Articles by

Chris Sopher

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    Photo credit: Flickr user prettywar-stl.  Related: "There's still time to brainstrom around News Challenge: Health" by Chris Sopher on Sept. 5, 2013. Over the next three weeks, John Bracken (@jsb), Raina Kumra (@rainakumra) and I (@cksopher) will host events in 21 cities to talk about and brainstorm around the theme of our next Knight News Challenge: Health. Our contest question is “how might we harness data and public information for the health of communities?” We’re hoping to meet innovators and entrepreneurs working on this question, and to spread the word about the opportunity for breakthrough ideas to get a share of $2 million in funding. We’ve found that the contest is a great way to get a conversation going—or continue one that’s already started locally—about what we can do together in our communities to make them stronger and better informed. You’ll also have a chance to talk with some of our collaborators, who will join us for some of the events. We’ve teamed up with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Health Data Consortium, the California Healthcare Foundation and the Clinton Health Matters Initiative. The contest launches Aug. 19 with the opening of the “inspiration phase,” and entries will be accepted from Sept. 3 to Sept. 17 at newschallenge.org. Meanwhile, you can learn more in person during our tour, or during virtual office hours, which will be held Sept. 5 from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. ET and Sept. 10 from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m ET. You can access the meeting here (ID 752 815 136), or participate via phone at 888.240.2560. You can register for one of the events at the Eventbrite links below. Hope to see you soon!
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      I remember my first time sitting at the big wooden table in Knight Foundation’s boardroom. It was January 2008, years before I joined Knight, and I was there with other reviewers for the second year of the Knight News Challenge. I remember proposals from professional journalists and proposals from people who’d never met a professional journalist. I remember fellow reviewers who’d spent entire careers in newsrooms and reviewers who hadn’t yet had a career (I was one of those). No one quite agreed on what the future of journalism would look like. That was the point. Disruption demands experimentation. That, in turn, demands flexibility and a willingness to quickly change structures and processes that aren’t working. Institutions tend to be bad at those things—at least at first. That’s as true for journalism institutions as it is for automakers. Our goal with the Knight News Challenge is to find the people who are inventing, support them and help them share their work, and in so doing help institutions find their way, too. What exists today that didn’t when the News Challenge started in 2007 is a strong (and growing) network of innovative people—technologists, designers, entrepreneurs, reporters, editors—doing the sort of invention journalism needs to thrive. That network, more than any grant we’ve made, is what guarantees the future of our enterprise to help people learn about the world around them. For me, the News Challenge has been about learning to understand and support people, rather than projects. Our money, when it’s working well, keeps smart people working on tough problems, testing new solutions, throwing them out, and trying some more.
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    Knight News Challenge: Health from Knight Foundation on Vimeo. Last month at the Civic Media Conference at the MIT Media Lab, we announced health as the theme of the next Knight News Challenge. Today we have the details: the collaborators we’ve brought together, the question we’ll be asking and our timeline. The Knight News Challenge: Health will focus on the question: “How can we harness data and public information for the health of communities?” RELATED LINKS  "Knight News Challenge on Health opens for entries" "Knight News Challenge: Health opens with inspiration phase, additional prizes from collaborators" by Raina Kumra and John Bracken "Announcing key collaborators and details of Knight News Challenge: Health" by John Bracken and Chris Barr "Join us to brainstorm ideas around News Challenge: Health" and There's still time to brainstorm around News Challenge: Heath" by Chris Sopher "Data: Why we care" by Esther Dyson "Data provides a focus for community action" by Bryan Sivak "News Challenge: Make APIs not apps, health CEO says" by Lucky Gunasekara "How data-driven solutions can transform health" by Lexie Komisar "Robert Wood Johnson Foundation announces new prize for News Challenge: Health" by Paul Tarini "California HealthCare Foundation: The data stops here" and "It takes a community to humanize health data" by Andy Krackov "Data essential to promoting healthy habits" by Nirav R. Shah "Media company harnesses health data for stories that connect with communities" by David Kansas For the first time, we are collaborating with other organizations on a News Challenge.  They’ve already worked with us on the selection of the theme. Now they are helping us spread the word about the challenge and discuss how data and information can lead to healthier communities. You’ll see them on the road with us at in-person events across the country over the next seven weeks and as commenters and readers at newschallenge.org. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is the country’s largest philanthropy devoted solely to health. They’ve helped lead the health innovation community for decades, and know what it takes to create successful projects on everything from prevention to health policy. California HealthCare Foundation funds innovations that improve quality, increase efficiency and lower the cost of care. Their local roots match our desire to focus this contest on creating tangible benefits from data and information for real people. Through its Free the Data initiative, CHCF supports government efforts to release more health data and invests in tools to help meet the growing demand for these data. Clinton Health Matters Initiative, an initiative of the Clinton Foundation, is working to institute small changes that will improve health in big ways. By working with everyone from school-age children to seniors, the Health Matters Initiative is implementing disruptive solutions to leverage technology and digital innovation to help advance health and wellness at the national and community levels. Health Data Consortium is a collaboration between government, nonprofits and private sector groups working to put open health data to good use. Their programs and events, like the Health Datapalooza are building a community of entrepreneurs, data scientists and health practitioners around the country focused on improving health and care. We will launch the challenge Aug. 19 with an “inspiration phase,” where we ask for everyone—from health entrepreneurs to journalists to community groups and residents—to share the opportunities and challenges they’re facing in their work and lives, which data and public information might help address. Those inspirations will inform the contest and help guide our review of submissions.
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    Photo credit: Flickr user Guy Mayer July 30 update: "Announcing key collaborators and details of Knight News Challenge: Health" on KnightBlog.org. At the MIT-Knight Civic Media Conference, Knight Foundation Vice President of Journalism and Media Innovation Michael Maness just announced that the theme of the next News Challenge will be health. We’ve selected that theme because we see an opportunity to support innovative ideas that create stronger information ecosystems about health in our communities. Over the past seven years, the Knight News Challenge has funded innovative projects in journalism, local information, networks, mobile, data and open government. During that time we’ve awarded more than $32 million. Our first News Challenge of the year, which we closed yesterday, sought ideas for tools and technology that can improve the way citizens and governments interact. Health is a topic relevant to all of us. It’s an area where journalism, open data and public information become imminently relevant and useful to communities; where we have a direct, tangible opportunity to help people learn more and make smart choices through the use of technology and data.
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    On Feb. 19 we launched the ninth Knight News Challenge on Open Gov, with the question “How might we improve the way citizens and governments interact?”  We selected open government as a theme because we sensed an opportunity to accelerate this nascent field and to help it develop solutions that serve defined needs. Today, we are excited to announce the eight winners of the Knight News Challenge. Civic Insight: Providing up-to-date information on vacant properties so that communities can more easily find ways to make tangible improvements to local spaces. GitMachines: Supporting government innovation by creating pre-configured tools that developers in government agencies can use to easily build new technology. OpenCounter: Making it easier for residents to register and create new businesses by  building open source software that governments can use to simplify the process. Open Gov for the Rest of Us: Providing residents in low-income neighborhoods in Chicago with the tools to access and demand better data around issues important to them - from housing to education. Outline.com: Launching a public policy simulator that helps people visualize the impact that public policies like health care reform and school budget changes might have on local economies and communities. Oyez: Making state and appellate court documents freely available and useful to journalists, scholars and the public, by providing straightforward summaries of decisions, free audio recordings and more;
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    Infragram: the Infrared Photography Project by Public Lab on Kickstarter At Knight Foundation we have the delightful, challenging task of giving financial support to promising people and ideas—but this is rarely enough. We’ve found that the most successful projects are those that gather a passionate, dedicated community of users and contributors. Where that community exists, we see projects that change whole neighborhoods and industries; projects that continue in spirit and effect long after their founders have moved on. Much as we might want to, we can’t write a check for that. The growth of the Kickstarter community has made it possible for creative people with interesting ideas to gather supporters they couldn’t have found before, enabling worthwhile projects to thrive. We think that’s true for many of the groups we fund, too, that are working on innovative ideas for journalism and information with potential relevance to many people and contexts. We’ve already seen journalism projects succeed on Kickstarter, such as Roman Mars’ 99% Invisible, Homicide Watch and Matter. And in a field that easily tends toward sprawl, engaging the Kickstarter community is a great way to launch and test focused projects and find the people who are excited about them. That’s why we’re excited to launch our curated page and matching support for our grantees who run successful campaigns. In many cases, finding backers is more valuable for projects than is raising more money; a loyal, energetic community can propel future work beyond the current project. To that end, our support is structured to encourage more backers— we’re giving small grants to these projects as their campaigns hit 100, 250, 500 and 1,000 backers, up to $10,000 (our contribution is to the project, not to the Kickstarter campaign). In the past, we’ve found that matching funds can help projects accelerate their work more quickly.
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    Getting funding through the Knight Community Information Challenge: A guide for innovators from Knight Foundation. The challenge runs through July 1, 2013. Many of us live in communities where a rather remarkable collision is taking place— talented civic leaders and technologists are working together to make government more open, responsive and efficient. Talented people have built dozens of innovative projects, from live transit tracking to neighborhood crime mapping to open spending data. But we need more. We need more people building new technology and improving existing code; more people pushing government to open public data; more civically-minded businesses built on open government.  Earlier this year we opened the Knight News Challenge: Open Gov, looking for ideas that might improve the way citizens and governments interact. This week, Knight Foundation is launching a contest with a more local focus — the Knight Community Information Challenge. While the contest funds all types of news and information projects, the priority of this year’s contest is to fund projects that make “open government” more tangible and useful to people in a specific community—which makes this contest a unique opportunity for anyone wanting to build and test a new idea locally. All Community Information Challenge projects are done in partnership with a local community foundation, whose funding we match. The community foundation applies to us with the project, so if you’re interested you’ll want to locate your local foundation. If you need help, contact Bahia Ramos at [email protected]  
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    Today we’re excited to announce 40 semifinalists in the Knight News Challenge on Open Gov. We received more than 880 submissions to the contest, which is focused on the question “How might we improve the way citizens and governments interact?” We received ideas from all over the world, from small projects for public land reuse to ambitious efforts to open millions of public datasets. We think these 40 projects demonstrate the diversity, ambition and general awesomeness of the broader community that’s working toward more open, responsive government. We hope you’ll look at these entries and add your comments, questions and suggestions. For the next week, until April 5, the semifinalists will be part of our “refinement” phase, where they will add a brief video, respond to community input and give additional detail about their ideas. Following the refinement phase, we’ll enter a period of offline, private review aimed at selecting the final group of winners, whom we’ll announce June 24 at the Knight/MIT Civic Media Conference in Cambridge, Mass.
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    About Knight News Challenge on Open Gov from Knight Foundation on Vimeo. *1:00 p.m. March 18 update: Please note due to a huge response the News Challenge site is temporarily down. We're adding servers and will extend the deadline to 5:00 p.m. ET tomorrow - Tuesday, March 19.* As the deadline approaches for the Knight News Challenge on Open Gov (the contest closes for entries at 5 p.m. ET sharp on Monday, March 18), I wanted to share some frequently asked questions and some final tips for shaping your entry. Over the past month, more than 200 of you have submitted your project ideas to the contest. There are still three days left to submit your application and win a share of $5 million and support to make your idea happen. Here are the questions I’m asked most often about applying: Do I have to work in the open government field to apply? No. All you need is an idea for improving the way citizens and governments interact, and a team capable of making that idea happen. Does my idea have to involve a government or agency? If you have an idea to connect citizens to other citizens, without the participation of government, that qualifies and we want to hear it. But the project should have a civic impact. However, if a government’s permission or participation is needed for your idea to succeed, make sure you let us know in your application. Does my idea have to involve building technology?
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    Last year I read 2,546 applications for the Knight News Challenges on networks, data and mobile. Which means I read every application we received. At the risk of sounding like Dr. Seuss, I read them on a plane and on a train, in my living room and at the office, while drinking coffee and while eating dinner and frequently while sitting outside somewhere under the warm Miami sun. I have seen the off-topic and the fantastic; the poorly written, the overwrought, the concise; the serious and the satirical (my personal favorite: an application to ask Richard Schiff for answers on the future of journalism). And since the News Challenge on Open Gov is now open for submissions, I thought I’d share a bit about how we look at applications and what makes the awesome ones so awesome. OUR PROCESS Between now and  March 18, Knight staff, with the help of  a group of outside advisors we call “readers,” will look through entries, ask questions and make suggestions. The goal is to help you think through things you may not have included in your original post. You can edit your entry, and respond to all comments, the entire time the contest is open. On March 18 we begin the “feedback” phase. Every application will be read by at least three people: two readers and me. We each keep a list of the strongest applications that fit the theme of the contest and propose an innovative, achievable project. At the end of the feedback phase, on March 29, we get together with our readers and select the semifinalists (which we’ll share publicly). BE CLEAR The most common problem with submissions is a lack of clarity. A large percentage of entries give me almost no understanding of what the applicant actually wants to do. In many cases there’s a clear description of a problem, but very little information about the proposed solution. This leaves me asking, “but what is the idea?” This is why we ask you to answer the first question (“what is your idea?”) in one sentence. Because we receive so many applications, we’re not likely to spend more than a minute with your entry on the first read. To decide whether to come back for a closer look, I need to understand what I’m coming back to.
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    Today, we announced the winners of the Knight News Challenge on mobile. They are eight fascinating projects we couldn’t be happier to support: Remote Access, RootIO, Abayima, Witness, TKOH, Textizen, WeFarm and Wikipedia. But here we want to share some other insights from the contest. The rise of mobile is an unprecedented opportunity to make it easier for people to learn about and get involved in the world around them. People are adopting new behaviors that put that goal within reach. Nearly two-thirds of all Americans regularly use mobile devices to look up information, decide whether to visit a business, settle arguments or coordinate meetings. For the first time ever, more than half of all American mobile customers own a smartphone. Mobile data access may eliminate the digital divide that’s kept millions of people from participating in the Internet. The opportunities for innovation are tremendous. What struck us in the contest, though, is the way that innovation is happening: globally, across sectors and demographic boundaries that haven’t interacted very often. We received applications from more than 25 countries. Projects ranged from the technologically simple, such as text messaging, to the complex, such as networking many phones for disaster communication. They aimed to serve groups of all kinds, from smallholder farmers to senior citizens to governments. The barriers to creating are crumbling, and mobile is a crucial part of that change. This mirrors what’s happening in the world at large: In 2013, the Internet will become a mostly mobile medium. The Economist writes that the “number of Internet-connected mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablet computers, will exceed the number of desktop and laptop personal computers.” China alone more than 564 million Internet users in 2012. Seventy five percent of them were on mobile devices. Through this content we saw trends and opportunities: Connecting a global community: It will be obvious to anyone who works in these fields, but there are smart teams working in nearly every part of the world on similar problems, from news to agriculture. These innovators are starting to connect, but there’s an opportunity to do more.