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

  • Some alt text
    Engaged Communities

    Detroit’s Motor City Match connects entrepreneurs with opportunity

    June 23, 2015, 9 a.m., Posted by Michael Forsyth

    Michael Forsyth is program manager for the Detroit Economic Growth Corp. Below, he writes about Motor City Match, an initiative to pair entrepreneurs with vacant properties and financial capital, which Knight Foundation supports.

    How does a city attract businesses and fill vacant buildings at the same time?

    It plays matchmaker.

    Detroit’s Motor City Match program connects new and expanding businesses with quality real estate opportunities, providing them with funding and tools to fuel the city’s growing entrepreneurial movement. Motor City Match is an initiative of the Detroit Economic Growth Corp. and the city of Detroit, which is supported by Knight Foundation.

    Starting a business always has its challenges. Our work with Detroit entrepreneurs has consistently shown two common themes that Motor City Match aims to address.

    ·       First, entrepreneurs have trouble finding the right space to open their business in Detroit. This issue is largely due to a lack of readily accessible information which is further compounded by disconnected networks of brokers, building owners and businesses.

    ·       Second, Detroit’s entrepreneurs lack the capital to open their businesses, but they also face additional hurdles due to the poor condition of the building stock in Detroit. In nearly all instances, prospective tenants are expected to invest in renovations. Increased capital requirements for building renovations, plus business startup, combined with the risk and uncertainty of a challenged urban environment, create major barriers to capital access and underwriting for local lenders.

    Read full article ›

  • Some alt text
    Engaged Communities

    What makes a city successful: Lessons from the Knight Cities Summit

    June 22, 2015, 2:23 p.m., Posted by Julie Edgar

    What does it take to make a city more than a collection of buildings and bodies? How can we ensure they are vibrant places to both live and work? 

    That’s a serious challenge. But free up a little money and see what ordinary city dwellers think up. It’s remarkable what happens.

    The Knight Cities Challenge Summit that wrapped up Friday in Detroit brought together 32 winners of $5 million in grants in Knight Foundation’s first Knight Cities Challenge. They were chosen from among 7,000 applicants for proposals designed to attract talented workers to cities, expand economic opportunity and promote a culture of civic engagement – three keys to city success. Their projects range from the whimsical to wonky, and all reflect nimbleness and a willingness to take a risk.

    Along with sessions that allowed grantees to talk to each other – and did they ever – Knight Foundation brought in bold thinkers and doers in the area of civic innovation, including Theaster Gates of the Rebuild Foundation; Jake Barton of the media design firm Local Projects, Fred Dust of the design firm IDEO, Charles Landry, author, and Joe Cortright, an economist with  City Observatory.

     “If we’re going to succeed, the solution starts at the community level,” Cortright told the grantees. “Coming up with new ways of doing things in your city is what it’s about.”

    Cortright emphasized the importance of making cities a magnet for talent. The single biggest factor explaining a city’s economic success is its human capital, he said – and millennials are much more likely to choose where to live first, and then look for a job. That speaks to the importance of making cities vibrant places to live.

    Read full article ›

  • Arts

    New era for Miami International Film Festival as Knight prize rules change

    June 19, 2015, 9 a.m., Posted by Jaie Laplante

    Photo: 2015 Knight Competition jurors Phil Lord, Mercedes Gamero and Amma Assante

    Earlier this month, Miami Dade College’s Miami International Film Festival unveiled major changes to its signature Knight Competition for the upcoming 33rd annual edition, to be held March 4-13, 2016.

    The competition’s new eligibility rules means that any feature-length film, narrative or documentary, regardless of country of origin, from a director who has previously been presented a piece at the festival, will be eligible for the $40,000 cash awards, provided by Knight Foundation.

    This evolution in the competition will naturally increase excitement for filmmakers, but also for audiences.  Everybody loves following award shows, and cheering on their favorite films, directors and actors.  The new rules in Miami mean that an increased number of films will be competing for the prestigious title in 2016, and more films in the competition will increase the number of competition films that audience members will have had the opportunity to see (and support!)  when the jury unveils its final choices on awards night at the Olympia Theater on March 12.

    It’s also good news for filmmakers in the Miami community.  Under the new eligibility rules, Miami (and international) directors with new feature films who have previously appeared at the festival with short films, will be automatically eligible as well. 

    Read full article ›