Articles by

Andrew Sherry

  • Article

    Posted on by

    Above:  NFL veteran Israel Idonije with Rony Abovitz, president, CEO and founder of Magic Leap, during their discussion at Black Tech Week. Photo by Rosemary D'Amour. Top: A photo illustration of Magic Leap technology at work; photo courtesy Magic Leap. Magic Leap CEO Rony Abovitz had a message for budding entrepreneurs at Black Tech Week in Miami recently, and it came right out of “Star Wars.” “Being an entrepreneur is a spiritual journey. Will you go Jedi, or will you go Sith?” The sci-fi analogy was fitting for the founder of a company that has managed to position itself as the future of human-computer interaction, raising $1.4 billion in venture capital, and leaking small glimpses of an “augmented reality” future. Rony Abovitz, president, CEO and founder of Dania Beach-based Magic Leap. Photo courtesy Magic Leap. Abovitz opened a window into the potential of the Magic Leap platform, but he made clear that he wants his company to look much more like the Rebel Alliance – the diverse interplanetary union defended by the Jedi – than the Sith’s Galactic Empire, staffed by legions of all-white Storm Troopers. “We don’t want to look like a Silicon Valley company,” overwhelmingly staffed by white or Asian men, he said, urging the Black Tech Week attendees to apply and spread the word that Magic Leap planned to hire “several thousand” staff in South Florida in the next few years. Magic Leap lists around 125 openings, mainly technical, at its headquarters north of Miami in Dania Beach, and another 30 or so at five other locations, according to its website. The company has “north of 500” employees at the moment, a spokesman said. The company is one of the country’s best-capitalized startups, and Abovitz said it had turned down numerous funders. How to choose investors? “The wand finds you," he said.
  • Article

    Posted on by

    Photo by Tracy Russell on Flickr. A new tool is coming to the municipal playbook, behavioral science. It may sound like Big Brother or Mad Men manipulating the masses, but the applications are more prosaic: encourage recycling, college completion, energy savings, healthy eating, vaccinations. Chicago, one of the first cities to experiment with applying behavioral science to urban challenges, hosted a workshop this week with city officials and civic innovators from Miami, Philadelphia and San Jose, sponsored by Knight Foundation. Instructors included Richard Thaler, who literally wrote the book(s) on the subject, and his colleagues at ideas42, a consulting firm led by fully applied academics. Knight’s interest, besides supporting success in the 26 Knight communities, is in seeing how behavioral science can be applied to civic engagement, from voting to encouraging people of different income levels to frequent the same parks and public places. The premise is that human behavior is integral to every city challenge, even structural ones. And humans are not always rational actors: When we don’t have a deep conviction about something, we decide based on what we see in front of us a majority of the time. So how to put things in front of city residents that encourage them to act in their best interests, without threatening their freedom of choice? The workshop provided an introduction to behavioral science, and its practical applications city life. The context will likely resonate with readers of Knight Blog...
  • Article

    Posted on by

    Video: Dave Troy, "Segregation, Society, and the Future of Social Data" at PDF on YouTube The Personal Democracy Forum was born more than a decade ago out of the idea that the Internet’s power to connect us could transform democracy. At PDF15, held last week in New York, tech tools built on the Internet were ubiquitous, but the sessions often focused on the personal, in recognition that human behavior is central to even tech-driven change. The two-day conference is the annual collision of people involved in technology, governance, activism and more. While participants explored civic engagement from a number of angles, some notable research released at the conference focused on the most regularly measured aspect: voting. The first, by Google, sought to identify and study people who were generally informed about their communities but didn’t engage in the political process — a group it called “Interested Bystanders” and counted as close to half of the U.S. population. A common refrain they had was that voting wouldn’t lead to real change. However, the picture looked more promising when viewed through a personal lens; when civic action could be linked to something they cared about personally, or had personal expertise in, they were more likely to get involved.
  • Article

    Posted on by

    Emily Munroe has heard the excuses so many times that the 8-80 Cities executive director includes a “myth vs. fact” section to the toolkit in her organization’s consulting reports. Everyone seems to love the idea of making cities more livable, but many believe their city or neighborhood is exceptional and what has worked elsewhere will never work at home. Here are some of the more common myths about making cities livable and brief responses; they are fleshed out in more detail in the toolkit. Related Links "Want to build a bikeable city? Focus on those who don’t bike" by Andrew Sherry on Knight Blog, 10/10/2015. • Myth: European cities can’t be used as a guide to make this city more walkable and bikeable. They were built to be people-centered hundreds of years ago. • Fact: Many European cities have had drastic turnarounds in the last 20 years by taking risks and making the tough decisions during their urban planning and development. • Fact: When citizens become engaged, cities focus on people. • Myth: Walking and bicycling are not safe modes of transportation.
  • Article

    Posted on by

    Artist Phillip Adams of Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program took his talents off the streets last month to paint a mural titled “Communications Matters” at the Communications Network conference of the same name. Like good communications, the mural was engaging, with as many as four or five people helping Adams with it at a time. Knight Foundation was a sponsor of the conference, which seeks to strengthen communications in the nonprofit sector, and the mural itself. The Mural Arts Program was a 2011 Knight Arts Challenge winner and received Knight support this year for the installation “psychylustro.”
  • Article

    Posted on by

    This post has been updated.  Knight Foundation uses challenges to find great ideas across its program areas. In addition, a few opportunities are available year round. Here are the opportunities open now: If you have a news or information idea you want to develop and test, the Knight Prototype Fund may be for you. This Media Innovation initiative provides $35,000 to turn ideas into prototypes. There are several cohorts of winners each year; the most recent winners can be seen here. The next application deadline will be in early 2015. Follow #PrototypeFund on Twitter for more. If you have a new idea to make one of the 26 Knight communities more successful, the Knight Cities Challenge is an option. The current round closed Nov. 14. The challenge is a new program from Community and National Initiatives, and winners will share $5 million. The initial application is simple, and reviewers will look for innovative ideas that can help our communities attract and retain talented people, create economic opportunity, or foster a culture of civic engagement. Finalists will be announced in January 2015, and winners in the spring. The second round of the challenge will open later in 2015. #KnightCities
  • Article

    Posted on by

    There are plenty of good reasons to plan cities so they attract more bikes and fewer cars. But according to 8-80 Cities Executive Director Gil Penalosa, many cities are going about it the wrong way. Those reasons include the fact that biking helps fight two 21st century plagues: gridlock and obesity. What’s more, better paths for bikes and pedestrians will reduce traffic deaths for both. Not to mention that biking is cheaper than driving and requires no gasoline. Yet many cities “are investing in the 2 percent who already bike, not the 98 percent who don’t,” said Penalosa, citing trail maps, bike parking, racks on buses and lines on streets. These are all well and good, but the only thing that will attract new riders is making them feel safe on the road. That in turn takes two things: slowing speeds down to 20 mph or less, and separating bike lanes from roadways with raised curbs, planters or dedicated streets.
  • Article

    Posted on by

    For someone who is in such a hurry to change cities, Gil Penalosa talks a lot about going slow. That’s because for the executive director of 8-80 Cities it all starts with making cities and residential neighborhoods safe for pedestrians. “Every single trip begins with walking,” said Penalosa, who has advised cities in the Americas, Europe and Asia. Most recently, he led a group of 34 civic innovators from nine U.S. cities on a study tour to Copenhagen, Denmark, and Malmo, Sweden. Exploring the city on foot and by bike, the group observed firsthand several key tactics for making cities walkable:
  • Article

    Posted on by

    Above: Study group members discuss ideas to take home from Copenhagen as a fly fisherman practices casting. Credit: Torbjörn Larsson/Knight Foundation. Planning, designing and managing public spaces with human beings squarely at the center of the picture produces remarkably livable cities and economic growth. Does it also strengthen democracy by bringing people together to address shared issues? Related Links "Study tour gets street-level view of how Copenhagen reinvented itself" by Andrew Sherry on Aug. 25 in Knight Blog It’s an important question for Knight Foundation, which supports informed and engaged communities because we believe they help democracy to thrive. Most city planners, architects and others involved in placemaking tend to speak primarily in practical terms, though: pedestrian-friendly streetscapes, grids of bike paths, programming in parks. Riccardo Marini, a director of Gehl Architects, spoke for a full morning on the practicalities of placemaking projects to more than 30 people on a late August study tour to Copenhagen organized by 8-80 Cities and sponsored by Knight. But when pressed to say what was at the core of the work, he didn’t hesitate.
  • Article

    Posted on by

    A cyclist rides through downtown Copenhagen. Photographer: Torbjörn Larsson/Knight Foundation. Riding bikes through an unfamiliar city may be the easy part. Taking home lessons learned will take skill. Related Link "Does placemaking help democracy?" by Andrew Sherry, Aug. 29 on Knight Blog Thirty-four city officials and community leaders from nine U.S. cities have embarked on a five-day study tour of Copenhagen, Denmark, considered one of the world’s most livable cities for its pedestrian-friendly downtown, network of bike trails, ubiquitous urban green spaces and abundant public transportation. The tour, organized by 8-80 Cities and supported by Knight Foundation, will also cross the Oresund Bridge to Malmö, Sweden, a port city that reinvented itself as a hi-tech hub after losing its shipbuilding industry in the 1990s, winning back double the 50,000 jobs it lost. The participants include mayors, city council members, urban planners, engineers, leaders of community organizations and more from Akron, Ohio; Charlotte, N.C., Columbus, Ga.; Detroit; Lexington, Ky.; Macon, Ga.; Miami; San Jose, Calif., and St. Paul, Minn. They are viewed as civic innovators for leading potentially high-impact work in their communities, all cities where John S. and James L. Knight once owned newspapers. Knight Foundation and 8-80 Cities staff are also on the tour. 8-80 is dedicated to helping make cities livable for people from 8 to 80 by promoting walking, biking and public transit.