Knight grant helps connect leaders through new online tool

A $50,000 one-time grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation will give a boost to a new website that will allow leaders in Akron to connect with community organizations or efforts.

The foundation has awarded the grant to Leadership Akron to develop the website. The platform, called LeaderSource, will customize information about events and opportunities for involvement based on each user’s unique combination of professional skills and community interests.

The platform allows leaders to create a profile with not only professional interests, but also civic interests, said Jennifer Thomas, Akron program director for the Knight Foundation.

It will allow for identification of leaders according to specific interests, give opportunities for nonprofit and community groups to post events and opportunities to target specific leaders and engage them with events or opportunities in their interest area.

Leadership Akron already has an initial version of the online platform up and running for its alumni, said Mark Scheffler, executive director. The initial version was thanks to resources from the United Way, PNC Foundation and Leadership Akron Alumni Association. The Knight Foundation grant gives the boost to upgrade the platform for release later this month, Scheffler said. The total investment in cash and related donations in the platform will be $75,000 to $100,000.

Scheffler said Leadership Akron looked at other social media, but didn’t find anything that did everything the group wanted.

“You might be an accountant with a passion for the arts, but one wouldn’t necessarily find that on your Linkedin profile,” Scheffler said. “This will map content for opportunities for involvement, community events, volunteerism and also career opportunities to the unique combination of each user’s community interests and professional background.”

The platform, which has been built in conjunction with Akron-based TRIAD Communications, will personalize the view of events and interests based on each person’s profile, Scheffler said.

Thomas said the technology will be piloted with active Leadership Akron alumni, but the hope is to bring it to a broader audience.

“Hopefully, once we get this great ecosystem, everything will work together,” she said.

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About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.