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

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    Three insights on tackling a social change project in your community

    July 22, 2016, 11:32 a.m., Posted by Lilly Weinberg

    Photo by Lilly Weinberg.

    Last month, Knight Foundation sent 20 Emerging City Champions from 13 cities to an intensive studio in Toronto hosted by our partner 8 80 Cities to better develop their winning ideas. This is the second year of the program, and I was eager to see how it’s developed, so I went along for the ride, participating in all of the sessions. I left the studio impressed. Mostly, I loved the energy of the group and getting to know the seven young leaders from the small to midsize markets I manage for Knight. Each participant will receive $5,000 to implement a project in one year that will improve mobility, public spaces or civic engagement in their home cities. I am excited to see their projects in action.

    A lot was jam-packed into the studio, which lasted for four days, 12 hours each day. There were many lessons shared about how to get started that benefited the young urbanists, many new to social change. For some, the idea of executing on a project in a short period of time felt overwhelming, but the studio showed how transformational change is doable even with a small amount of money and time. Here were my top takeaways from the sessions:

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    How California Walks is inspiring San Jose residents to experience the city from a new perspective

    July 21, 2016, 9 a.m., Posted by Vignesh Ramachandran

    Photos courtesy of California Walks.

    Areas of San Jose are a lot more walkable than the average resident may think – and a statewide advocacy group is helping increase awareness about it.

    California Walks, which advocates for pedestrian safety and walkable communities throughout the state, is working on “Walk San Jose,” an initiative to identify and create walking loops that people can explore. Knight Foundation supported the project with $30,000.

    Part of the goal is “having more of a conversation around the value of walking in San Jose and the value of walkable communities,” said Jaime Fearer, the San Jose-based planning and policy manager for California Walks.

    The Walk San Jose initiative is creating six small cards that feature walking loops as a free resource that people will be able to pick up at coffee shops, office buildings, hotels, the convention center and other locations around the city. Two routes have been completed: The first loop focuses on exploring civic, art and architectural history in Downtown San Jose, while the second loop focuses on the city’s visual and performing arts, education and innovation.

    “They’re really meant to be community-owned, community-based asset maps,” Fearer said. “So the community is involved in deciding what they want to highlight and where the loop goes.”

    The planning process includes a “walk audit,” where members of the community can help think about what makes a walkable route and community. The audit looks at elements such as the condition of a sidewalk, level of daytime shade, adequate nighttime lighting and whether the area is full of trash or blighted buildings.

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    International students are U.S. businesses’ best hope for growth

    July 19, 2016, 3:36 p.m., Posted by Steve Tobocman

    Photo by IndusBird on Flickr.

    This week, hundreds of thousands of international students will say goodbye to the U.S. to return, with STEM degrees in hand, to their home countries. Far from being a drain on the American economy or threat to U.S. jobs, these talented graduates—disproportionately armed with graduate STEM degrees—could fill a real need for companies that want to grow and create more jobs.

    Researchers estimate there will be an annual employment shortfall of 1.3 million unfilled STEM jobs by 2020. International students studying in the U.S. represent the world’s most valuable economic asset—high-skilled STEM talent. According to the National Science Foundation between 40 percent and 70 percent of all graduate students in STEM fields at U.S. colleges and universities are international students.

    A new cadre of immigrant economic development and immigrant welcoming nonprofit and government initiatives such as Global Detroit and St. Louis Mosaic are helping employers to connect with international students to fill the unmet demand for STEM talent. A report released last week by Global Detroit, the nonprofit economic development organization that I direct, chronicles an 80 percent growth over the past four years in the employment of international students from seven key Michigan universities to fill unmet STEM talent needs. Our peers at St. Louis Mosaic released a study mapping out the strong fit between local employers’ talent needs and international students’ skills.

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