Knight Blog

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

Lesa Mitchell, Network for Scale: A new opportunity for libraries

Sept. 19, 2014, 2:06 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Knight News Challenge: Libraries offers applicants a chance to share in $2.5 million by focusing on the question “How might we leverage libraries as a platform to build more knowledgeable communities?”

AboveLesa Mitchell, the founder of Network for Scale and an expert on the impact of the maker movement, discusses the role libraries can play as shared spaces where diverse members of the community teach, learn, perform, create and share ideas.

To submit an entry or provide feedback on other submissions, visit You can join us for virtual office hours from 1 to 2 p.m. ET Sept. 23. Participants can access the meeting online ( using ID 731675489), or participate via phone at 1-888-240-2560. Knight News Challenge: Libraries closes at 5 p.m. ET on Sept. 30. Winners will be announced in January.

A creative change of conversation in Detroit

Sept. 19, 2014, 6 a.m., Posted by Hunter Franks

Photo: First Love Project installation at Eastern Market. Credit: Hunter Franks.

Hunter Franks, an artist and founder of the Neighborhood Postcard Project and League of Creative Interventionists, is in Detroit for three weeks using creativity to build community with Knight Foundation support.  

I could see the stark blue of the sky piercing through the repetitive square windows on all sides of the massive abandoned brick building. The windows were gone, letting light seep in slowly. It was an odd sight, one which I had never seen before — and it was the first thing I saw in Detroit. It is what most people probably know of Detroit. The media has extensively covered the city as a blighted wasteland, and that was indeed what struck me at first. But there are upsides to blight and disinvestment — an opportunity for Detroiters to creatively reimagine their city with shared spaces and opportunities.      

When local Phil Cooley wanted more space for a woodshop, he purchased an available building in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood. He then opened up the space to Detroiters with a similar desire to grow their small businesses and called it Ponyride. Veronika Scott rented one desk in the corner of a large room at Ponyride when she was launching the Empowerment Plan, a nonprofit that employs homeless women to sew coats that turn into sleeping bags, and then distributes the coats to homeless individuals living on the street. Two years later, she has nearly 20 employees and rents out all of that same large room at Ponyride.

Lessons in sharing, from the public library

Sept. 18, 2014, 2:43 p.m., Posted by Nate Hill

Photo by The 4th Floor at the Chattanooga Public Library on Flickr. 

Knight News Challenge: Libraries offers applicants a chance to share in $2.5 million by focusing on the question “How might we leverage libraries as a platform to build more knowledgeable communities?” Below, Nate Hill deputy director of the Chattanooga, Tenn., Public Library, writes about the communities and the social contract embodied in libraries.

This morning, for perhaps the 46th time, I read my toddler son a book called “Mine-o-saur.”  In the story, the Mino-o-saur learns that he needs to share his toys with other dinosaurs to make friends. When he was alone with all of the toys, he was sad, and the community of other dinosaurs moved on and had fun with different toys elsewhere. My son stared intently at the book, and you could see the gears in his little head turning… “I better not act like the Mine-o-saur; I like having friends!

Sharing is an essential part of healthy social interactions, and our culture knows and values this so highly that we begin conditioning children to understand it from a very early age. A community, defined as a unified body of individuals, isn’t much of a community without some kind of sharing system, including access rules, behavioral modes and a resulting social contract. In early cultures, people lived collectively and shared child care and food preparation duties. Now, communities might share playful things, such as toys, as the Mine-o-saur learned, or they may share crucial infrastructure, such as a plumbing system or an electrical grid. They can share space, water, food, knowledge, books or livestock. They might share a network connection, computers or other devices.