Knight Community Information Challenge – A way to promote community engagement with news, info – Knight Foundation

Knight Community Information Challenge – A way to promote community engagement with news, info

The Community Foundation of New Jersey, a 2011 Knight Community Information Challenge winner, on how it is meeting local information needs by investing in the nonprofit news site NJ Spotlight. 

The Knight Community Information Challenge provides unique opportunities for community foundations and news innovators to partner in creating or improving projects that engage their communities in local news and information. Here are three things to consider if you have an idea for a challenge project:

Round V of the Community Information Challenge just opened, and applications will be accepted until Feb. 27.  (Disclosure: I am a Knight circuit rider and consultant to this initiative. I help foundations and partners hone their projects but have no role in assessing applications.)

Keep these points in mind:

1. A community or place-based foundation must be the applicant.

It’s not enough to have a great idea – a foundation with a geographic focus must play a role in creating the project and must contribute some of the funding.

Why local foundations? Knight Foundation believes community and place-based foundations are uniquely positioned to address information as a core need of communities, just as important as health, education, hunger and other challenges these foundations address.

As well, news and information projects enhance foundation leadership and can create impact in areas it cares about – a healthy flow of news and information about the environment, for example, helps citizens make better choices about resources.

For news innovators,  important to see the project and its potential impact through the eyes of the foundation, rather than thinking a good idea simply deserves funding.

2. Effective partnerships will bolster the chances that a news and information project will have impact. likely

For example, some local foundations may not necessarily have deep expertise in news or in digital technology and social networking.

Partnerships with local organizations and institutions – such as universities, libraries, and community media centers – as well as news innovators and entrepreneurs can help fill those gaps.

At the same time, partnerships can pose some challenges – cultures and expectations of the partners may differ significantly. It’s important to explore assumptions up front.

Previous KCIC winners include a wide range of partnerships – with newspaper organizations, public broadcasting outlets, local nonprofits, universities, libraries and independent community media centers.

A forthcoming report from the Knight Foundation looks in depth at community foundation partnerships in news and information projects so stay tuned for more information.

3. Community foundations that get involved with news and information often are looking for citizen engagement and impact – and not exclusively through digital channels.

Most of the previous KCIC projects are digital.  They range from independent journalism sites to citizen media sites to data visualization platforms and efforts to use mobile technology to engage certain communities.

An example of a non-digital project is production of a weekly radio show about industrial pollution, sponsored by the West Anniston, Alabama Community Foundation. The Community Foundation of Rhode Island partnered with a local NPR affiliate to sponsor a series of community forums on local issues that were broadcast and displayed on the radio station’s website.

In this and other respects, the Community Information Challenge is different from the Knight News ChallengeThe News Challenge is looking to advance tech innovation that will help transform local news. The Community Information Challenge encourages innovation, but it is not required.

Here are links to key Knight Foundation information about the challenge: FAQ for community foundations Previous winners

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