Knight Blog

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

Designing a common living room for the people of Charlotte, N.C.

April 16, 2014, 8:56 a.m., Posted by Susan Patterson

The Human Scale official trailer via YouTube

In the months ahead, people who live, work and play in Uptown Charlotte will have a chance to imagine what North Tryon Street could become.

Tryon Street – in the museum mile stretching from the cultural campus at the south end to the McColl Center for Visual Art at the north end – is the spine of our center city. The southern end has become a lively, dynamic destination for Uptown workers and out-of-town visitors. Corporate towers dominate the streetscape.

The northern half of Tryon has important civic assets as well, but the area is less developed as you move away from The Square. There are fewer and lower towers, empty lots and parking lots, and some publicly owned land available for future development. As many see it, there’s the opportunity.

In just one block, for example, we have Discovery Place, our popular science museum, the main branch of the public library, and our beloved sanctuary-turned-performance-hall, called Spirit Square. What if their physical spaces and programming were created in concert? I could imagine this area in the heart of Uptown becoming the city’s new living room, a place where people of all ages from all areas of town would come together to mix and mingle and share ideas.


Miami events build network of ideas

April 15, 2014, 10:10 a.m., Posted by Matt Haggman

eMerge Americas: Join the Movement, via YouTube.

This month we’re gearing up for eMerge Americas from May 1-6 at the Miami Beach Convention Center. The event will bring together global industry leaders, investors and Latin America’s top business executives, technologists and entrepreneurs.

Visit the Knight Foundation booth during the eMerge Americas Techweek expo from May 5-6 for demos from rising startups and insights from established local entrepreneurs. Register here.

However, there’s also a lot happening in April. Here’s a look at some Knight-supported Miami events happening this month:

• April 15-May 1: The O, Miami 2014 poetry festival continues with films, music, readings and more. Visit for a full list of events.

• April 15: Brainfood at The LAB presents Albert Santolo, as part of its entrepreneur speaker series.

• April 17: The Florida Institute for the Commercialization of Public Research will hold its first “Doing Well by Doing Good” event, inviting participants to attend angel investor learning seminars. For more information contact: (space is limited).

• April 17-20: Chicas Poderosas Miami, an immersive hands-on digital storytelling workshop, takes place at Univision and the University of Miami School of Communication. The event is organized by the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) with the support of Knight Foundation. ICFJ Knight International Journalism Fellow Mariana Santos created Chicas Poderosas during her fellowship year.

• April 21: Don Shoup, a professor of urban planning at UCLA, will speak on “The High Cost of Free Parking” at a Townhouse Center event.

• April 22: Join me at a Meet KF Miami Breakfast to discuss Knight’s work in the community. The event is free.

• April 24-25: Smart City Startups will bring together startups, investors, foundations and civic leaders to explore how we can help startups solve urban challenges.

• May 1: MIAMI SOUP, which helps make great community ideas a reality, will hold its first Miami event.

• May 1: Tech Cocktail, the entrepreneur networking and media company, will hold its Miami Sessions with Open English founder & CEO Andrés Moreno.

• May 1-6: eMerge Americas brings together global industry leaders, investors and Latin America’s top business executives, technologists and entrepreneurs. Register here.

Conference will explore how to help startups that make cities better

April 15, 2014, 9:33 a.m., Posted by Shaun Abrahamson


Shaun Abrahamson is CEO and co-founder of Urban Us Public Benefit Corp., which is hosting Smart City Startups 2014 in Miami April 24-25. The conference will explore how to help startups working on our biggest urban challenges. Knight Foundation supports the conference to stimulate entrepreneurship and help build successful cities. Photo by Flickr user: Koji Nakaya.

Fifteen years ago I joined govWorks. We were going to bring governments onto the Internet. But like so many startups at the time, govWorks failed. In fact it became the poster child for the Web 1.0 era, with our boom and bust arc documented in If we built govWorks 2.0 today, we’d do things differently. We’d make use of frameworks such as Lean Startup and Business Model Canvas or organizations such as Y-Combinator and We’d be much more likely to succeed.

Or would we?

A year ago I found myself researching local governments again as I tried to get smarter about smart cities. The list of city challenges reads like a list of the grand challenges facing humanity in the coming decades. In many cases we need cities to be much better. Better in energy use, reduction in emissions, improved budgeting, better transport, improvements in safety, resilience, more economic opportunity and quality of life. In some cases we need to be two times better, but sometimes 10 times.

Ten times is scary.