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Knight Cities Challenge opens in Detroit for applications

– Submissions are open from Oct. 1 to Oct 27

DETROIT—Oct. 1, 2015— What’s your best idea to help your city succeed? The KnightCities Challenge opens today calling on innovators of all types in Detroit to answer this question.

Now in its second year, the national challenge is an initiative of the John S. and James L.Knight Foundation. The challenge seeks new ideas to make Detroit and the 25 other communities where Knight invests more vibrant places to live and work.  Winners will receive a share of $5 million and become part of a network of civic innovators; funding will be granted at all levels from small to large amounts. Applications will be accepted through Oct. 27 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 Knightcommunities.
  2. The idea should focus on one or more of three key drivers of citysuccess:
  • Talent: Ideas that help citiesattract 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.

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

The initial application will be 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.

“Through the challenge we want to find new voices and new ideas that capture the three key ingredients of city success—talent, opportunity and engagement. We see these as essential to the challenge and to building stronger futures for all of our cities,” said Carol Coletta, Knight Foundation vice president for community and national initiatives.

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 2016.

The 26 Knight communities include eight that have a resident program director: Akron, Ohio; Charlotte, N.C.; Detroit; Macon, Ga.; Miami; Philadelphia; St. Paul, Minn.; and San Jose, Calif. In 18 cities community foundations guide Knight’s grantmaking: Aberdeen, S.D.; Biloxi, Miss.; Boulder, Colo.; Bradenton, Fla.; Columbia, S.C.; Columbus, Ga.; Duluth, Minn.; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Gary, Ind.; Grand Forks, N.D.; Lexington, Ky.; Long Beach, Calif.; Milledgeville, Ga.; Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Palm Beach County, Fla.; State College, Penn.; Tallahassee, Fla.; and Wichita, Kan.

In March 2015 Knight announced 32 winners of the first Knight Cities Challenge. Last year’s winners from Detroit were:


  • Brand Camp:  Detroit’s Neighborhood Initiative, The RE-Effect, $164,810 by Brand Camp University (Submitted by Hajj Flemings): Changing the narrative of underserved neighborhoods by developing compelling brandingand digital presences for neighborhood businesses that better tell their stories.

  • Brick + Beam Detroit, $87,424 by Michigan Historic Preservation Network (Submitted by Emilie Evans): Creating a new community of Detroit rehabbers who will work together to combat blight, reactivate vacant buildings and improve their city.

  • The Buzz, $84,055 by Detroit Future City(Submitted by Erin Kelly): Pairing barbers with landscape contractors to transform overgrown vacant lots through facilitated design workshops that teach mowing and pattern-making techniques.

  • Detroit Homecoming, $100,000 by Crain’s Detroit Business (Submitted by Eric Cedo): Engaging Detroit expats with a new digital community designed to keep them connected to Detroit and its opportunities.

  • LIVE Detroit, $40,000 by LIVE Detroit (Submitted by Rachel Perschetz): Attracting and retaining residents by creating a center for information about Detroit neighborhoods and citylife that showcases the best of Detroit.

Have an idea? Visit to apply. The challenge closes on Oct. 27, 2015, at 12 p.m. ET.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit

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