Civic innovators gather in Detroit for Knight Cities Challenge Winners Summit

Last fall Knight Foundation opened the first Knight Cities Challenge to capture the best ideas on how to make cities more successful. It was thrilling to see the response we received from across the country: more than 7,000 ideas from people wanting to improve their communities. We chose 126 finalists and this week we’re gathering representatives of the 32 winning projects in Detroit for the inaugural Knight Cities Challenge Winners Summit. One hundred twenty civic innovators will come together, our winners plus some of the leading thinkers on how to make cities better, from artist and urban strategist Theaster Gates to noted author Charles Landry. It’s going to be thought-provoking—and fun—for all of us.

The winners of the Knight Cities Challenge bring valuable perspectives to our gathering, which kicks off today; it’s self-evident in their ideas, whether it’s a monthly subscription service to attract and retain talent in Akron, Ohio, a new market and business incubator to expand opportunity in Lexington, Ky., or a fun, artistic project to identify polling places and increase local voting in Philadelphia.

But one of the most exciting things is that everyone attending the summit will have the opportunity to learn from one another.  We’ve scheduled core sessions where we can talk big ideas, but that’s complemented with breakout discussions where people can get together in smaller groups, roll up their sleeves and dig deep into the challenges and opportunities communities face and the tactics that make a difference.

It’s no accident that we’re doing all of this in Detroit. Having emerged from bankruptcy, Detroit is brimming with energy and ideas. We’ll hear from Mayor Mike Duggan, walk and bike the neighborhoods and talk with the people who are working every day to renew this great American city.  I know their hope and their commitment will inspire the Knight Cities Challenge winners during the next three days.

These civic innovators are on the front lines of change in our cities. While we’re showcasing their projects, we’ll also equip them with some of the tools they need to make their work stronger.  We’ll share some of the best insights in the coming days, so follow along on Twitter with #knightcities and check out Knight Blog for lessons we capture from the summit. Join the conversation and stay tuned as this great work develops.

Carol Coletta is vice president of community and national initiatives at Knight Foundation.  Follow her on Twitter @ccoletta, and listen to her “Knight Cities” podcast with civic innovators every week.