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

Jan 14, 2009

Can We Save Snow With a Web Site? And Other Information Needs Projects Announced

Posted by Knight Foundation

Today, Knight announced the twenty-one winning projects for the first year of the Community Information Challenge, a five-year, $24 million initiative for help community foundation find creative ways to better inform their communities.

The full list of winners is in the press release, and you can learn what a community foundation is as well as the Park City Foundation's climate change project in the below Knight Pulse conversation: (transcript is below video)

Hi! I'm Kristen Taylor, and this is a Knight Pulse video conversation. Today we're talking with Katie Wright, and Katie is the Programs Manager for the Park City Foundation. Katie, thanks so much for being with us.

Katie: Thank you.

Kristen: So tell us more about the Park City Foundation and your role there.

Katie: Okay. Well, we are a pretty new community foundation. We're actually the first one in the state of Utah. And it was started about four years ago and came under professional management only about a year and a half ago. And we're located in a small ski resort town, and our focus is just promoting philanthropy throughout Summit County.

Kristen: And tell me what a community foundation is.

Katie: A community foundation is an organization, a public institution, a non-profit, that manages and invests people's philanthropic funds. So in a way it's an alternative to a private foundation, where people of lesser means can fully participate in philanthropy. And on the other side of services, they provide things to non-profit organizations. The first and most important is grants and funding, but also services and support such as volunteer recruitment and professional development and anything that can help the nonprofit sector thrive and do their job better.

Kristen: I see. How is it different, being a community foundation in a ski resort town?

Katie: We live in a pretty small town, and we have a lot of transient population, so the people who live here permanently all know each other well and form a really tight-knit community. But there are also a lot of part-time residents who come from a lot of wealth, might give philanthropically and be very involved philanthropically in their home town but don't think about participating necessarily where they vacation. So that's one of the things we're trying to do is to pull them into the community and help them see that there's need even where they are vacationing and just enjoying life.

Kristen: I see. And we're going to be working with you'the Knight Foundation'on a project through the Community Information Challenge, so tell me a little bit about the project we're going to be working on.

Katie: Okay. Well, we're really excited about it, and what it is is we're working in partnership with our local city government to create a website that is sort of a Facebook-style profile, but it measures a person's carbon footprint and also water footprint. And the idea is that a household, an organization, a business can create a profile and measure what footprint they are affecting on our community and on the earth in general and then access information on how to reduce this footprint. And the real innovation is that we're working with utility companies to have real data, so that every month someone can log in and see how the changes they made in the previous month have affected their footprint.

Kristen: That's really exciting. What are the ways you're going to be able to tell the community about this, and how will they be involved?

Katie: We are very lucky. As a ski town, we are sort of on the forefront of climate change; we're the canary in the coal mine, because our culture, our economy, everything is based on snow pack and ski resorts. And so our city government and our local resort mountains are very involved in climate change and committed to innovation. And so we have support from the city, who is doing a community-wide footprint assessment that provides a baseline that we as a community can measure in upcoming years.

Are our reduction strategies actually affecting change? And we also have support from some of the local mountain resorts. And so we're planning later this spring a big Save Our Snow event where we launch the website and also talk about how snow pack projections are for our town in particular. So in the year 2075, will there be skiing at the base of our resort at all, or will we have to shuttle people up the mountain to ski and things like that.

Kristen: I see. So where can people go if they'd like to find out more information?

Katie: Well, the best place to start is on our city government website, which is, or you can visit our website, the foundation's, which is

Kristen: Great! Well, thanks so much, Katie. We'll be checking back in with you to see how it goes.

Comments? Thoughts on other ways community foundations might reach their communities?

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