Knight Blog

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

Akron ‘Snow Day’ creates colorful community connections

Feb. 26, 2015, 12:09 p.m., Posted by Susan Ruiz Patton


Photo by Megan Louise.

Instead of letting the bitter cold and snowy weather trap them inside, the Akron League of Creative Interventionists chose to build their January change-themed event around the snow.

Sure, they had to reschedule it twice – once for a storm that dumped five inches of the white stuff and again in anticipation of rain that would have melted it all. But that didn’t deter nearly 20 people from showing up ready to paint inspiring messages in the snow.

Each month the group builds an event or events around a theme set by the league’s founder, San-Francisco-based artist Hunter Franks. Knight Foundation provided more than $55,000 for Franks to create similar community connections in four Knight cities: AkronDetroitPhiladelphia and Macon, Ga. January’s theme was Change. February’s is Strength.

To improve civic participation we need transparency

Feb. 26, 2015, 11:32 a.m., Posted by Chris Gates


Photo by Flickr user Mortimer62

Chris Gates is the president of the Sunlight Foundation, a nonpartisan nonprofit that advocates for open government globally and uses technology to make government more accountable to all. Below he writes on voter participation and campaign finance disclosure, inspired by the latest News Challenge from Knight Foundation. Knight News Challenge: Elections asks the question, How might we better inform voters and increase civic participation before, during and after elections? Winners will share in more than $3 million. Apply at newschallenge.org.

Over the past several decades, we’ve seen a steady decline in voter turnout, and a growing feeling of disconnect from the leaders of our government that exists to represent us. This, despite advances in technology that quite literally have put the world at our fingertips. Why is it then, when technology has made it easier than ever to access information, connect with one another, build networks and communicate ideas, that we’re so disengaged from the political process?

Rather than engage, more and more people are making an active, and rational, choice to not participate in our political process. The United States has the lowest turnout rate of any industrialized country in the world. Citizens are tuning out and turning away from a system they feel can’t hear them and doesn’t represent them. Are they wrong? Given the state of our political system, who do citizens think their leaders really represent?

Teaching residents to walk this way…

Feb. 26, 2015, 9 a.m., Posted by Matt Tomasulo


Photo courtesy of Walk [Your City].

Urban designer Matt Tomasulo is the chief instigator and founder of Walk [Your City], which Knight Foundation supports as part of its efforts to invest in innovators who help cities attract and keep talented people, expand economic opportunity and create a culture of engagement.

One rainy night in 2012, I hung 27 guerrilla walking signs in downtown Raleigh, N.C., as an experiment: What happens when we show residents how many minutes away on foot neighborhood destinations are in their communities? Three years later, the Walk [Your City] team and I are working to empower pedestrians nationwide with the creation of a “do-it-yourself” walkability toolkit, supported by Knight Foundation.

How did we get from there to here?

While in grad school back in 2012, I was studying the barriers to people walking as part of their daily lives. Studies show that the perception of destinations being too far to walk – rather than the reality of distance – was the main barrier. While living in larger cities such as D.C. and Copenhagen, I had noticed that people walked 12 to 18 minutes, multiple times a day, without even thinking about it. Could we influence that perception in other communities in the U.S. that do not have the density of D.C., New York and San Francisco?