Knight Foundation Names 4 Local Finalists in Knight Cities Challenge

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation have selected 4 local finalists out of a total 144 finalists nation-wide, in the third annual Knight Cities Challenge, a national call for ideas to make the 26 communities where Knight invests more vibrant places to live and work.

Open to innovators of all types, the Knight Cities Challenge asked applicants to answer the question: What’s your best idea to make cities more successful?

More than 4,500 applicants answered the call and proposed a wide range of ideas to make cities more successful, from technology and other solutions that better connect local government with the public and increase voter engagement, to creating public spaces – parks, trails, pools, and even treehouses – that connect people from diverse backgrounds and contribute to economic growth. Many of the projects also address pressing community challenges, proposing ideas to break down racial divides, repair blighted neighborhoods, and address social and economic inequities.

Submissions came from many nonprofit and government organizations, as well as design experts, urban planning organizations and individuals focused on making their cities more successful. Each of the ideas focuses on one or more of three drivers of city success:

A  list of the local finalists is below.

Winners, who will receive a share of up to $5 million, will be announced in spring 2017.

“The finalists use creativity and inventiveness to tackle community challenges and realize new opportunities, proposing ideas that are unique to their city, but also hold lessons and inspiration for civic innovators across the country,” said George Abbott, Knight Foundation director for community and national initiatives.

Applicants have to follow only two rules: 1) A submission may come from anywhere, but the project must benefit one or more of 26 Knight communities; and 2) The idea should focus on one or all of three key drivers of city success, talent, opportunity and engagement, as outlined above.

Now in its third year, the challenge is part of a three-year, $15 million commitment that Knight Foundation launched in the fall of 2014. Since then, the Knight Cities Challenge has named a total of 69 winning ideas over its first and second years.

For more information, visit

Local Finalists

Ft. Wayne Alumni Association by Big Car Collaborative (submitted by Jim Walker): Keeping and attracting talented workers to Ft. Wayne through a digital platform that connects local graduates, with the goal of encouraging those who leave the city to return.

My Town Square by Hoch Associates (submitted by Dan Baisden-Kennedy): Helping Ft. Wayne be a vibrant place to live, work and play by creating #MyTownSquare, a workspace where small and mid-size cities can learn about and test placemaking ideas.

The Porch Project by Bridge of Grace Compassionate Ministries Center (submitted by Réna Bradley): Creating more public spaces for residents to come together through a new community design studio that activates informal gathering spaces, including front porches.

Student Storefront (submitted by Steve Franks): Creating more economic opportunity for youth in Ft. Wayne by opening a student-managed storefront selling student-made products in the heart of downtown.

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