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Andrew Sherry

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    Knight President Alberto Ibargüen speaking at the Knight-MIT Civic Media Conference. Knight Foundation will deepen its support for an open and accessible Internet in coming months, President Alberto Ibargüen said Monday, after announcing nine winners of a Knight News Challenge dedicated to the topic. In a speech that equated Internet openness with free speech, he urged his audience at the 2014 MIT-Knight Civic Media Conference in Cambridge, Mass., and on Livestream to engage the topic, both by emailing him with ideas about how Knight could advance the issue and giving their views on proposed Federal Communications Commission regulations that could allow different speeds for different types of content on the Internet.
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    Photos by Emily Munroe, 8-80 Cities. What do bike lanes and parklets have to do with supporting informed and engaged communities, Knight Foundation’s mission? Plenty, it was clear from the “8-80 Cities Forum: The Doable City” held this week in Chicago, attended by civic innovators from 19 communities where John S. and James L. Knight once owned newspapers. “The Doable City” was a cornucopia of strategy and tactics to make cities more livable, through walking, biking and green spaces. Those tactics attract talent to cities, create economic opportunity and keep metro areas from collapsing under the weight of cars commuting from ever-expanding suburbs. Community engagement, though, is the thread that runs through the livable city and weaves into Knight strategy. People mobilize their neighborhoods for innovations that make cities more livable. Enlightened city governments find innovative ways of consulting their citizens. And there are signs that community engagement in livable cities is producing an innovative new generation of engaged community leaders and citizens, the foundation of a healthy democracy.
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    The first day of Doable Cities included a neighborhood walkability tour. Photos: Emily Munroe. Innovation can be a lonely task. But not this week in Chicago, where more than 150 civic innovators are gathering for the “8-80 Cities Forum: The Doable City” through Wednesday. “Doable doesn’t mean easy. It means possible,” said urban expert Gil Penalosa, executive director of 8-80 Cities. Participants, including artists, city planners, community activists, community foundation executives, mayors, parks officials, philanthropists and traffic engineers, are meeting to exchange practical experiences on what works—and doesn’t—to make cities more livable. But during the opening session Monday afternoon, there was a palpable sense of building a movement, by connecting those who are trying to re-center cities around human needs—including the need to engage in various ways.
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    Almost every commencement speaker urges graduates to change the world. Knight Foundation President Alberto Ibargüen went further in addressing Arizona State University journalism graduates, not only urging them to disrupt the status quo but offering money to help. Ibargüen, addressing 255 graduating students of ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, announced a $250,000 grant to be used for Cronkite alumni to accelerate newsroom innovation. Ibargüen, who leads the nation's leading funder of journalism and media innovation, said the opportunity grant would offer up to $15,000 to any Cronkite graduate working in a newsroom who proposes an innovative way to advance digital reporting and storytelling,” according to a release on ASU’s website. “We’ve been waiting for your generation of digital natives, driven to tell stories, to become the leaders of newsrooms in America,” Ibargüen said, “and maybe this will help that generational turn go even faster.” With funds in hand, it will make it harder for a “crotchety” editor to reject an innovative idea on the basis of cost, said Ibargüen, the former publisher of the Miami Herald. “So, go forth and accelerate disruption.” Ibargüen’s remarks came the same week as a report saying most newsrooms were too busy “feeding the goat” to adopt digital tools. Even the nation’s digital leader in journalism, The New York Times, was shown in a recent leaked report to have cultural issues holding back innovation. Knight Foundation is not relying on journalism school graduates alone to bring transformational change; we’re adding a director to our Journalism and Media Innovation team to help newsroom leaders adopt digital tools and manage the disruptive impact of the Internet. Free Speech on the Internet In his address, Ibargüen made clear that digital tools were only one part of promoting informed communities. Graduates are going forth into a world where free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment and defended by newspaper companies was no longer a given in the digital age. “It is troubling that we could end up with a licensing of speech on the Internet, unless we firmly establish, while still at the beginning of Internet, that the applicable law should be like that of newspapers,” he said. “In other words, that we are free to speak, not free to be allowed to speak.” Illustrating how high the stakes are, Ibargüen said the editor of The Guardian told him he could not have published Edward Snowden’s revelations if The Guardian U.S. did not exist and enjoy First Amendment protections. With newspaper companies in retreat as the digital age dawns, “who will support the broadest notions of free speech? Who will speak with the community in mind?” Ibargüen asked. Related links: News21: Carnegie-Knight Initiative on the Future of Journalism Education Searchlights and Sunglasses: Field notes from the digital age of journalism New digital tools every journalist should try
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    Photo credit: Tom Clark.  Overview: Knight Foundation hosted 100 civic innovators at a Civic Innovation in Action Studio in Miami May 12 -14 to explore ways to harness talent, advance opportunity and promote robust engagement.  Participants in the “Robust Engagement” discussion at the Civic Innovation in Action Studio produced five remarkably concrete ideas to drive civic participation. The ideas crystalized during the second and final day of the session, after the participants largely took control of the idea-generating process to leverage their expertise. The ideas ranged across the spectrum from foundational research to plug-and-play civic action, with a psychology experiment in between. RELATED LINKS "Putting ideas into action to build better cities" by Carol Coletta on KnightBlog "Learning Lab gathers ideas on promoting community engagement" by Carol Coletta on KnightBlog "Learning Lab gathers ideas on making the most of talent in our cities" by Carol Coletta on KnightBlog "Innovators develop ideas on advancing opportunity" by Michael Bolden on KnightBlog.org "Boston adopts new tools to engage residents in civic life" by Nigel Jacobs on KnightBlog "Scaling an Etsy Economy for a changing workforce" by Dana Mauriello on KnightBlog "Harriet Tregoning, identifying ideas to expand opportunities in cities" by Carol Coletta KnightBlog "Encouraging more robuts acts of citizenship" by Adam Royalty and Scott Witthoft on KnightBlog "Studio explores ideas for successful cities" by Carol Coletta on KnightBlog "Civic innovators gather in Miami to build ideas for successful cities" by Michael Bolden on KnightBlog "Innovators embrace broad themes of robust engagement" by Andrew Sherry on KnightBlog "Studio developing ideas on harnessing talent of a changing workforce" by Anusha Alikhan on KnightBlog What does “social contract” mean to you? On the research side of the spectrum, one team advocated stepping back to an elemental starting point: an extensive study to understand how today’s Americans view the social contract. While “social contract” traditionally means the relationship between the state and the governed, the discussion that surrounded the proposal showed how different 21st century America is from Rousseau’s 18th century France. Citizenship, participants noted, is potentially defined in relationship to neighbors, organizations, corporations, local government and more, not just the central government. “That’s why we need to do the research,” said one of the group members, in response to the complexity.  “We keep saying we should meet people where they are, but we don’t know where they are.” The group suggested the research could be a foundation for the construction of a long-term “civic infrastructure” that could counter the effects of demographic tensions over time. Why engage? Another group concentrated on defining the “why” and “how” of robust civic engagement, to create a scaffolding that anyone – from individuals to neighborhoods to cities – could use to enter the arena and measure results. They concluded that civic engagement should: ·      Enable people to participate in decisions that affect them ·      Mediate uncertainty ·      Put more eyes on the street and draw on the wisdom of crowds ·      Generate trust and cooperation ·      Address historic inequality ·      Strengthen individual agency and collective efficacy In terms of “how,” they saw a civically engaged person as going through a cycle of becoming aware, accepting, acting and advocating – and starting over again. The first step, they stressed, is identifying the goal of the engagement.
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    Photo credit: Tom Clark. The engagement was robust on the first day of the Civic Innovation in Action Studio on encouraging robust civic engagement; so much so that the participants reshaped the program mid-afternoon. RELATED LINKS "Putting ideas into action to build better cities" by Carol Coletta on KnightBlog "Learning Lab gathers ideas on promoting community engagement" by Carol Coletta on KnightBlog "Learning Lab gathers ideas on making the most of talent in our cities" by Carol Coletta on KnightBlog "Boston adopts new tools to engage residents in civic life" by Nigel Jacobs on KnightBlog "Scaling an Etsy Economy for a changing workforce" by Dana Mauriello on KnightBlog "Harriet Tregoning, identifying ideas to expand opportunities in cities" by Carol Coletta KnightBlog "Encouraging more robuts acts of citizenship" by Adam Royalty and Scott Witthoft on KnightBlog "Studio explores ideas for successful cities" by Carol Coletta on KnightBlog "Civic innovators gather in Miami to build ideas for successful cities" by Michael Bolden on KnightBlog "Studio developing ideas on advancing to harness talent of a changing workforce" by Anusha Alikhan on KnightBlog It was the kind of engagement that many of the participants – leaders from city government, academia, community development, polling firms and more – would have liked to see more of in their home constituencies. During morning small-group sessions, the challenge of engaging a diverse cross-section of their communities in activities from city planning to education to voting emerged repeatedly. The facilitators, from Stanford University’s d.school, encouraged them to design approaches that were small-scale and tangible to start engagement and build momentum. As they covered worksheets and Post-it notes trickled down whiteboards, no magic bullet for engaging the disengaged emerged, but some strong programmatic ideas did. Some of the most concrete involved community-institution connections, such as using a university to scale local ideas, reinforced by civic classes in vacant lots and community centers, and university classrooms turned over to non-traditional students from the community. Similarly, an idea explored using hospital space for physical fitness and healthy food. An elegant, if still abstract idea, involved the creation of a “civic method” that could be taught to children just like the scientific method, so they could get into the habit of positively affecting their communities early. By mid-afternoon, however, the participants made clear that they felt they could add the most value by jumping straight to the broader themes around robust engagement. They convinced the facilitators to drop the focus on individual projects, and rearranged their chairs in new groups. Knight’s VP for community and national initiatives, Carol Coletta, embraced this design-style iteration, and reaffirmed that the goal of the track was to produce ideas, innovations or experiments aimed to make engagement “general.”
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    Above: Richard Florida kicks off 'Start-Up City: Miami'. Photo credit: Michael D. Bolden. Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine has become a believer in Miami’s potential as a tech startup hub. The mayor, who notoriously called it “the dumbest idea in the world” for Miami Beach to do anything other than travel and tourism, agreed to be interviewed by urbanist Richard Florida at “Start-up City: Miami,” a conference put on by The Atlantic Cities and Knight Foundation Monday at New World Center. While Miami Beach lacks the cheap office space that startups seek, it can play an integral role in the greater metro area’s emerging tech ecosystem. “Miami Beach is a great place to start a business. It’s a great place to live, and while we may not have a lot of office place, we have places right across the bay that do,” he said, referring to the city of Miami and adjacent communities. Miami Beach also has a tremendous concentration of capital, and as investors, “we can play a regional role.” The conference, held for the second time in Miami Beach, brought together many believers in the region’s potential, as well as some who had already succeeded. A panel on attracting and retaining talent, for example, featured Maurice Ferré, who just sold his medical robotics company, MAKO Surgical Corp., for $1.65 billion, and serial entrepreneur Demian Bellumio, COO of big data content recommendation company Senzari.
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    During my time at SXSW, I stopped by the LABRARY, which describes itself as “a pop-up experimental library.” Born out of a seminar at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, the LABRARY popped up on a museum lawn a block from the epicenter of SXSW’s frantic activity. The inflatable, zip-up reading room provides a welcome contrast, because once inside, it’s easy to concentrate on one thing. Calling it a pop-up library is a little misleading, though, because it was really a collection of experimental products for the modern library (because design schools eventually produce products). Cool products revolving around ways we interact with media and technology, such as a manual typewriter attached to a Mac, a machine that prints out the Constitution on a roll of receipt paper when you push a button, and the “Electric Campfire,” a box powered by marine batteries where people gather round to charge their devices.  Conceptually, there’s a certain parallel with efforts of pop-up community building, such as the recent Creative Interventions Tour announced by Knight Foundation and artist Hunter Franks, and from what I saw, kids gravitated to the objects. But the LABRARY installations work best when integrated with an existing public library, something they are doing in Boston.   
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    Photo credit: Flickr user Cliff Muller. When Triptrotting CEO Aigerim Shorman was looking for a place to launch her company’s new mobile recommendation app Wist, she didn’t choose San Francisco, where the travel startup is based. Instead, she chose Miami. An unconventional choice for a startup backed by Google Ventures, Idealab and other California-based investors? Perhaps, but Shorman said she had three solid reasons to do it. Miami has a vibrant tech community where you can find early adopters, yet they are not oversaturated with new offerings. “In San Francisco, developers download 20 apps a day, but they won’t become users,” she said. Miami has an international population, which reflects the desired user base for Wist. Triptrotting, she said, is used in 175 countries. Miami has the density and diversity of bars and restaurants that are the primary fodder of a recommendation app. “We think Miami is a great launching ground that is overlooked by the Silicon Valley startups,” she said. “It has an incredible food and nightlife scene and diverse international population, making it perfect to launch global consumer-facing products. Plus, we can have a bit of a first-mover advantage, since all of our competitors are focused on launching in San Francisco and New York.” Shorman unveiled Wist at a Refresh Miami meet-up last week where Facebook’s director of engineering, John Ciancutti, spoke about bridging the gap between engineers and entrepreneurs. Refresh is one of several meet-ups and conferences that Knight Foundation supports as it helps build the tech startup ecosystem in Miami.   More than 400 people showed up despite a torrential downpour, and Shorman said many downloaded the app on the spot.
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      What’s in a name? For Knight Plaza in Miami, it’s the connection between art, science, journalism and people, a gathering spot for the community. Knight Foundation donated $10 million each to the new Pérez Art Museum Miami and the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science, in downtown Miami’s Museum Park on Biscayne Bay. The Pérez Art Museum will open Dec. 4 and the Museum of Science in 2015. When it came to recognizing the foundation’s support, giving the Knight name to the plaza that connects the two museums was the obvious choice, said Alberto Ibargüen, president of the foundation. “Our mission is to support informed and engaged communities, and having this community gathering space, this meeting space, designated in the foundation’s name is really very special to us,” he said.