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Knight to Fund Community Foundations, Media Innovation

Knight announces $24 million in challenge grants for community foundations aimed as spurring local media, technology and information needs. Get more background information from a previous video interview I conducted with Eric Newton of the Knight Foundation.

Here is today’s press release in full:

New Knight Initiative Seeks to Address Local Information Needs Engaging Community Foundations

$24 Million, Five-Year Project Spurs Innovation through Challenge Grants

MIAMI – A $24 million initiative by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation will engage community foundations in a grant-making challenge to find creative uses of media and technology to help keep communities informed and their citizens engaged.

The five-year Knight Community Information Challenge is launched as the media world undergoes rapid change and acknowledges that there is less local information readily available. The challenge is premised on two strongly held beliefs: 1) in a democracy, information is essential for a community to function properly; it is a core need, and 2) since community foundations are established to meet core community needs, they are logical partners in meeting the information needs of communities.

This initiative is also seen as an opportunity for community foundations to provide civic leadership.

The Knight initiative has three parts:

  • A grant-making program will invite community foundations to propose ideas to meet information needs in their communities. Knight will make $20 million available over five years to match funding for the best of these ideas.
  •  Once the winners are chosen, teams of “circuit riders” – specialists who bring access to resources and expertise – will be available to help community foundations address their information-needs opportunities. The teams will help community foundations develop the ability to plan and execute their ideas.
  • The project includes a Media Learning Seminar on Feb. 16-17, 2009 to help community foundations learn about the information needs of communities in a democracy. The first such seminar of this kind was held in February 2008 when Knight and the Council on Foundations co-hosted a gathering in Miami. The 2009 seminar will offer an opportunity to exchange current knowledge, review existing information needs projects and share best practices. A companion meeting hosted by the Council on Foundations in October 2009 will reach out to more community foundations.

“Many community foundation executives and board members told us they were ready to embrace information as a core part of their mission,” said Alberto Ibargüen, Knight Foundation president and CEO. “Now it’s time for action. Foundations that value information as an essential element for healthy community advancement – whether neighborhood, town, city or region – will find us a willing partner. By inviting the initiatives to come from the communities, we expect them to be both relevant to local needs and varied.”

The challenge is open to all community foundations. Knight plans to consider ideas from other foundations whose focus is local, geographically defined communities, similar to community foundations.

The Knight Community Information Challenge involves a two-step process. Community foundations can visit to propose a project in 200 words or less between June 30 and Sept. 15. Those selected to submit full proposals will be notified within a week of receipt, and full proposals will be due Oct. 15. Each full proposal will be required to provide matching funds.

The initiative is the fourth in a series of Media Innovation Initiatives created by Knight to address the information needs of communities in a democracy. They include:

  • The Knight News Challenge, funding ideas that use digital media to deliver news and information to geographically defined communities (;
  • The Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy, in partnership with the Aspen Institute, will propose public policy that will facilitate meeting those needs (; and
  • The Knight Center for Digital Excellence, a nonprofit consultancy, helps communities across the United States ensure digital access for every citizen (


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