The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

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    Designing a better future: Detroit’s history as a center of design reinvigorates its renewal

    Aug. 25, 2016, 10:22 a.m., Posted by Amy Haimerl

    Art Deco design figures prominently in the skyline of downtown Detroit. Photo by Anthony Barchock.

    Detroit is the cradle of American design. 

    The region started as the place for cast iron stoves, railcars and bicycles at the turn of the 19th century, and then became the hotbed of the automobile, industrial design and midcentury modern furniture. That’s right: Eero Saarinen and Charles and Ray Eames, designers of such icons as the Tulip Chair and molded plywood lounge chair, met at Cranbrook Academy of Art in the suburbs of Detroit.

    “This isn’t a backwater that we just decided to be a design capital,” said Olga Stella, executive director of the Detroit Creative Corridor Center (DC3), an accelerator and advocate for Detroit’s creative economy. “From the beginning, we’ve influenced the future choices of people around the world.”

    And design is about to influence the future of Detroit. 

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    Center for Active Design introduces Assembly, a new design movement to support civic life

    Aug. 23, 2016, 10 a.m., Posted by Suzanne Nienaber

    Suzanne Nienaber is partnerships director at the Center for Active Design. Photo courtesy of Center for Active Design.

    Across the U.S. our communities are facing disturbing trends related to civic engagement, from low voter turnout to growing social and economic divides. Civic leaders and community residents alike are interested in rebuilding trust, revitalizing neighborhoods and supporting interaction among diverse groups. Meanwhile, promising innovations are emerging across the country. Citizen-led initiatives such as Better Block and Walk Your City are bolstering vibrant street life. Many city leaders and public-private partnerships are working to transform underused infrastructure into dynamic public spaces. Researchers are uncovering new connections between neighborhood design and levels of civic trust.

    In light of these significant trends, the Center for Active Design (CfAD) is launching “Assembly: Shaping Space for Civic Life,” a pioneering initiative to leverage place-based design as a tool to enhance civic engagement. Assembly incorporates research as well as practitioner input to develop a set of practical, cost-effective design guidelines to support civic life. With support from Knight Foundation, Assembly also benefits from the guidance of a diverse, multidisciplinary advisory committee.

    This summer, we are releasing the Assembly Project Orientation to create a common vocabulary and serve as a resource for partners involved in developing the guidelines. The Project Orientation is available for free download. According to Joanna Frank, our executive director, “This publication will be used to recruit potential collaborators, spark dialogue, and identify real-world projects to illustrate the upcoming design guidelines, which are scheduled for publication in 2018.”

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    Bringing in diverse donors: Lessons from San Antonio’s giving day

    Aug. 23, 2016, 9 a.m., Posted by John Burnam

    Photo by The Big Give S.A.

    A new Knight Foundation report on Giving Days found that while these online giving campaigns were successful in bringing in new donors to nonprofits, the donor pool is overwhelmingly white, highly educated and female. Below, John Burnham, a consultant who helps lead San Antonio’s Big Give S.A., writes about the campaign’s efforts to reach more Hispanics.

    Over the past three years, The Nonprofit Council and The San Antonio Area Foundation have partnered together to put on the Big Give S.A., the 24-hour online give day for San Antonio and the surrounding 14 counties.

    While we’ve had a lot of success bringing first-time donors to the table – growing from 41 percent in 2014 to 50 percent in 2016 – our demographic data from our first two years demonstrated that the platform usership wasn’t as diverse as we would have hoped (being 78 percent female, 66 percent white in 2015), reflecting the data in Knight’s new report.

    As one of the largest minority majority regions in the country, South Central Texas should be leading the way in bringing new voices to the philanthropic table while creating an event that is equitable and welcoming to everyone.  As a day meant to celebrate charity, our goal is to use the Big Give S.A. as a way to bring the entire community together.

    While there is no magic bullet, this past year, the Big Give S.A. implemented three new tactics to try to make the event more inviting for minority donors. Here’s what we tried: 

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