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Macon one of 19 cities to benefit from $5 million Knight Cities challenge

While we received “only” 4,500 applications this year, they were of a consistent high quality. We were thrilled with the number of innovative, creative and interesting applications that sought to advance talent, opportunity and engagement, what we see as the three prime drivers of city success.

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The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced that 37 innovative projects will share $5 million as winners of the Knight Cities Challenge. Each of the ideas centers on helping cities attract and keep talented people, expand economic opportunities and create a culture of civic engagement.

The challenge attracted more than 4,500 ideas to make the 26 communities where Knight invests more vibrant places to live and work. It asked innovators of all kinds to answer the question: What’s your best idea to make cities more successful?

The 37 winners proposed a host of ideas, from exploring Detroit’s untold history through monthly bike tours that blend storytelling with neighborhood discovery to using hip-hop to provide hands-on business training to members of low-income groups in Philadelphia, from developing a toolkit to create temporary pop-up social spaces at voting polls in Long Beach to creating a new cultural hub in West Palm Beach’s Northwest Historic District.

“At its core, the Knight Cities Challenge is about discovering and connecting civic innovators, creative interventionists who inspire positive change,” said Alberto Ibargüen, Knight Foundation president. “The winners reflect this goal. Their ideas have the potential to create stronger communities and spaces that spur learning, engagement and growth.”

Open to any individual, business, government or nonprofit, the Knight Cities Challenge has just two rules: (1) A submission may come from anywhere, but the project must take place in or benefit one or more of the 26 communities where Knight invests and (2) the idea should focus on one or more of three drivers of city success: Talent: Ideas that help cities attract and keep talented people; Opportunity: Ideas that create economic prospects by breaking down divides and making new connections; Engagement: Ideas that spur connection and civic involvement.

Winning projects are based in 19 of the 26 communities where Knight invests including: Akron, Ohio; Boulder, Colo.; Columbus, Ga.; Charlotte, N.C.; Detroit; Gary, Ind.; Grand Forks, N.D.; Lexington, Ky.; Macon, Ga.; Miami; Long Beach, Calif.; Milledgeville, Ga.; Palm Beach County, Fla.; Philadelphia; St. Paul, Minn.; San Jose, Calif; State College, Pa; and Tallahassee, Fla.

The challenge launched in October 2015. Finalists were announced in January.

This is the second year of the Knight Cities Challenge. In March 2015 Knight announced 32 winners of the inaugural Knight Cities Challenge. The 2015 challenge 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 Pop-Up Pool Project, which reimagines Philadelphia’s city pools as neighborhood assets that attract a broad range of people of all incomes and backgrounds; 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, Ga.

The challenge will reopen for submissions in fall 2016.

For more on the Knight Cities Challenge, visit knightcities.org and knightcities.org/winners2016. For information and updates follow @knightfdn and #knightcities on Twitter.

A few of the Winning Ideas:

Macon, Ga.Pop-up Minimum Grid by NewTown Macon, The Macon-Bibb UDA and Department of Parks and Beautification | $151,900 | submitted by Josh Rogers. Creating a pop-up minimum grid that would allow citizens to explore their city safely on foot or on bicycles; the project would expand a trail system from the river to downtown and the surrounding neighborhoods.

Charlotte, N.C. – Can Do Signs by the city of Charlotte | $27,900 | submitted by Sarah Hazel. Rethinking municipal signs that typically tell people “what not to do,” to spur fun, imagination and positivity throughout Charlotte; the project will create signs that provide amusing, enchanting, fun options: You can dance! You can sing! You can skip!

Milledgeville, Ga. – The Democracy Lab by the Twin Lakes Library System | $25,000 | submitted by Stephen Houser. Creating a shared space in downtown Milledgeville, located next to City Hall and near a makerspace and a library, that will foster civic engagement through public events, meetings that gather residents and leaders to problem-solve, and better connect civic institutions.

Tallahassee, Fla. – The Longest Table by the city of Tallahassee | $57,250 | submitted by Michael Alfano
Building cross-community relationships with an expanded series of community conversations over meals in 100 homes.


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