Articles by

Anusha Alikhan

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    Most people are uncomfortable talking about race, discrimination, privilege and power.Communications professionals at social good organizations face this problem on many fronts. Inequality is connected to much of the work that foundations and nonprofits do – whether we are focused on criminal justice reform, the state of our schools, or the lack of quality information in a community.
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    Above: Knight's John Bracken leads a panel on the role and responsibility of public media at the Media Learning Seminar. In 1967, when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Public Broadcasting Act, he noted that Americans want more in life than to create new goods and new wealth. “We want most of all to enrich man’s spirit,” Johnson said. Johnson’s words in launching the Corporation for Public Broadcasting set the tone for a discussion on public media in today’s digital world at Knight Foundation’s Media Learning Seminar.
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    How can we improve our work with grantees? Matt Haggman at the Miami Grantee Gathering by Anusha Alikhan on Twitter. More than 100 Knight Miami grantees came together on Nov. 4 to help us answer this question. Among them were the innovators, entrepreneurs and creatives that have been part of Knight’s journey to make Miami more of a place where ideas are built. They provided a view into the progress made since the foundation’s Miami program launched an effort to support the city’s emerging community of entrepreneurs and startups nearly two-and-a-half years ago. Each had a part in the transformation that has occurred in Miami’s innovation ecosystem since that time. Matt Haggman, Knight Foundation program director for Miami, kicked-off the discussion by highlighting the gathering as a way to share, learn and connect. He also explained Knight’s thinking behind supporting Miami’s community of startups, makers and doers of all kinds.
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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.  The changing face of the workforce opens new opportunities for cities. As self-employment continues to grow and traditional career norms falter there is a chance to lay a new foundation for talent to thrive. But cities need to act. That means creating a new climate for civic innovation, rooted in collaborative idea sharing and discovery. 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 "Studio produces trove of ideas to improve civic engagement" by Andrew Sherry on KnightBlog "Civic Innovation in Action Studio tees up top ideas for better communities" by Michael Bolden on KnightBlog  The first day of Knight Foundation’s Civic Innovation in Action Studio on Harnessing Talent centered on team building, encouraging more than 30 participants to work in six groups to ideate and share the results. This laid the groundwork for the second day, allowing groups to develop more concrete prototypes to address a central challenge facing cities today: What are the programs, platforms and policies needed to harness talent and expand opportunity in an economy with a workforce that is increasingly fluid and independent? Justin Ferrell, Stanford d.school fellowship director and a facilitator of the Harnessing Talent design session, kicked off the day, emphasizing that the best way to prototype is to test and learn. “Today is about launching to learn, not coming up with an idea that is fully cooked,” he said. “It’s a chance to add more context and depth to your ideas.” David Janka, another facilitator from the d.school, then instructed groups to build out one or two of their top ideas from yesterday with a storyboard and begin testing. Each group member was asked to take on a role as part of the testing process: The host set the scene, actors played out the story, and observers took notes on what to improve. Groups launched into a lively mixture of role-playing and discussion, improving their ideas and joining other teams for feedback. One team built a toolkit for public libraries to engage them in supporting independent workers. The toolkit included ways for libraries to function similar to maker spaces, allowing workers to access equipment (high-speed broadband, scanners, 3-D printers, sewing machines), get help (IT, loan officer, manufacturing expert, librarian), and design their space (shared tables, couch, kitchen). It also positioned the library as an important civic institution, a place where independent employees can meet and work. A second group designed a way to get independent contractors to share best practices, which is usually difficult due to competition among contractors. The idea was to mount citywide cash-prize challenges that would unite contractors to submit proposals for a particular project, such as building a new public library. Rather than building out the project, however, the main intent of the challenge would be to connect contractors and collect best practices. In this way, the challenge would serve as a vehicle for developing more trust and collaboration between contractors, while creating new learning tools.
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    Photo credit: Tom Clark.   Knight Foundation President Alberto Ibargüen opened Knight’s two-day Civic Innovation in Action Studio Tuesday by reminding participants of the foundation’s roots. Jack Knight’s aspiration for newspapers he said was essentially to provide people with the means “to determine their own interests.”  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 "Innovators embrace broad themes of robust engagement" by Andrew Sherry on KnightBlog "Innovators develop ideas on advancing opportunity" by Michael Bolden on KnightBlog “This is an important thought to keep in mind as we engineer change in communities,” said Ibargüen. Perhaps the most important determinant of individual interests is the work that people do. Yet communities are increasingly faced with an outdated employment system—stacked in favor of a 9-to-5, stable, low-risk work culture—that has since been disrupted. To tackle this challenge more than 30 civic innovators came together as part of the “Harnessing Talent” discussion on day one of the studio. Participants included government officials, human resources professionals, design and co-working experts, business executives, as well as consultants and freelancers. Together they considered the demands posed by an increasingly mobile, tech-driven labor force that includes a growing number of independent workers, from self-employed tech consultants and freelancers to Lyft drivers and Esty makers crafting a new shared economy.  They explored several questions: Who is the target of a city’s economic development efforts if more than 20 percent of its workers are self-employed? What type of support do solo entrepreneurs need? How can public places and programming be used to make independent workers as productive as possible?  What are the programs, platforms and policies needed to harness talent an expand opportunity in an economy with a workforce that is increasingly fluid and independent? Using research from leading scholars as a basis, participants were led through a human-centered design workshop by a team from the Stanford d.school. To kick off the session, they shared their “homework.” Prior to the event, the leaders asked each person to engage  people at a farmer’s market or craft fair; a small music venue or community theater; or a family-owned cafe or salon. The point of the exercise, explained d.school Fellowship Director Justin Ferrell was to “get into the mindset of the people you are designing for.”
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    Photo credit: Anusha Alikhan. Lack of broadband access poses a huge barrier to communities all over the world, both shutting people off from news and information, and limiting their ability to speak up. To bridge this divide communities are getting creative. On Monday, a panel of experts at SXSW discussed the many ways people are overcoming the hurdles of limited Web connectivity. The panel included Trevor Knoblich, Online News Association digital director; Eliza Anyangwe, editor of the Guardian's Global Development Professionals Network; Sean McDonald, CEO of the Social Impact Lab (SIMLab), the makers of FrontlineSMS and FrontlineCloud; and Kara Andrade, co-founder of HablaCentro LLC, and Not for Profit, which helps people in Latin America become more digitally literate and civically engaged. Knoblich opened the panel, “Beyond Connectivity: Sharing News Without the Web,” with some stark statistics on community household broadband access in major U.S. cities; in Baltimore, Miami, New Orleans and Detroit, 40 percent of households do not have broadband. He emphasized that lack of connectivity is not just a developing world issue, but also a “poverty” issue.