a.m., Posted by Elizabeth R. Miller


Today, Knight Foundation welcomes two new art leaders from Miami and San Jose to its national arts advisory committee.

Silvia Karman Cubiñá, executive director and chief curator of the Bass Museum of Art in Miami Beach, and Anjee Helstrup-Alvarez, executive director of MACLA/Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana, in San Jose join the committee, which is made up of recognized artists and art advocates.

The committee guides Knight on the best ways to promote artistic excellence that engages, inspires and brings communities together.

Dennis Scholl, Knight Foundation’s vice president/arts said:

“Both Silvia and Anjee are extraordinary arts advocates committed both to culture and their communities. They each bring extensive knowledge of the arts, and have the experience and dedication to help identify the most engaging ways to bring art to communities.”

Lessons and insights learned in building community partnerships

Feb. 22, 2012, 4:51 p.m., Posted by Elizabeth R. Miller


Joaquin Alvarado, senior vice president, digital innovation, American Public Media

The 70 Knight Community Information Challenge projects funded so far have led to collaborations with nearly 450 organizations - from libraries, to tech groups, universities, legacy and new media and more.

Partnerships are so prevalent, that community and place-based foundations often ask for tools and tips in making them effective. So Knight and the consulting firm FSG talked with the leaders of successful projects, gathered their insights into a new report - and organized a panel discussion at the Media Learning Seminar offering lessons learned.

With less resources available for community news and information projects, collaboration and partnerships are more valuable and necessary than ever before, said Joaquin Alvarado, senior vice president, digital innovation, American Public Media.

But what creates some of the most successful partnerships? Alvarado says it’s about getting people from different communities active and engaged, earning their loyalty and providing long-term commitment to the partnership. It’s also about using technology to really engage with residents and making sure they feel their voices are heard in the communities.

Deepening engagement in elections: TurboVote expands in South Florida

Feb. 22, 2012, 1:27 p.m., Posted by Seth Flaxman


Knight Foundation is helping TurboVote, which aims to make the voting process as easy as renting from Netflix, expand into new communities and develop its platform. The funding is part of a series of Knight grants that support new ways to deepen Americans’ engagement in elections and foster more informed communities.

Co-Founder Seth Flaxman talks about the effort:

Our democracy is in trouble. The United States ranks 138th in voter participation – behind every major democracy, according to the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance.

As a grad student, I was on my way to contributing to the problem when I missed three elections in a row. I figured it was easier to build TurboVote, a platform that simplifies the voting process, than to find a printer and stamp to change my registration and then keep track of when local elections were taking place.

Looking back two years later, it turned out that TurboVote was sort of hard to build - but I'm still glad we did it.


Missed the conversation on news and info at the Media Learning Seminar? Here's full coverage

Feb. 22, 2012, 11:16 a.m., Posted by Marika Lynch



If you missed - or are looking for a refresher on -  Knight's 2012 Media Learning Seminar, we've rounded up all the info you need to help you catch up.

Check out:


Zuckerman: How to use media to amplify community voices

Feb. 22, 2012, 9:01 a.m., Posted by Elise Hu



Ethan Zuckerman believes the Internet is the most powerful tool humans have to understand one another’s differences. But, he says, we’ve yet to tap its potential. “The way we use the Internet keeps us from making those connections,” said the director of the MIT Center for Civic Media and founder of Global Voices.

Zuckerman told the hundreds gathered for Knight’s Media Learning Seminar that the sociological phenomenon of homophily — the tendency to gravitate toward people with similar traits — also governs our Web habits and online conversations. "We find the same ways to sort ourselves in whom we associate with online,” Zuckerman said.

In a speech Tuesday, Zuckerman told foundation and community leaders that the task for content producers today is to act as guides to the Internet, helping show audiences not only what they want to see, but what they need to see. “As tourists in a city, if we want to see various parts of the city, we find a guide. How do we create guides for the Internet?” Zuckerman asked.

His work with the Center for Civic Media centers on how to map, contextualize and amplify global voices with tools that, he says, can be applied to any community. Zuckerman’s four-step approach:

Lessons learned from using the Community Information Toolkit

Feb. 21, 2012, 11:27 a.m., Posted by Elise Hu


L to R: Mayur Patel, Kathy Bisbee, Alicia Philipp and Kelly Lucas

This post is part of a series about the 2012 Media Learning Seminar, a gathering of foundations, news organizations and tech experts on community information needs. Watch the livestream Monday and Tuesday at

One year after the release of Knight's Community Information Toolkit, foundations putting the guide to use say it has been critical in identifying community needs, creating collaborations and helping push for important change.

The Information Toolkit is a five-step guide to helping communities take better stock of their community information flows. Where do people go for information? Where are the gaps and areas for improvement? And how can the data gathered help lay groundwork for action? The aim: Strengthening communities by strengthening their information systems. 

"We should all think about ourselves as being in the business of helping communities have conversations with itself," said Mayur Patel, Knight's Vice President for Strategic Assessment. Patel led a panel of community foundations speaking about how the toolkit has helped advance their missions. 

Some key insights: 

Next round of Knights Arts Miami Challenge now open

Feb. 20, 2012, 6:30 p.m., Posted by Tatiana Hernandez

The Knight Arts Challenge Miami is now accepting applications for the 2012 year!

This five-year, $40 million initiative by Knight Foundation is looking for the most innovative and engaging ideas for the arts in South Florida. The best part is anyone can apply – individuals, non-profits, for profits, it doesn’t matter.

Applications are due by Monday, March 19 at midnight.

There are three simple rules:

1)   Your idea needs to be about the arts.

2)   Your project must take place in or benefit South Florida

3)   You must find funds to match Knight's committment. 

Ideas you can steal: Community information projects that worked

Feb. 20, 2012, 2:32 p.m., Posted by Elise Hu

Media Learning Seminar


This post is part of a series about the 2012 Media Learning Seminar, a gathering of foundations, news organizations and tech experts on community information needs. Watch the livestream Monday and Tuesday at

As part of Knight’s Media Learning Seminar (livestreaming today and tomorrow), five community foundations presented successful projects and ideas that could be applied to other community engagement efforts around the country.

1. You Choose Bay Area: Silicon Valley Community Foundation

With rapid growth in the Bay Area threatening the quality of life, the foundation wanted to get more people involved in regional planning.

So the foundation went for a three-pronged approach to engage its community. They built an interactive website called “ You Choose Bay Area,” initiated a media campaign that involved a partnership with public radio station KQED and hosted a series of public forums.  


@dangillmor: Six ways foundations and groups can help keep communities informed and engaged

Feb. 20, 2012, 12:49 p.m., Posted by Elise Hu


This post is part of a series about the 2012 Media Learning Seminar, a gathering of foundations, news organizations and tech experts on community information needs. Watch the livestream Monday and Tuesday at

Dan Gillmor has been watching closely as digital and social media upended the world’s “legacy” models for communication. The Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship director has spent much of the last decade considering how the media ecosystem has evolved, and in particular, how non-corporate interests like community groups and non-profit foundations can help keep alive some of the most important traditions of the disappearing traditional press.

“We’re in a fundamentally different situation,” he said of how communities get information today. “We create stuff, make it available and people come and get it. Consumers become creators and then become collaborators. The collaboration part is the most exciting and I think we're going to be figuring that out for generations to come.”

Gillmor addressed the 400+ attendees of Knight’s 2012 Media Learning Seminar this morning.  His advice to foundations and community groups who want to take part in keeping their audiences informed and engaged:

How to keep up with Knight Foundation's Media Learning Seminar

Feb. 20, 2012, 8:33 a.m., Posted by Elise Hu

Community foundations, news organizations and technology innovators are in Miami this morning for Knight Foundation’s 2012 Media Learning Seminar, where leaders from the various fields will explore what they can learn from one another and discuss the growing opportunities for effective collaboration.

More than 400 people are registered this year, making this the biggest Media Learning Seminar yet. But you don’t have to be in Miami to keep up with the sessions, speakers and presentations. For the first time, much of the conference in Miami today (Feb. 20) and tomorrow will be livestreamed. You can find the link and schedule at

We’ll also be tweeting @knightfdn, the foundation’s main twitter account. You can keep up with the hashtag #infoneeds, that participants and observers here will be using.

And this blog will be featuring posts throughout the two-day conference. I’m Elise Hu, a digital journalist at NPR and Knight Foundation’s conference blogger for the seminar this year. If you have questions throughout the event, feel free to tweet me @elisewho and use the #infoneeds hashtag.

Featured speakers include Eli Pariser, author of The Filter Bubble, MIT’s Ethan Zuckerman, and Dan Gillmor, founding director of the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship

YOUMedia Miami builds upon the role libraries play as places of innovation and exploration

Feb. 19, 2012, 12:37 p.m., Posted by Elizabeth R. Miller



As part of Knight Foundation’s weekend gathering of library leaders, the group toured a new project at Miami’s North Dade Regional Library aimed at teaching teens how to use technology to tell stories and engage with the world around them.

YOUMedia Miami builds on the role libraries play as places of innovation and exploration. The space is designed for high-school students to learn how to explore technology, mix music, design video games, create podcasts and produce films.

Workshops are available for high school students in digital photography, digital storytelling, animation and learning basic MAC skills. Adult mentors are available to help guide students as they work on new projects.

It’s already helping kids unleash their creativity and discover new ways to communicate and explore their community.

How libraries can track their impact in the digital age

Feb. 19, 2012, 9:06 a.m., Posted by Elizabeth R. Miller


Seattle Central Library. Photo Credit: Flickr user Thomas Hawk.

Librarians from across the country are gathered this weekend in Miami to re-envision the future of the library in a digital world, as part of Knight Foundation’s Libraries Initiative.

And while libraries have become hubs for experimentation and learning in the digital age, they face a challenge: they don’t currently have a way to measure the impact that reflects that evolution, said Amy Webb, CEO, WebbMedia Group, who helped kick off the gathering Saturday night.

To solve that problem, Webbmedia Group released, for the first time, a toolkit offering new ways for libraries to measure community impact, helping them “go beyond just the measurement of book circulation and foot traffic,” Webb said.

The “Key Performance Indicator Toolkit” provides an overview of what metrics libraries should track in the digital age, how to track them, suggestions for sharing and measuring library content and recommendations for evaluating the impact of a library’s core digital services.

How a student news project helped make an impact through partnerships with local media

Feb. 19, 2012, 8:10 a.m., Posted by Alyssa Lenhoff and Tim Francisco

newsoutlet is a community media project in Ohio that  received funds from the Knight Community Information Challenge through the Raymond John Wean Foundation. Here, the co-directors talk about how the project has helped inform the local community by creating valuable partnerships with local media.

By Alyssa Lenhoff and Tim Francisco, co-directors, The News Outlet

In our third year, has emerged from an experimental partnership between Youngstown State University’s journalism program and a local newspaper and public radio station, into a regional media collaboration. Today, our student journalists at three state universities, along with three newspapers and two radio stations are producing multi-platform investigative journalism that tackles the region’s most pressing issues.

Currently, The News Outlet collaborative has expanded to include student journalists from Youngstown State UniversityKent State University and The University of Akron. Our media partners include The Akron Beacon Journal, The Ravenna Record Courier and Akron’s Rubber City radio, in addition to “founding” partners the the Youngstown Vindicator and WYSU.FM.


Knight Chairs in Journalism share new projects and ideas

Feb. 18, 2012, 2:26 p.m., Posted by Eric Newton

Knight Foundation journalism and media innovation team members met Saturday with 18 Knight Chairs in Journalism from all across the country to talk about new projects and new ideas.

A few of the new projects:

· – This web site tests new technology to see what works and doesn’t for journalists. Knight Chairs Sarah Cohen and team at Duke University are looking at both new digital tools and popular ones, like Twitter.

· – A web experiment already online looking at new ways of engaging young people in politics, run by Kansas Knight Chair Pam Fine.  Political news of the day in different ways.


· – A site to be launched this spring by University of North Carolina Knight Chair Penny Abernathy and her colleagues and students, for traditional media trying toconvert their business models in the digital age.


Knight Chairs in Journalism meet to discuss the past year and what's next

Feb. 17, 2012, 3:23 p.m., Posted by Eric Newton


Above: A previous meeting of Knight Chairs and foundation staff in Austin, Texas.

This weekend, the Knight Chairs in Journalism are meeting in Miami to discuss what they’ve done this past year, what they’re planning to do, and why. These are accomplished professionals with university tenure at two dozen campuses in the United States. 

They teach innovative classes, do interesting experimental projects, build university-based programs and write or speak as “thought leaders” who help point the way to journalism’s best 21st Century future.

Here are some highlights about what they said at last year’s meeting on teaching journalism in the digital age.

Just a few examples of recent work:

Two Knight grantees in St. Paul recognized for leadership efforts

Feb. 17, 2012, 2:17 p.m., Posted by Elizabeth R. Miller

The February issue of Minnesota Monthly magazine features Dana Nelson of GiveMN and Laura Zabel of Springboard for the Arts - executive directors of two St. Paul Knight Foundation grantees. Both were profiled as Minnesotans “changing the way we think about the world - and its future.”

Nelson, the executive director of GiveMN, is featured in the profile “Gives philanthropy a new twist.” She is recognized for her work coordinating the largest one-day online giving event in the world, Give To the Max Day:


Dana Nelson

“GiveMN has helped thousands of Minnesota nonprofits raise some $46 million for their causes. While the online platform makes it a cinch for donors to do one-stop giving (even providing receipts for tax purposes), it’s especially valuable for the nonprofits themselves, who can easily set up organization profiles, use social networking to make fundraising pitches go viral, and ditch expensive direct-mail marketing.”

Knight blogged about the online fundraising platform last year.

Nelson also describes how for her next project she wants to reach out to schools to help them “ditch the bake sales and wrapping-paper peddling that takes time and energy away from schools’ primary goals.”


KCIC winners receive more than a grant

Feb. 17, 2012, 7:51 a.m., Posted by Michele McLellan


Community foundations that win the Knight Community Information Challenge receive more than funding to develop their idea.

Because news, information and digital opportunities represent a new frontier for many foundations, Knight provides important additional resources:

·      The Media Learning Seminar, a gathering of foundation leaders to explore ways to meet information needs. The next Media Learning Seminar is Feb. 20-21, 2012 in Miami and will be livestreamed to a wider audience.

·      Access to Knight circuit riders, who can provide technical support to guide grantmakers attempting information projects.

·      The Knight Community Information Challenge Boot Camp, hosted by Knight Digital Media Center at USC/Annenberg. This is an intensive, four-day seminar for managers of the winning projects to be held in September 2012.

New site amplifies role of young people to create positive social change

Feb. 16, 2012, 10:43 a.m., Posted by Elizabeth R. Miller



Today, a new website is launching to provide a common platform for youth to share, learn and amplify the role of young people in creating positive social change. features a map to display events, organizations and projects across global issues areas allowing young people to discover more about the opportunities to get involved in their own communities or about global developments across the issues that matter to them.

The knowledge hub collects information tool kits and best practices to allow new projects to benefit from the successes and lessons learned from previous efforts of youth organizers.  

The new site will also help organizations effectively share information about their projects, to promote projects and initiatives collaboratively, and to help track and celebrate the collective progress being made worldwide to tackle the world's most challenging issues.

Using online forums to boost deep dish pizza sales - and engage people least likely to participate online

Feb. 16, 2012, 9:09 a.m., Posted by Minnesota E-Democracy.Org

By Steven Clift, founder and executive director of

Do you have a “go to” place online where you connect with your neighbors?  A place where you can get to know people who live near you with incredibly different backgrounds, cultures and interests?

Isn’t it awesome? I think so.

In my own neighborhood of Standish and Ericsson in Minneapolis, I am digitally surrounded by almost 1,000 of my neighbors - about 20% of the households in my area - on a public online “neighbors forum.”

In just the last few weeks, we sent deep dish pizza sales through the roof at a new pizza delivery place struggling to get established, generated local elected officials’ help to take on the FAA over surprise airplane route changes rattling windows, directed neighbors to local Girl Scouts for cookies, and helped a mom find out how to request a new stop sign at a dangerous intersection after she posted saying, “I want my children alive.” Last fall when I started a topic about what are we thankful for, a Dakota neighbor spoke of traditional Native American sites walking distance from all of us.

Media books in a networked, digital journalism universe, Part 3

Feb. 15, 2012, 11:27 a.m., Posted by Eric Newton


Jeff Jarvis, along with students and faculty at the opening of the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism in New York City.

Over the past week, I've written about the steady stream of books written by Knight journalism and media innovation partners. Here’s the third and for the time being final batch of highlights:

·       Jeff Jarvis chronicles in Public Parts how sharing in the digital age improves the way we work and live.  Says the USA TODAY review: “Jarvis offers a persuasive and personal look at why sharing things publicly on the Web should become the norm. It makes us better and makes the Web more usable, he argues.”

Jarvis directs the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism, at the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism, where the nation’s first master’s degree in entrepreneurial journalism is offered.

For community foundation media projects: Rules of the road for partnership

Feb. 15, 2012, 8:56 a.m., Posted by Michele McLellan



As community foundations become active leaders in local news and information, many are learning they don’t need to go it alone. A variety of different partnership models are emerging and they are detailed in a new report by FSG for Knight Foundation

The report is aimed primarily at foundations entering the news and information field, but other players, such as traditional news organizations, nonprofit community media organizations, and universities are prominent members of an emerging constellation of potential partners.

Foundations, the report says, are learning that, “Partnerships are vital to their success, whether they are developing online platforms for community dialogue, financing new online professional news outlets or otherwise providing venues for community engagement about important issues affecting residents’ lives. “

For example, community media organizations may have more experience than the foundations in creating news content, while established news organizations can add reach as distribution partners. University partners might help with technology or students may help create content. Community nonprofits may bring valuable experience with community outreach.

How and why community and place-based foundations are becoming players in the news and information field

Feb. 14, 2012, 12:46 p.m., Posted by Mayur Patel


Community and place-based foundations are playing a growing role in addressing their community information needs. They see their funding of information and media as helping them make an impact on the issues they care about, tied to their philanthropic leadership and likely to increase in the future. These were the key findings from our recently completed State of Information and Media Funding Survey.

Of the 162 community and place-based foundation respondents, more than half report funding information and media-related projects in the past year, with a median contribution of just under $100k. Forty-nine percent of foundations supporting information and media have seen their funding in this area increase in the past three years, and 38% expect it to increase further over the next three years.

The survey also confirmed what we’ve been hearing in the field: that most foundations are funding information and media to make progress on issues that matter to them, in areas such as education, health, civic engagement and nonprofit capacity building.  As one foundation explained:

“We realize that public awareness, engagement, and mobilization are critical components to get civic leadership […] to take decisive action.”

Not just open source: the four funding options for 2012 Knight News Challenge

Feb. 13, 2012, 4:45 p.m., Posted by Jose C. Zamora

Note: To apply for the News Challenge, and read our FAQ, visit

Since announcing the first topic for the 2012 Knight News Challenge last week, we’ve received a lot of questions about whether winners will have to release their code as open source.  The short answer is no, but there’s a bit more to it than that. Here’s an explanation of where we’re coming from, and where the challenge is headed on this issue.

In the first three years of the contest, all challenge projects were required to develop their projects using open source software. Since the Knight News Challenge is a giant research and development project aiming to accelerate media innovation, using open source makes sense.

However, in response to requests from the community, we have worked to find additional funding mechanisms that allow for less strict or no open source requirements. This does not mean that we dropped the open source requirement, but rather that we created new opportunities that allow us to uncover ideas, and innovators, that we don’t have or know. The new funding mechanisms below allow Knight to fund businesses, individuals and nonprofits. Each one has different open source requirements. We started using some of them in years four and five of the contest.

Livestream: Media Learning Seminar features foundation leaders and tech experts

Feb. 13, 2012, 12:42 p.m., Posted by Susan Patterson

Ethan Zuckerman                    Eli Pariser                              Dan Gillmor

Knight Foundation’s popular Media Learning Seminar, where foundation leaders and technology experts explore investing in news and information, will have a new twist this year.

For the first time, much of the conference in Miami Feb. 20-21 will be livestreamed. You can find the link and schedule at

The conference brings together leaders from across Knight’s network in communities, journalism and media innovation to share and learn together. Increasingly, we’re seeing more folks eager to attend the conference, and we’re pleased they can tune in and learn along with us, no matter where they are. 

Among featured speakers this year are: Eli Pariser, author of The Filter Bubble, MIT’s Ethan Zuckerman, and Dan Gillmor, founding director of the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship. Here are some more highlights:

Media books in a networked, digital journalism universe, Part 2

Feb. 13, 2012, 8:29 a.m., Posted by Eric Newton


News University celebrates its 100th webinar. Photo credit: Kenny Irby / The Poynter Institute 

Last week, I wrote about the steady stream of books by Knight Foundation journalism and media innovation partners. Here are some more highlights:

·      Steve Brill’s latest book, Class Warfare, focuses on a La Brea Tar Pit of public policy, our messy education system. The New York Times review begins with a good summary: “Steven Brill a graduate of Yale Law School and the founder of Court TV, and in his new book, “Class Warfare,” he brings a sharp legal mind to the world of education reform. Like a dogged prosecutor, he mounts a zealous case against America’s teachers’ unions. From more than 200 interviews, he collects the testimony of idealistic educators, charter school founders, crusading school superintendents and billionaire philanthropists. Through their vivid vignettes, which he pieces together in short chapters with titles like “ ‘Colorado Says Half of You Won’t Graduate’ ” and “A Shriek on Park Avenue,” Brill conveys the epiphanies, setbacks and triumphs of a national reform movement. “

One of the positive aspects of doing the book, Brill told me, was his discovery of a couple of excellent nonprofit news organizations writing about education issues, Gotham Schools, and Education News Colorado

Media books in a networked, digital journalism universe, Part 1

Feb. 10, 2012, 11:24 a.m., Posted by Eric Newton

There’s a steady stream of books being written by Knight Foundation journalism and media innovation partners. Today, the hottest best-seller among them; next week, the rest:

·      Walter Issacson’s latest biography of an American giant, this time Steve Jobs, is a must-read for anyone trying to understand the complex, fast-moving psychology of Silicon Valley. In designing the most popular communications products of the digital age, Jobs followed the advice of scientist Alan Kay: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” And so, among many other things, we now have the iPod, iPhone and iPad – and entirely new ways to think about music, telephones and publishing.


issacsonWalter Issaacson, Pesident and CEO The Aspen Institute

Nearing the end of his astonishing go-for-it career, Jobs himself, in his Stanford commencement speech, gave this advice:

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

Knight Circuit Riders can help you refine your KCIC idea

Feb. 10, 2012, 8:54 a.m., Posted by Michele McLellan


Photo Credit: Noah Berger

Thinking about applying to the Knight Community Information Challenge? Circuit riders may be able to help you and your foundatoin refine ideas or anticipate and surmount potential challenges.

Circuit riders have expertise in a variety of areas, including project development, journalism, social media and digital technology.

They are Knight Foundation contractors who can help you:

-       Brainstorm your foundation’s idea for a community news or information project;

-       Understand possible technology options for your project;

-       Find out about projects that are similar to what you are proposing.

Announcing the Knight News Challenge: Networks

Feb. 9, 2012, 12:29 p.m., Posted by John Bracken

Note: To apply for the News Challenge, and read our FAQ, visit

Our first News Challenge, on networks, will open for applications on Feb. 27 and close on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17. We will launch a second contest later in the spring as an open competition, looking for new ideas broadly. A third contest will be devoted to a topic to be determined later. Each will last 8 to 10 weeks, beginning to end, as we try to bring our work closer to Internet speed. First-round winners will be announced in June.

For this year’s first Knight News Challenge, we intend to harness the momentum from people thinking about and building networks. In the course of our work, we often come across proposals to “build a Facebook that connects X and Y.” We want to move away from that. There are a lot of vibrant networks and platforms, on- and off-line, that can be used to connect us with the news and information we need to make decisions about our lives. This challenge will not fund new networks. Rather, we’re asking you to describe ways you might use existing platforms to drive innovation in media and journalism.

Health news service goes mobile, increasing availability of information

Feb. 8, 2012, 10 a.m., Posted by Elizabeth R. Miller

As economic troubles continue, nearly half of people surveyed say they are scrimping on health care, according to the Consumer Reports National Research Center. Good information is key to making choices about where to save.

In order to increase the availability of that information, the Center for Advancing Health is taking its news service mobile.

With $150,000 in support from Knight Foundation, the center’s Health Behavior News Service will digitize its news for mobile access and revamp its website.

The health news service creates news stories on the latest findings from peer-reviewed research journals and disseminates them worldwide to subscribed journalists.

Announcing OpenNews: The Knight Mozilla Partnership Pivots

Feb. 7, 2012, 10:13 a.m., Posted by John Bracken


This morning, our Mozilla partners announced the “retooling” of the Knight-Mozilla News Technology Partnership under a new name, OpenNews. We began talking with Mozilla in 2010 and launched the project a year ago to advance media innovation and the open web. As Project Lead Dan Sinker says in his post today, “two years is an eternity on the internet.”

Here at Knight Foundation, some of my colleagues have begun to make fun of me for my frequent use of the term “pivot.” I probably have been over-using the word - but I’ve been using it emphasize the need for us (the foundation, our partners - all of us working in the field, really) to adjust what we’re doing based on what we learn. At the orientation for the 2011 Knight News Challenge winners, I urged them not to hesitate to come to us with proposed re-directions of their projects. I’m less concerned by projects that come to us proposing tweaks and re-directions than I am by those that stay the course from proposal to completion.  And this need for flexibility and retooling applies to our own work: later this week, we’ll announce our own “pivot” of the Knight News Challenge.

A new model for fostering entrepreneurship

Feb. 7, 2012, 9:56 a.m., Posted by Elizabeth R. Miller


Photo Credit: JumpStart, by Laura Webb.

Several years ago, an entrepreneur licensed NASA technology from to start an Ohio company that converts industrial smokestack waste into electricity.  JumpStart, a non-profit accelerating the success of entrepreneurs, helped the owner find investors, contributed $400,000 to launch the company and negotiated a $20 million venture capital investment.

Since then, Echogen Power Systems has grown from 2 to 34 employees and forecasts revenues of over $100 million by 2014. It’s just one example of how new job growth and economic development stems from high growth entrepreneurial companies.

That’s in part why today Knight Foundation is announcing a $1 million grant to support an effort to bring a new model for engaging residents for fostering entrepreneurship to 20 cities across the country.

Knight’s support for the JumpStart America Initiative, a project of JumpStart, is a way to involve new leaders in their community’s economic future.

Local news partnernship eligible for Community Information Challenge

Feb. 6, 2012, 12:13 p.m., Posted by Michele McLellan


Only place-based foundations can apply for the Knight Community Information Challenge. If you are an innovator in local news, you may be able to approach local foundations about participating in the challenge to fund your idea.

The Knight Community Information Challenge is part of Knight’s Media Innovation Initiative, which seeks to help communities meet their information needs in a democracy. Knight believes that community or other place-based foundations are set up to address core community problems – including news and information.

In the Information Challenge, Knight is looking for projects that help fill community information needs, foster community engagement and help residents participate in the creation and sharing of news and information.

Meet the Detroit BME Leadership Award winners

Feb. 2, 2012, 1:42 p.m., Posted by Elizabeth R. Miller


Knight Foundation recently announced the winners of the BME Leadership Award, created to honor black men in Philadelphia and Detroit who step up to lead the community. 

The 20 black men were recognized for making Detroit and Philadelphia stronger and received a combined $443,000 to stregnthen their communities. 

Tomorrow, members of the public are invited to meet the winners from Detroit, hear their stories and learn more about their winning projects. 

Knight at SXSW Interactive

Feb. 1, 2012, 2:46 p.m., Posted by Jose C. Zamora


The following is crossposted from SXSW's blog

Knight Foundation will be back again in full force at SXSW 2012 as a participant in the Trade Show, the presenter of the Accelerator News category and sponsoring the Future of Journalism track of programming.

Please mark your calendars and join us at the following events:

            March 8 – iMA Conference Key Note

            March 10 – Media Innovation Fair at Brush Square Park.

            March 12-15 – SXSW Trade Show

            March 12-14 – SXSW Accelerator

Knight is committed to seeing journalism to its best possible future. Over the past four years, they have invested more than $100 million in a Media Innovation Initiative. So far, our funding has helped launch more than 200 community news experiments. 

Unlocking Citizen Philanthropy in Detroit

Feb. 1, 2012, 11:06 a.m., Posted by Rishi Jaitly

When I first starting falling for Michigan years ago (a courtship that eventually led to starting Michigan Corps in 2010), my affection for this place was always rooted in people.

I had never been somewhere where everyone was so self-aware of place and eager to participate in place. I had to join in and wondered, What if we could use technology - and more - to make it easy for everyone to share in this place’s renaissance and work with one another on consensus change?

Citizen Effect’s launch of Detroit4Detroit last week showcases the best of that aspiration.

That's why Knight Foundation supports the project, which is helping 150 Detroiters partner with local organizations to lead 150 social-change projects across the city. This Free Press article offers a sense for the kind of work Detroiters will be leading across issues like education, health and food security.