How would you transform your city? The Emerging City Champions 2019 fellowship is now accepting applications from young civic innovators – Knight Foundation

How would you transform your city? The Emerging City Champions 2019 fellowship is now accepting applications from young civic innovators

Knight Foundation announces $500,000 reinvestment to drive new ideas and innovation in communities

MIAMI—April 8, 2019—Emerging City Champions, a program supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, is now accepting applications for its 2019-2020 fellowship, which provides young civic innovators with seed funding, leadership training and practical tools to launch transformative projects to enhance public space, urban mobility or civic engagement in their city. Knight Foundation today announced a $500,000 reinvestment in the program.

The Emerging City Champions fellowship is open to applicants between the ages of 19 and 35 with project ideas that take place in or benefit one of the 26 communities where Knight invests. Past projects have ranged from beehives to jukeboxes, mentorship programs to murals, block parties to storytelling bike tours. 

The deadline to apply is Sunday, May 12, 2019 at 11:59 p.m. EST. Successful applicants will be awarded $5,000 for their project, attend an immersive four-day learning experience, and receive ongoing mentorship, networking, and capacity building opportunities. Visit for more information and to apply.

“Since 2015, this effort has uncovered new talent and new ideas that are already making a difference in cities,” said Sam Gill, Knight Foundation vice president for communities and impact. “We can’t wait for the next set of emerging leaders who are driving the future of informed and engaged communities.

“Emerging City Champions brings together civic leaders who all share a common drive to build equitable and vibrant cities,” said Amanda O’Rourke, executive director, 8 80 Cities. “Each year, we are thrilled to support the diverse, community-driven projects that participants bring to their communities. We look forward to seeing what ideas this year’s competition will bring.”

Launched in 2015 with Knight Foundation support, Emerging City Champions is an incubator for up-and-coming city leaders with bold ideas to build more accessible, inclusive and connected cities. Some applicants may be seeking to scale up an existing neighborhood project, while others may have innovative and untested solutions to improve their local streets or public spaces. The program encourages diverse voices and fresh perspectives toward common urban challenges.

By offering training, resources, connections and seed funding, Emerging City Champions helps participants harness their own ingenuity and collaborative partnerships to create real community change. The training begins with the Emerging City Champions Studio in Toronto, Canada. The Studio is an immersive four-day learning experience where fellowship participants hone their skills as civic leaders with interactive tours of community-led programs and public spaces, presentations by city leaders and program alumni, and hands-on workshops on project planning, community engagement, communication, and tactical urbanism.

Past Emerging City Champions participants have made significant improvements to their communities. Using their skills as musicians, educators, mechanics, artists, or small business owners, they have created neighborhood programs, community events, interactive public art, and vibrant public spaces that have pushed boundaries, changed mindsets, and in some cases inspired long-term investment in the public realm. These program alumni also form the growing Emerging City Champions network, supporting future participants in their community.

Emerging City Champions is led by 8 80 Cities, a nonprofit organization committed to improving the quality of life for people in cities by bringing citizens together to enhance mobility and public space.

Support for 8 80 Cities forms one part of Knight Foundation’s efforts to help cities attract and keep talented people, expand economic opportunity and create a culture of engagement. The foundation believes that successful communities are equitable, inclusive and participatory.

For more information on 8 80 Cities, visit: To apply to the Emerging City Champions Fellowship, submit your application at by May 12, 2019.

About 8 80 Cities
8 80 Cities is a nonprofit organization based in Toronto, Canada. We are dedicated to contributing to the transformation of cities into places where people can walk, bike, access public transit and visit vibrant parks and public places. Our approach is to engage people and communities across multiple sectors to inspire the creation of cities that are easily accessible, safe and enjoyable for all. We achieve our mission through grant projects, advocacy work and our innovative services.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy. For more, visit


Ryan O’Connor, Director of Programs, 8 80 Cities, 416-591-7404, [email protected]

Anusha Alikhan, Director of Communications, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, 305-908-2646, [email protected]

Image (top): Charlotte Living Room Project by Varian Shrum, a 2015 Emerging City Champion. Credit: Mert Jones.