New focus, opportunity for funding in community news and information

2013 Knight Community Information Challenge from Knight FoundationUpdate: The challenge deadline has been extended to July 1, 2013

Starting May 1, Knight Foundation will again be offering matching funds to community and place-based foundations seeking to make an impact by funding news and information projects. This year, though the Knight Community Information Challenge is evolving. Related Links

While the challenge will continue to be an open contest for all kinds of media projects, this year we will be offering up to $50,000 in seed funding to community and place-based foundations (though open government projects may be considered for larger grants). Our goal is to provide the support funders need to test their ideas and assumptions, and iterate as need be, before going on to the more costly process of building out a full project.

Also in this round, we will be particularly interested in Open Government projects, an area we think shows great promise.

What does this mean? Our definition for Open Government is somewhat broad. We’re looking for projects that improve the way citizens and governments interact. For ideas, you might look at the recent entries – and 40 finalists – in the foundation’s innovation contest the Knight News Challenge. Perhaps someone in your community has an idea you’d like to partner with, or you see an idea you’d like to import into your community.

We’ll be talking more about these changes during a webinar at 1 p.m. May 1. (You can register here.)

Knight started the challenge just as traditional media models began to falter, as a way to encourage local funders help communities be informed about and engaged in issues important to them. Over the first five years, the challenge has funded more than 100 impactful projects from Anchorage to Puerto Rico, with foundations embracing their leadership role in promoting the informed communities our democracy requires. Perhaps most importantly, these projects are having a measurable impact on issues foundations care about. In fact, two-thirds of challenge grantees say they’ve influenced community behaviors through their project, and a third have seen a policy change at the local level.

Projects have moved the needle on safeguarding the local water supply in Virginia, protecting against hazardous trucking in Wyoming, changing the policy for car seizures in Los Angeles that hamper low income residents and more. You can read more about challenge projects, and how they were put together, in case studies we published earlier this year.

We know there are more ideas out there in more places, and we’re excited to hear about them.

The grant contest is one of four ways we will expand and extend the Knight Community Information Challenge into 2015. We will also:

  • Expand technical assistance: We’re increasing the numbers and skill base for our team of consultants that we call Circuit Riders, so that they can help foundations no matter what phase of the project they are in. The Knight Digital Media Center at the University of Southern California also will offer skills training tailored to funders.
  • Create Learning Networks: We will be applying what we have learned over the last five years to make some more pointed investments in the projects that have worked best. We will invest more in some of our proven early adopters, and in return we will ask them to share what they have learned with their peers.
  • Continue the Media Learning Seminar: We’ll also continue the annual winter gathering in Miami, which has become the place for foundations to explore trends and share learnings.

Foundation leaders from across the country shared their thinking and expertise to help us craft the extension of the Knight Community Information Challenge. While many have fully embraced the value of news and information to increasing their leadership roles in communities, others have yet to join us in this movement. We believe – and these leaders agreed – that a multi-pronged approach would be most successful in reaching and supporting the field.

We hope you agree and will join us in this important work – whether launching a project, attending the Media Learning Seminar or taking advantage of the skills training we’ve created to support you.

There’s much more information available at, and we hope you’ll join us for the webinar May 1.

By Susan Patterson, program director/Charlotte at Knight Foundation and Bahia Ramos, director/community foundations at Knight Foundation