Knight Blog

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

Teaching residents to walk this way…

Feb. 26, 2015, 9 a.m., Posted by Matt Tomasulo

Photo courtesy of Walk [Your City].

Urban designer Matt Tomasulo is the chief instigator and founder of Walk [Your City], which Knight Foundation supports as part of its efforts to invest in innovators who help cities attract and keep talented people, expand economic opportunity and create a culture of engagement.

One rainy night in 2012, I hung 27 guerrilla walking signs in downtown Raleigh, N.C., as an experiment: What happens when we show residents how many minutes away on foot neighborhood destinations are in their communities? Three years later, the Walk [Your City] team and I are working to empower pedestrians nationwide with the creation of a “do-it-yourself” walkability toolkit, supported by Knight Foundation.

How did we get from there to here?

While in grad school back in 2012, I was studying the barriers to people walking as part of their daily lives. Studies show that the perception of destinations being too far to walk – rather than the reality of distance – was the main barrier. While living in larger cities such as D.C. and Copenhagen, I had noticed that people walked 12 to 18 minutes, multiple times a day, without even thinking about it. Could we influence that perception in other communities in the U.S. that do not have the density of D.C., New York and San Francisco?

Civic engagement essential to strengthening democracy

Feb. 25, 2015, 2:24 p.m., Posted by Kelly Born

Kelly Born is a program officer for the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. The original version of this post appeared on the Hewlett Foundation blog.

Even before voter turnout hit a 70-year low in 2014, many of us in the democracy reform field were in conversation about whether and how we might improve voter turnout, and civic engagement writ large. This, in part, is why the Hewlett Foundation recently announced that we will be partnering with Knight Foundation, the Democracy Fund and the Rita Allen Foundation on a $3 million challenge to identify how we can better inform voters and increase civic participation before, during and after elections.

A recent post here on Knight Blog elaborates on the goals of this election-focused Knight News Challenge: “We are looking for innovative ideas ranging from new ways that news media and others can inform voters, to making voting easy, efficient and fair, to converting election participation into longer-term civic engagement, on the local, state or national level.”

‘Knight Cities’ podcast: What never appears in your city’s economic development playbook

Feb. 25, 2015, 1:30 p.m., Posted by Carol Coletta

Paul Grogan is one of the nation’s great civic innovators.

Paul has had a 360-degree view of what makes cities tick—from his early service as aide to two Boston mayors, to the creation of the nation’s first national intermediary for community development, to the founding of CEOs for Cities, then to Harvard and now as president and CEO of the Boston Foundation. It’s been a tour de force of civic service, which is why Paul always has important new insights to share on cities.

He talked with us this week on “Knight Cities” about the remarkable resurgence of Boston and how it was fueled by the most unlikely developments.