Knight Blog

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

How storytelling heals and strengthens communities

Oct. 29, 2014, 1:42 p.m., Posted by Anna Clark


The Secret Society of Twisted Storytellers. Photo by Marvin Shaouni.

Cross-posted with permission from Creative Exchange

In April of 2014, Damian Woetzel and the Aspen Institute Arts Program convened a Strategy Group in Detroit. This convening brought together local and national experts: artists and leaders in arts, policy, community development and education. The group spent a thrilling morning at Spain Elementary School where Yo-Yo Ma, Damian Woetzel, Lil Buck, Aaron Dworkin and Cristina Pato conducted an ArtStrike with students and teachers followed by a roundtable discussion on the role of the arts in Detroit Public Schools. In the afternoon the group focused on creative placemaking and the ways in which art is contributing to Detroit’s future and how it can be further utilized to reimagine the city. There is so much important, groundbreaking work happening in Detroit right now that the Aspen Institute Arts Program felt it was important to share the story of this work more widely. Our hope is others may learn from and understand more deeply the challenges and opportunities facing Detroit and the unique way that Detroit views artists as a critical asset and building block for the future. This is the second of three pieces commissioned by the Aspen Institute Arts Program in partnership with Creative Exchange. (Read part one here and part two here.)


Performer and writer Satori Shakoor knows that for some of her white friends, she is probably their only black friend in the city: the one African American who comes to their home, plays with their child, and altogether is a meaningful part of their life.

Macon, Ga., unites to tackle blight

Oct. 29, 2014, 12:49 p.m., Posted by Molly McWilliams Wilkins


Unblight conference in Macon, Ga. Photo by Molly McWilliams Wilkins. 

With the revitalization of the College Hill Corridor, urban renewal in Macon is definitely on the upswing, but the community still struggles with a legacy of abandoned and rundown properties.

Over the past three months, Macon-Bibb County government, The Telegraph and the Mercer University Center for Collaborative Journalism have convened business leaders, neighbors, nonprofits and development experts to discuss how to fight blight in the community. For decades the community has struggled with what to do with thousands of abandoned and rundown properties.

On a recent Tuesday, dozens of people mingled over pizza, sodas and cookies to talk about moving Macon-Bibb forward. The forum was one of several follow-ups to Unblight, an “unconference” funded by Knight Foundation and hosted by the Center for Collaborative Journalism and the Sunlight Foundation in August.

“We want to look to you for ideas,” Tim Regan-Porter, director of the Center for Collaborative Journalism told the crowd. “ Ultimately the answers have to come from the community.”

Knight network provides community, collaboration and support

Oct. 29, 2014, 12:32 p.m., Posted by Bianca St. Louis


Knight News Challenge: Summer attendees arriving at the Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City, Mo. Photo by Michael Bolden.

Bianca St. Louis is the program coordinator for the nonprofit CODE 2040, a Knight News Challenge winner.

This summer Knight Foundation chose CODE2040 as one of 19 winners in its Knight News Challenge on strengthening the Internet. One of the highlights of this experience has been an event dubbed KNC Summer, a chance to gather with other winners from the current and previous groups, in Kansas City, Mo. in late August. We shared our experiences and gained insights from experts in storytelling, branding, search engine optimization and other fields. It was a remarkable experience, but the effects have stayed with us as we continue our work.  

So, what is CODE2040? We create pathways to educational, professional and entrepreneurial success in technology for underrepresented minorities, focusing on black and Latino people. Our nonprofit exists to make a direct impact on the achievement, skills and wealth gaps in the United States. The year 2040 is when the U.S. is predicted to be a majority-minority country. Our goal is to ensure that, by that year, black and Latino people are proportionally represented in the leading edge of America’s innovation economy as technologists, investors, thought leaders and entrepreneurs.