Knight Blog

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

A nonprofit news organization ‘on stable footing’

June 29, 2012, 9:36 a.m., Posted by Eric Newton


Some good news came the other day that is symbolic of the hard work fledgling nonprofit news organizations are doing to put their digital newsrooms on more stable footing. The story came in the form of an official report on grant from Boston University’s New England Center for Investigative Reporting. The center is one of the nonprofit news organizations Knight has supported as we helped partners experiment with different models for replacing at least some of the “missing journalism” communities need to be informed and engaged.

You can see the story in the pie charts. The investigative center, which reports important stories throughout New England, is now pulling in more than $340,000 a year from non-foundation sources. This means its “earned revenue” triples, mostly through a high school journalism training program. That’s good – what you want is a pie chart with a lot of fat slices. In the details below, look at is how deliberate the center is: It tries a lot of different revenue ideas, since different things work in different community media ecosystems. It quickly evaluates each new attempt, dropping the ones that fail and doubling-down on the ones that work. It brings in professional development staff and business consultants as needed.

Improving student achievement in Charlotte

June 28, 2012, 10:57 a.m., Posted by Susan Patterson


Above: Miami students receive free laptops through the One Laptop Per Child program

Today, Knight Foundation announced it is joining Charlotte’s philanthropic leaders in supporting Project L.I.F.T, a five-year, $55 million initiative to improve student achievement in West Charlotte schools.

Knight is not an education funder, so why would we invest in this effort? We do care about access to technology and  engagement, however, and the two grants, totaling just over $4 million, support our interest in “informed and engaged communities.”

One grant will put laptops designed for children into the hands of all kindergarten-through-fifth grade students in seven LIFT schools – that’s about 3,200 laptops.

These One-Laptop-Per-Child laptops will come loaded with a child-oriented Wikipedia, books and other learning tools that the teachers will decide upon.  Internet access in West Charlotte is only about 20 to 40 percent of the community, and it’s something parents asked for. We hope these laptops and training will provide our students with the digital skills needed for 21st century life.

Creating a "manifesto" for the Tech for Engagement community

June 27, 2012, 10:49 a.m., Posted by Daniel Latorre

Earlier this month as part of its Technology for Engagement Initiative, Knight Foundation gathered thought leaders to talk about the best ways to use new tools and platforms to bring communities together around important issues. Attendees were asked, where is this nascent field going, and what issues should we be exploring?  Here, Project for Public Spaces' VP of Digital Placemaking Daniel Latorre introduces the Tech for Engagement Manifesto his work group started.

A few weeks ago we were all face to face with laptops down and smartphones mostly in our pockets. An amazing feat for a highly wired group. Asked to lead a manifesto break out group towards the end of our unconference, the civic activist in me gladly accepted such a happily ludicrous task to attempt to do in 30 minutes. What you see below is the product, let's call it an alpha, of five attendees' hack at synthesizing the values we heard at the summit along with some input from the wider summit group over email afterwards.