Public Spaces Fellowship FAQ – Knight Foundation

Public Spaces Fellowship FAQ

Below are the answers to some of our frequently asked questions about the application process.

About the Fellowship

Is there a formal definition of “public spaces” you’re using?

We look at public spaces as places that are generally open and accessible to all people. This definition is broad by design.

How many fellows will be selected?

The cohort will have up to eight fellows.

How long is the commitment for this fellowship?

Two years. The fellowship will begin this summer and conclude in June 2021.

Will candidates be asked to propose a project to be executed in the application? And should it already be in progress?­

Fellows may work on one or more projects during the fellowship, but the fellowship will not be awarded for a specific project. As such, there are no requirements about the status of any projects or project ideas for candidates.

What are the expectations for when the fellowship is completed?

When fellows complete their fellowship, they should have successfully carried out a public space project with impact in their community and built meaningful connections with other fellows.

Will candidates be asked to propose a project to be executed in the application? And should it already be in progress?­

Fellows may work on one or more projects during the fellowship, but the fellowship will not be awarded for a specific project. As such, there are no requirements about the status of any projects or project ideas for candidates.

Can the fellowship be used for developing programming, not only for building something?

Yes, programming and events are a critical component of public spaces, so we expect that fellows may focus their work on such efforts.

What is Knight hoping to learn from or accomplish through this fellowship program?­

Knight Foundation seeks to identify characteristics of leaders that will profoundly impact the future of public spaces in American cities. We also anticipate that the cohort of fellows will bring new ideas and methods for design, planning, financing, delivering, programming and community engagement around public spaces.

Do fellows meet? How often?

Fellows will participate in three 1.5 day meetings  (in June 2019, 2020 and 2021) with a public spaces expert who will help advance and guide the work. There may also be opportunities for peer exchange visits within the cohort, or other opportunities to present the work of the fellowship. Fellows will be reimbursed for reasonable travel and lodging expenses associated with travel.

Can fellows continue to work while they are in receipt of the fellowship?

Yes, we do not anticipate that fellows will leave their current positions during the fellowship. We do hope that employers and colleagues recognize that the fellow may need to travel or devote time to the fellowship around their regular work.

If a fellow has a team-based idea, would members of their team be able to participate in learning opportunities or just the fellow? ­

While the fellowship is focused on a community of practice among the individual fellows, we are currently identifying opportunities for peer exchange among the fellows and their communities, and these activities would likely include the fellows’ colleagues and partners. We are open to considering other options here as well, budget permitting.

About the fellowship funding

Is there any monetary compensation for the fellows?

The small group of selected fellows will share in a total award pool of grants up to $1 million in grants. We have not made final decisions about how those funds will be disbursed (that is, in one lump sum to each fellow or in a different method). Knight is currently researching the methods that will most directly benefit the work.

Are there any stipulations for how the fellowship money is used?

The award will provide flexible grant funding to pursue transformative work in public spaces and advance the field.

Will the grant money go to the individual or to the organization the individual is affiliated with?

Knight is currently researching the methods that will most directly benefit the work and will provide further guidance on this as we move forward.


Who are you looking for as a fellow?

Individuals with exceptional talent and leadership qualities who craft, develop, design, plan, manage, and implement the use of public spaces to build the type of communities where people want to live and work are eligible to apply. We seek fellows who show potential to create larger innovation and strategic momentum within the community.

What kind or amount of experience or education is necessary to qualify for this fellowship?

We have a broad definition of individuals who work to improve public space. As such, the fellowship is open to a wide range of talented civic innovators with experience in urban design, planning, architecture, landscape architecture, engineering, government, technology, policy, programming and events, and other areas.

We are looking for experts in the field and can tell you two things with certainty:

1) It is not an ideas competition: The award will be given based on an experienced, extraordinary individual with a proven body of work.

2) It is also not a lifetime achievement award: We are looking for people who want to use the time in the fellowship to take their work in public spaces to the next level.

Can you give examples of what you would consider “a proven track record of work”?

We are looking for fellows who have designed, delivered or programmed public space(s), or who have developed innovative policies, programs, tools or methods that make public spaces better, more just, more sustainable, more accessible and more connected to the civic life of their communities.

Would you consider a nominee who works in digital public spaces?­

Yes, but in this case, we expect reviewers might want to see the impacts of these digital public spaces on real communities.

Would you consider an artist that engages a public through arts education and temporal experiences?­

Yes, the arts are a vital part of community life, and so we would consider such proposals.

Are fellows working in government/the private sector/academia eligible to apply?

The fellowship is open to people working in any sector, including in government agencies, nonprofit organizations, companies of all sizes and universities. In addition, fellows with “portfolio careers” or other non-traditional employment situations are welcome to apply.

Do the nominees have to belong to one organization, or would it include nominees who have worked with several organizations?­

We are open to fellows who work with multiple partners and organizations, in both traditional and non-traditional employment situations.

Are fellows from any U.S. city eligible to apply?

The fellowship is an open call nationwide. Candidates living and working in any of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, major territories and minor islands of the United States are eligible to apply.

Will preference be given to nominees working in Knight communities?­

No, this fellowship is open nationwide.

Can a candidate propose working in a city other than the one they live in?

Yes, candidates can propose to work in any community in the United States.

Is there an assumption that a candidate will be doing work in only a single community?

No, we are open to considering candidates who are working or who have worked in more than one community.

Is the Fellowship open to only individuals or can two or more practitioners who work collectively apply?

The Fellowship is only open to individuals.

Can a candidate work in public spaces that are owned by a different entity than they work for?

We are open to considering candidates who work in spaces that function as public, whether they are privately owned, quasi-privately owned or owned or operated by another entity. The fellows can work on public space(s) in many different ways besides direct ownership or management roles.

Can the fellow be part of an organization or a team?

Yes, like all good leaders, we recognize that most fellows will work for or with an organization or with a team of partners. But the fellowship is seeking to recognize an individual leader within a network of partners and colleagues.

Can more than one candidate apply from an organization?­

Yes, we will consider multiple candidates from the same organization.

Nomination Process

What is the deadline for submitting the nomination?

March 22, 2019, at 11:59 ET.

What is asked of a nominator?

The nomination form only asks one question: “What contributions has the nominee made to how we think about, design or use public space to support more engaging, vibrant communities?”

Can I self-nominate?

Yes! Just put your name down as the “nominee” on the nomination application.

Will the person who nominates me or the number of times I am nominated be factor in considering my application?

Yes, reviewers will see the name, title and nomination statements that a candidate receives. The nominator(s) background and the quality of their nominating statement may be considered, but there is no requirement or expectation of anything beyond a single nomination or self-nomination.

What happens after I nominate someone?

Knight staff will screen all nominated candidates and will send an invitation to apply to those that we deem most likely candidates for the fellowship by March 29. Knight Foundation will also send out semi-weekly email notifications to nominated candidates letting them know that they are among those who have been nominated, and what next steps are.

Will the nominee know that I have nominated him or her?

No, our nomination process is confidential. If you choose to tell the nominee that you have nominated him or her, you should communicate that directly. 

Is there a limit to how many people I can nominate?­

No, nominators can nominate as many nominees as they wish.

If a colleague is nominating me, do they have to set up their own Submittable account or can I submit through my existing Submittable acct on their behalf?­

We ask that each nominator log in through Submittable and complete the simple nomination form themselves.

Can a person both nominate candidates and be nominated as a candidate themselves?

Yes, we anticipate that some candidates will also nominate peers, colleagues, or partners, and this situation will not cause any issues for either party’s nomination.

What is asked of a nominator?

The nomination form only asks one question: “What contributions has the nominee made to how we think about, design or use public space to support more engaging, vibrant communities?”

Application Process

Where is the link to the complete fellowship application?

You must be nominated (or self-nominate) in order to receive the full application link. Knight will notify you by March 29 if you have moved to the next round in the process, which will require a full application. 

How many people do you expect will be invited to submit applications?

We don’t know. We have already received several hundred nominations. We want to consider as many people as possible with full applications, without wasting a lot of people’s time in a very competitive pool of nominees.

What is required in the full application form?

The full application asks for demographic information and a handful of short-answer essay questions. Applicants will also be asked to submit a resume or CV and some samples of their work.

We know that nominees are anxious to begin thinking about their applications, so we want to let you know that we will ask for:

  • One or two questions that will help us better understand your expertise and work. 

  • A CV or resume saved as a PDF that does not exceed two pages.

  • Work samples that include anything from a formal portfolio of design projects, to a collection of photographs, policy documents, drawings, writing samples or press clippings. Everything should be compiled into a single PDF document with a maximum of 10 pages at 8 1/2 x 11”. 

Does the person who nominates a fellowship candidate also fill out the application if candidate is invited to apply? Or at that point will the actual fellowship candidate be the one to fill out the final application? ­

Once a nominated candidate is invited to apply, the candidate will complete the application themselves. The nomination statement(s) will still be attached to the candidate’s profile, and may be reviewed at any point during the process, but the nominator plays no further role after completing the nomination form before March 22.

Can a video be part of a work sample?­

We are looking into a way to include an option for video in the work samples. Please be aware, however, that our reviewers will be reviewing dozens of applications at a time, and so an application should stand on its own without each reviewer spending any significant length of time reviewing video work samples.

What is the deadline for completing the full application form?

All application materials must be completed by April 12 at 11:59 p.m. ET.

Evaluation Process 

What is the selection process like?

Applications will be reviewed by Knight staff and a panel of experts and leaders in the field.

How are recipients notified?

Fellows will be notified individually by email and telephone in May, and must accept or decline the award within 5 days.

We’ve been overwhelmed with the level of interest in this fellowship. Our goal is to notify the fellows in May and publicly announce the fellows in June, but we want to make sure we have enough time for the evaluation of every application we receive, so fellows notification may push closer to the June public announcement date.

Are you looking for diversity among the fellows in terms of backgrounds, skills and knowledge?

Yes, Knight Foundation and its reviewers believe the future of public space leadership needs to reflect the future of this country. We are committed to identifying and lifting up leaders of many backgrounds and identities, working in communities of all kinds across the country. We recognize that the work of one or more fellows might be focused on delivering public spaces to communities that are under-resourced in public spaces, or in making public spaces more accessible to people who experience one or more barriers to full participation in community life.

Public Spaces

How does Knight strategy fit into this fellowship?

Our work in community focuses on attracting and nurturing talent, enhancing opportunity and fostering civic engagement.

Why is this fellowship focused on public spaces?

Creating connected, vibrant public spaces is central to a city’s success. They serve as beacons for economic activity and meeting grounds for the artists, innovators and emerging talent who can help to attract new opportunities and investment to the city. See this article for more.

What are some examples of public space work Knight Foundation has funded?

Take a look at some examples on Knight’s public spaces topic page.

Have additional questions?

Listen to a recorded informational webinar or email [email protected] for more information.