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

  • Some alt text

    Roberto Lugo at Wexler Gallery empowers us all with the art that saved him

    April 28, 2016, 4:39 p.m., Posted by Chip Schwartz

    What comes to mind when you think about ceramics? Throwing wheels, glazes and vases? Bowls, plates and similar beautiful, yet fragile, objects, perhaps? How about hip-hop and graffiti? Needless to say, the pairing of urban culture and traditional porcelain forms doesn’t really seem to fit. Philadelphia artist Roberto Lugo, however, has a body of work on display at Wexler Gallery that might very well change your mind.

    Roberto Lugo grew up in North Philadelphia as a child of Puerto Rican immigrants, and with that experience came all of the challenges that go along with inner city life. Growing up in a setting that seemed to place injustices and obstacles at all turns, Lugo could have easily succumbed to the pressure. Instead, his rich cultural heritage and nurturing family helped inspire him to become part of his own solution instead of the problem. His answer to life's hardships is art, and his medium of choice is porcelain.

    Read full article ›

  • Some alt text

    How understanding people’s differences can unleash an organization’s ability to innovate

    April 27, 2016, 11:57 a.m., Posted by Timothy R. Smith

    Above: Chasing an Impression by Tim on Flickr.  

    Video: Day 1 recap from Council on Foundations 2016 on Youtube.

    Innovation: It’s not just for the Facebooks and Googles of the world. Any organization has the ability to innovate, provided it knows how each of its members can most effectively bring an idea to fruition. This was the major takeaway from a Knight Foundation-sponsored workshop at the Council on Foundations annual conference in Washington earlier this month.

    Workshop participants took an assessment to determine whether they fall into one of three categories: builders, those who get things done and prefer gradual change built on old ideas; pioneers, visionaries who get an idea a second and want revolutionary change; and connectors, those who have a mixture of builder and pioneer qualities and can bridge the two groups. The assessment, known as the Innovation Strengths Preference Indicator, determines which of the three categories people fall into.

    About 50 people attended the workshop and included members of community nonprofit organizations from across the country, many of whom were interested in new ways of serving their communities.

    The assessment allows organizations to find the strengths and weaknesses of employees, based on a dozen characteristics. It determines how a person thinks, how they interact with others and how they take action. The results of the assessment show a person their sweet spot: what they can do to maximize innovation for their organization.

    Read full article ›

  • Some alt text
    Media Innovation

    Bringing dark money out of the shadows

    April 27, 2016, 10 a.m., Posted by Anna Massoglia

    Anna Massoglia is political nonprofits researcher at the Center for Responsive Politics, a Knight News Challenge: Elections winner.

    Click to enlarge image:


    Today we’re officially launching our newly redesigned Dark Money section,, tracking the activities of politically active nonprofits that don’t disclose their wealthy corporate and individual donors to the voters they seek to influence. This is the first phase of our Knight News Challenge project, Inside the 990 Treasure Trove, aimed at providing the public, journalists and policymakers access to data on dark money groups and clear information about how these groups operate.

    This first step structures the data in a way that makes it more comprehensible to users who are new to the subject of dark money. From here we move on to creating more dynamic tools and customizable downloads that will help experts and novices alike navigate, report on, and understand this complicated subject.

    The impact of outside spending, particularly through nondisclosing groups such as 501(c)(4) “social welfare” organizations, continues to break records in the 2016 presidential election. Not only have these groups been spending more money than ever – three times more than at a comparable point in the record-setting 2012 elections – but for the first time, nine  presidential candidates are known to have the backing of at least one dark money group that can accept unlimited, secret donations. One candidate has a 501(c)(4) established to oppose her run, and as the 2016 cycle unfolds, we will start to see congressional candidates gaining the support of such groups, if the trend in recent cycles is to hold.

    For years, we at the Center for Responsive Politics have been building and growing our one-of-a-kind database tracking this dark money spending and probing the complex networks through which it flows. Now, thanks to the support of the Knight News Challenge and with our partners at GuideStar, we’re able to significantly expand our dark money databases and revamp how that data is presented on The goal is a site that provides users easy access and clear information about dark money’s impact on elections.

    Overall, we’re seeking to increase the usability of our website, to expand the comprehensiveness of our databases, and to better inform and increase participation during and after the 2016 election cycle. The new Dark Money pages will showcase some innovative developments and tools.

    In this first phase, we’ve created data visualizations that allow users to quickly grasp the complexities of where the money comes from and where it goes. The new interface, at, breaks down the basics of dark money with an intuitive style and flow. This experience will enable users from high school students to seasoned journalists to understand how dark money flows into the political process.

    The second phase, coming this summer, will focus on more dynamic aspects of the data, going beyond the new tools and redesigned features. We’re expanding our research by incorporating data from GuideStar, which will result in even more comprehensive data about dark money that builds on our groundbreaking investigative expertise. We are creating new tools for journalists and voters so they can better understand hidden political influence, hold groups and politicians accountable, and make informed decisions before, during, and after elections.

     For more information about the Dark Money site, contact Political Nonprofit Investigator Robert Maguire at and follow him on Twitter @RobertMaguire_.

    Read full article ›