Knight Cities Challenge opens for ideas to make cities more successful

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Knight Cities Challenge opens for ideas to make cities more successful

November 3, 2016 @ 11:55 am - 12:00 pm EDT

From Charlotte, North Carolina, to San Jose, California, cities around the country are looking to address major challenges and build more successful communities. The Knight Cities Challenge, which opens today, is an invitation to engage in that process. It asks civic innovators to answer the question: What’s your best idea to make cities more successful?

Now in its third year, the national challenge is an initiative of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The challenge seeks new ideas to make the 26 communities where Knight invests more vibrant places to live and work. Winners will receive a share of up to $5 million and become part of a network of civic innovators; funding will be granted in small and large amounts. Applications will be accepted through Nov. 3 at The challenge has two main guidelines:

  1. A submission may come from anywhere, but the project must take place in or benefit one or more of 26 Knight communities.
  2. The idea should focus on one or more of three key drivers of city success:
  • Talent: Ideas that help cities attract and keep talented people.
  • Opportunity: Ideas that expand economic prospects by breaking down divides and making new connections.
  • Engagement: Ideas that spur connection and civic involvement.

“Through the Knight Cities Challenge, we look for ideas that use talent, opportunity and engagement to make cities more successful,” said Lynn Ross, Knight Foundation vice president for community and national initiatives. “At a time when community divides loom large, civic innovators can work wonders to connect people to their cities and one another with creative solutions.”

The challenge is open to anyone from anywhere: neighbors, architects, activists, artists, city planners, entrepreneurs, students, educators, city officials, as well as governments and organizations. More information is available on

The initial application is easy to complete. You don’t have to be a professional grant writer, but you should be ready with a plan to make your idea a reality.

If you have questions about the challenge, you can join us for virtual office hours or in-person events in many of the 26 Knight communities to learn more. The schedule, which is regularly updated, can be accessed here.

Community members and entrepreneurs, as well as experts in urban planning, design, academia and government will help Knight review entries. Knight will announce finalists and winners in early 2017.

The 26 Knight communities include eight that have a resident program director: Akron, Ohio; Charlotte, North Carolina; Detroit; Macon, Georgia; Miami; Philadelphia; St. Paul, Minnesota; and San Jose, California. In 18 communities Knight partners with community foundations for its grant-making: Aberdeen, South Dakota; Biloxi, Mississippi; Boulder, Colorado; Bradenton, Florida; Columbia, South Carolina; Columbus, Georgia; Duluth, Minnesota; Fort Wayne, Indiana; Gary, Indiana; Grand Forks, North Dakota; Lexington, Kentucky; Long Beach, California; Milledgeville, Georgia; Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; Palm Beach County, Florida; State College, Pennsylvania; Tallahassee, Florida; and Wichita, Kansas.

Launched in 2014, the Knight Cities Challenge has named a total of 69 winning ideas over its first and second years. Winners have created innovative solutions aimed at connecting people of all backgrounds and incomes, inviting people into active civic engagement and helping keep and attract talented people in their communities. They include: The Institute of Hip-Hop Entrepreneurship, which uses hip-hop to provide hands-on business training to members of low-income groups in Philadelphia; Re:Brand Detroit, which aims to spark reinvestment in Detroit’s neighborhoods through entrepreneurship; and Minimum Grid Maximum Impact, which improves neighborhood life by creating a network of bike and pedestrian connections between Midtown and Uptown Columbus, Georgia.

Knight communities do not always correspond with city limits; check each community’s page on our website to learn where we fund.

Have an idea? Visit to apply. The challenge closes at noon ET on Nov. 3, 2016.

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


November 3, 2016
11:55 am - 12:00 pm EDT
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