Knight Blog

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

2011 Knight News Challenge winners discuss successes, road bumps and challenges

April 17, 2012, 11:53 a.m., Posted by Elizabeth R. Miller

The Tiziano Project, a 2011 Knight News Challenge winner, provides new media tools and training to community members in conflict, post-conflict and developing regions.

Nine months after being named winners, the people behind the 2011 Knight News Challenge projects gathered in Miami for a day of discussing their wins and road bumps in moving their ideas forward.

Several themes emerged - including deep discussions on how projects are developing or tapping into existing user communities to have an impact.

Some have already had success: The Public Laboratory, for example, which uses technology to make grassroots data gathering and research easy and affordable, has already recruited 600 “citizen scientists,” said Project Lead Shannon Dosemagen. They’ve used creative methods, like employing balloon mapping to capture aerial imagery of oil spill-affected areas along the Gulf Coast. The projects, which started out appealing to the mapping community, grew to include environmentalists, people interested in data visualization and more.

Others stumbled upon existing communities that ended up becoming audiences and providing useful information.

·           Spending Stories, which gives relevant and useful context to news stories about government finances, started out creating a tool for journalists, said the project’s Community Coordinator Lucy Chambers. “As it turns out - it’s mainly advocacy groups who have more time and specialist knowledge who use the software for research, who then reach out to journalists to help raise awareness. We've been working more proactively with advocacy groups to leverage this interest.”      

·           Waldo Jaquith recently launched the Virginia Decoded site, which offers a user-friendly presentation of his home state’s codes, including links to court decisions and information from legislative tracking services. Jaquith said he was surprised to see how much enthusiasm there was nationally from the legal scholarship community. “It was great to have people who’ve given so much thought to the structure and organization of legal data for many years come to me and say ‘here’s what I’ve learned.’ That’s going to save me an enormous amount of time. I expected to have to spend months researching this kind of information, but instead it’ll take a few weeks because people who’ve already been doing it want to share what they’ve learned.”

Code for America's recruits for civic startup accelerator

April 17, 2012, 10:43 a.m., Posted by Abhi Nemani

Knight Foundation currently supports Code for America as part of its Technology for Engagement Initiative, which funds projects that help communities use technology to take action. Here, Abhi Nemanidirector of strategy and communications at Code for America, blogs about the launch of the organization's new startup accelerator.

Code for America is now accepting applications for its new civic startup accelerator. The accelerator is designed to disrupt the massive $140 billion government IT market and provide new and better services to citizens.

This first-of-its-kind, four-month program will "turbo-charge" select civic startups by providing them a springboard to amplify market awareness of their product, additional funding, business mentoring specific to the “government 2.0” space, and introductions to a broad network of civic leaders and potential investors. Code for America has recruited experienced telecommunications and consumer software entrepreneur Ron Bouganim as program director. 

Applications will be accepted until June 1 at

The accelerator has an esteemed list of mentors and advisors including CTO of the United States Aneesh Chopra, Caterina Fake, co-founder of Flickr and Pinwheel, Peter Schwartz, author and founder of the Global Business Network, and Ron Conway, angel investor and partner at SV Angel. (Read the full list.)

How the accelerator works:

Helping Akron young professionals engage with nonprofits

April 17, 2012, 9:04 a.m., Posted by Jennifer Thomas

Today, Knight announced a $400,000 grant to Business Volunteers Unlimited (BVU), which will launch a new program to connect our diverse young business professionals with service opportunities in our nonprofit community. We hope the program will more deeply engage young professionals and increase the probability that they will stay and build lives in Northeast Ohio as they take on leadership positions and become embedded in the community.

Now, young professionals can combine their hard work, passion and skills with BVU’s program to launch them as recognized young leaders in the community, and build on Akron’s focus to engage the next generation of talent.

In Akron, as in many communities, civic leadership matters. Just being CEO of a company does not equate to leadership. One must be actively, civically engaged to make a difference. And the next generation of talent is ready to participate. 

BVU will work with young professionals groups like Torchbearers, which recently received a grant from Knight to helps its members become Changemakers and take risks on innovation.

Read more in today’s release and in the Akron Beacon Journal.

By Jennifer Thomas, program director/Akron at Knight Foundation