How the 2016 Emerging City Champions will help transform communities

communities / Article

Emily Munroe is the executive director of 8 80 Cities, a nonprofit dedicated to sharing the best practices in using public space to build more vibrant cities. Today Knight Foundation is announcing $1.4 million in new funding for 8 80 Cities to support the Emerging City Champions Fellowship, city learning tours and residencies for leaders from the 26 communities where Knight invests.

One year ago, 8 80 Cities and Knight Foundation began an experiment in city building called the Emerging City Champions Fellowship. We selected a group of young civic innovators to implement creative solutions to challenges in cities, such as civic engagement, urban mobility and creating vibrant public spaces. We provided $5,000 in seed funding, ongoing inspiration and support, and a one-year deadline for the fellows to launch their own transformative project.

Today, we are happy to report that the Emerging City Champions experiment surpassed all expectations. The young change makers who participated in this program established new organizations, created pop-up public spaces, fostered community and broke barriers. In fact, the program was so successful that we’re doing it all over again.

The 2016 Emerging City Champions fellowship program will launch on March 28, 2016. The deadline for applications is April 15. Interested innovators can submit online proposals at

The Emerging City Champions is a fellowship program for civic innovators and status quo breakers in the 26 communities where Knight invests. The program is designed to empower people who see opportunity in urban challenges, and who are committed to creating change to enhance their communities. No project idea is too big or too small as long as the applicant is willing to take chances and push boundaries.

The first stop for successful applicants will be Toronto, Canada, for the Emerging City Champions Studio. Over four days, the champions will test, stretch, break and build their project ideas through workshops and group activities led by city building experts. The champions will return to their home cities with the skills and knowledge they need to hit the ground running. They will have one year and $5,000 to put their project idea into action. 8 80 Cities, Knight Foundation and a network of mentors will be there to support the champions every step of the way.

Applying is easy. There are only four rules for submissions:

1)    Projects must be based in or benefit one of the 26 communities where Knight invests.  

2)    Applicants must be between the ages of 19-35.

3)    Project ideas must contribute to improved urban mobility or public space.

4)    Applicants must include a multimedia submission that describes their project

Successful applicants will have one year to implement a game-changing project in their city. The rules are minimal to maximize the creativity and ingenuity of the proposals. For inspiration, we encourage you to learn more about the alumni champions at

The Emerging City Champions program is an opportunity to embrace the dynamism of your community by creating positive change. It’s about celebrating nimble approaches to city building that invite and empower everyone to participate in their community. It’s about supporting young civic leaders and diverse voices who are driven to make a mark on their city. We look forward to seeing your idea for making your community better.

Email Emily Munroe via [email protected].

Apply for the Emerging City Champions Fellowship from March 28 – April 15 at

The 26 Knight communities include eight that have a resident program director: Akron, Ohio; Charlotte, N.C.; Detroit; Macon, Ga.; Miami; Philadelphia; St. Paul, Minn.; and San Jose, Calif. In 18 cities community foundations guide Knight’s investments: Aberdeen, S.D.; Biloxi, Miss.; Boulder, Colo.; Bradenton, Fla.; Columbia, S.C.; Columbus, Ga.; Duluth, Minn.; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Gary, Ind.; Grand Forks, N.D.; Lexington, Ky.; Long Beach, Calif.; Milledgeville, Ga.; Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Palm Beach County, Fla.; State College, Penn.; Tallahassee, Fla.; and Wichita, Kan.

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