Articles by

Damian Thorman, J.D.

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      MIT's Ethan Zuckerman recalls that when he was selected to be a TED speaker, he received a stone tablet with “The TED Commandments.” Among them: “Prepare for impact.” Instead, he said, it should have been “Prepare for attention.” In his case, at least, he got lots of attention from his 18-minute TED talk, but he didn’t know how much impact it had. TED, with support from Knight Foundation, is trying to make sure great ideas have measurable impact. Knight is investing $985,000 in part to help TED build a platform where members of the TED community can engage and turn ideas into action, and which can be used to measure the impact of those ideas. It’s part of a partnership that is aimed to advance Knight’s Tech for Engagement initiative, which funds ideas that help communities connect for action. (The TED grant was part of a package of three totaling $9 million announced on Monday.)  TED, in response to its community, is already working on using technology to produce action from ideas. On Monday, Executive Producer of TED Media June Cohen gave TED attendees an early look at the next iteration of TED.com, that can include action items, proposed by the speaker, with a TED talk video. She said it would roll out in a few months. But TED – and Knight’s – vision extends much farther. To map out the potential development path for TED.com, Knight sponsored a workshop on Sunday that brought together close to 20 people with expertise in online engagement from the business, tech, academic and non-profit sectors to brainstorm the guiding principles and key tactics for the development of TED.com as an action platform, and identify people willing to provide deeper expertise.
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    Photo credit: Code for America on Flickr For several years, an important slice of Knight Foundation’s grantmaking has been devoted to finding ways communities can use technology to connect for action. Nothing will ever replace face-to-face contact, but the newfound ability of huge portions of the earth’s population to connect to one another instantly is clearly transformative. Our goal is to help those transformative benefits flow to places they won’t automatically go on their own, starting with physical communities. We’d like see technology enable broad-based engagement, amplify what it means to be a citizen and ultimately revitalize democracy. Related Link "A Tech for Engagement road show: Knight goes to TED"  on Knight Blog Two years ago we labeled this field Tech for Engagement, and we’ve seen its potential confirmed by some early successes. New tools are getting people more deeply engaged in community life, whether that means building playgrounds, conducting community planning or finding ways to make government more transparent. Many of these innovations however are limited in scope and scalability. The potential of Tech for Engagement will only be realized when connected citizens not only report potholes, but use technology to address society’s big problems and opportunities. We believe technology can help people create solutions together in ways we haven’t yet imagined. That is unlikely to happen on its own, so we are building an infrastructure to make it possible. Market forces aren’t – yet - propelling droves of people into civic tech careers. To push the field, funders need to step in to help build a corps of civic-minded technologists who are passionate about using their skills for the greater good. So today, we’re excited to announce $9 million in funding to Code for America, New York University and TED to help develop the people, ideas and infrastructure  to realize the potential of Tech for Engagement.
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    Photo credit: Flickr user TEDGlobal A Knight Foundation team is spending this week at the annual TED conference in Long Beach, Calif. to cement a partnership and push forward the emerging field of Tech for Engagement. Here’s what we’ll be doing: Related Links  "Knight doubles down on tech’s potential to connect communities for action" on Knight Blog ·      Conducting a workshop today where leading lights from the worlds of business, political technology and the social sector will share their expertise in online engagement to help us and TED advance the use of technology to turn ideas into action. ·      Announcing three major grants on Monday designed to create an infrastructure for the field of technology for engagement, providing room for the development of civic technologists helping people connect for action; ·      Hosting a series of challenges in a Knight pavilion where members of the TED community will try to come up with breakthrough ideas to solve some of the world’s most intractable problems. Solutions may or may not involve technology, but the space highlights Knight’s Tech for Engagement initiative.
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    In less than two weeks, the Apps for Communities contest closes. We challenged developers and designers with creating apps that improve daily life in cities by making local public information more personalized, usable and actionable for all Americans.  We’ve had over 45 submissions so far and more are rolling in as the deadline approaches.  Knight Foundation has partnered with the Federal Communications Commission because we believe there is great synergy between the two organizations' ability to reach out and improve the lives of residents by gathering technologists to focus on the needs of local communities.   We are fortunate to have some fantastic judges: ·         Marc Andreessen — Co-Founder and General Partner of Andreessen Horowitz ·         Charles Best — Founder and CEO of DonorsChoose.org ·         Cory Booker — Mayor of Newark, New Jersey ·         Brad Feld — Managing Director of Foundry Group ·         Tom Lee — Director of Sunlight Labs ·         Jennifer Pahlka — Founder, Executive Director and Board Chair of Code for America
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    Above: Kaboom! volunteers work on a playground today in Washington D.C. By Damian Thorman (bio) I'm here in Washington, D.C. to build a playground with the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama. As you may know, Knight Foundation is all about informed and engaged communities. Today's KaBOOM! build is also about engaging community. The build is at Imagine Southeast Public Charter, a beacon of hope in a very challenged neighborhood. While the school has been open for a while now, it has necessarily focused inward to adjust to its new home and build a strong education foundation for the kids attending the school. The KaBOOM! build has provided the school an opportunity to connect with the surrounding community and engage them. As part of the build process, KaBOOM! reaches into the community and involves the surrounding neighborhoods in the design and building of the playground. The process is more about building community than building a playground. The idea is that at the end of the process, everyone involved will have experienced being engaged in their community, which we hope engenders a desire to continue to be involved. Today's build is exciting for many reasons. First, it's the 14th build funded by Knight Foundation – and the 2,000th build for KaBOOM!. That's an extraordinary accomplishment for the organization and tens of thousands of community residents they have engaged over the past 15 years. It is also extraordinary because the First Lady of the United States will be here to lend a hand and her voice to the importance of an engaged community. Finally, the build is also part of the annual day of service for the U.S. Congress. Dozens of members of Congress are expected to attend and participate in the build along with the First Lady. I'm most excited about what will be left behind for this emerging community. I had a chance to sit down with the principal of the school a few weeks ago and talk about what this process has meant for her. She spoke eloquently about how her students had used this build as an opportunity to connect with the surrounding community, by going into local businesses asking everyone to participate. This is what engaging communities is all about. I can't wait to see the students and the community members come together today to build their community, and I can't wait to see what else they will do in the future as a result of feeling empowered to act.  
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    Damian Thorman The kick-off of the Knight-funded Mobilize.org summit series, where young leaders get together to address pressing issues, was a rousing success.  The summit brought together more than 100 students from the San Jose area to sharpen their skills in becoming more active and engaged citizens. The topic, increasing college graduation rates, was selected by the students. The students came to the summit with ideas that would increase graduation rates.  As they worked together from across several community colleges, it was exciting to see the students recognize the importance of creating a network of like-minded students to increase their impact. Lisa M. Krieger, of the San Jose Mercury News wrote, “The atmosphere felt electric at the conference, held at downtown San Jose's Hilton Hotel, attended by 100 students -- hand-picked by organizers -- from Northern California community colleges.”  She continued, saying, “At an elegant Saturday night dinner, they listened attentively to a dinner speech by California Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott, and exchanged names, email addresses and phone numbers on business cards made for the event.” On Sunday, five teams were presented with a Democracy 2.0 Award and will receive up to $7,500 to help establish original projects to address the challenges California students face in graduating from college. One such projects is the Educators for Fair Consideration (E4FC) Student Outreach Team, which will train a network of undocumented students to reach out to each other, local schools, organizations, parents, faculty and staff to overcome the adversities keeping these youths from successfully pursuing a higher education degree. You can view five of the six winning projects from this past weekend  here.  The last will be selected by the public. Learn about the finalists and cast your vote here. Last week, Knight Foundation announced a $1 million grant to Mobilize.org to help build a network of young leaders in five communities, part of Knight's efforts to promote informed and engaged communities.  Similar summits will take place soon in Charlotte, Detroit, Miami and Philadelphia.
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    Today, Knight Foundation is announcing a $1 million grant to Mobilize.org, to help build a network of young leaders in five communities. We’re making the announcement this afternoon in San Jose, where 100 students are gathered for a three-day summit to develop ways to help students overcome obstacles to obtaining their degree. Participants will pick the best ideas, and Mobilize.org and partners will fund them – liked they’ve  funded 26 Millenial-led projects around the nation. The support is part of Knight’s efforts to involve youth in promoting informed and engaged communities. Damian Thorman Similar summits will be coming soon to Miami, Detroit, Philadelphia and Charlotte, and a team will be in place in each city to make sure projects are successful. Here’s Founder Maya Enista in her own words about the work Mobilize.org is trying to accomplish: Mobilize.org was founded nine years ago, on the campus of UC Berkeley by a visionary student, David B. Smith, who believed that young people had an important role to play in building campuses, communities, and a democracy that they would be proud to lead. Nine years later, Mobilize.org has touched tens of thousands of Millennials across the country, investing over $130,000 in Millennial-led solutions to some of the most pressing challenges of our time; from the task of increasing financial literacy for our generation, to addressing the challenges that Millennials veterans face when returning from combat. The solutions lie within this collaborative, diverse, technologically-savvy and entrepreneurial generation and I know I speak on behalf of the amazing Mobilize.org team when I say it’s a true honor to go to work for and with our generation every day. Five projects that emerge from this weekend will be among the 26 that Mobilize.org has already invested in, including Team Rubicon, which deploys teams during natural disasters, and the One Percent Foundation.   Recently, we invited a group of leaders – including Maya – to talk about the best ways to engage youth in helping their communities. You can read about, or listen to that conversation here. Maya Enista Discusses Youth Engagement from Knight Foundation on Vimeo. Meanwhile, Mobilize.org is asking: Do you know an inspiring young people who may be a great addition to the Mobilize.org team? Do you know organizations in the cities above that are doing truly empowering, Millennial-led work? Do you have a solution for your community that needs support to get off the ground? If you do, email the team at [email protected]
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    I. INTRODUCTION: BEGINNING AT THE END Sometimes I wish that anyone who has ever spoken against immigration, or claimed that immigrants don’t strengthen the fabric of America, could see what we just saw—a naturalization ceremony. We witnessed something you could not see in a country like France or Japan. The theme of this conference, “Becoming […]