Knight Blog

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

Nine insights on taking community information projects from idea to impact

Feb. 6, 2013, 10:05 a.m., Posted by Mayur Patel

It’s almost time for our sixth annual Media Learning Seminar, where community and place-based foundations will gather to discuss how to create informed, engaged communities. This year, we’ll give them something new to consider – a case study of how foundations have been able to put together their community information projects.

Why does this matter? Because making positive change in communities requires the free flow of quality news and information. If the news and information environment is in trouble, so is civic life.  Foundations can only help improve education, public safety, the environment or anything else if people understand and are engaged in the issues. Through the Knight Community Information Challenge, more than 80 foundations have stepped up to invest in everything from local and state reporting to citizen dialogue and digital literacy, all to help their communities thrive. These projects have successes to show for it too - resulting in new funding for early childhood education, more environmental conservation and increased digital literacy among teens and seniors.

This new study - published today in partnership with FSG and Network Impact - provides a behind-the-scenes look at four foundations. We asked: Why are they working in media? How does that connect to their overall goals? How did they go about doing it? Has it mattered?

The four funders are:

You can find an in-depth look at each project in today’s report. Here are a few insights and examples of foundation practices that stood out for us:

Lessons on Design and Planning

Bridging entrepreneurship and education in South Florida

Feb. 5, 2013, 3:46 p.m., Posted by Jenna Buehler


Photo credit: Flickr user dananthony11.

Business leaders gathered at the South Florida Economic Summit this week to talk about ways to bridge the education and business sectors. One of the key topics: ideas for boosting South Florida’s start up community, a key focus for Knight Foundation.

Several panelists proposed steps to help business leaders become an integral part of the growing start up scene. Susan Amat executive director at the University of Miami Launch Pad, said that a successful South Florida economy is dependent on collaboration efforts between local businesses and new startups.

“What our economy needs now is a business community that volunteers their time,” said Amat, who helped to create Launch Tech, an accelerator for Miami tech startups. “We want people to say ‘no business community is going to do what Miami did for me’.”

Knight Foundation’s Miami Program Director, Matt Haggman, moderated the panel and asked participants what needs to happen in education and entrepreneurship to prepare for South Florida’s economic future.

A consensus among all panelists was the critical need for collaboration: “It takes two to tango,” said President of Miami-Dade College Eduardo Padrón. “We need to be assertive and proactive.”

Padrón cited recent research projects that seek to create solutions in education by first evaluating business needs. He said Miami-Dade College has created more opportunities for training students for the jobs employers need.

“We created an entirely new program in bioeconomics that prepared people for those jobs,” said Padrón, and cited other recent collaborations with Florida Power & Light to prepare students to fulfill needs in the engineering field. “We cannot get people evaluated fast enough. They have jobs waiting for them at a high wage and this gives them the opportunity to stay in Miami.”  

Alberto Carvalho, superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, said that another critical factor in South Florida’s future is digital access. He said it was “shameful” to have to report that the fourth largest school district in the country provides only 30 percent of its schools with Internet access.

“Without access to digital content, students we will never be able to personalize educational journeys in Miami-Dade,” Carvalho said,  “With as many types of people we have, that’s how many learning modalities we have in Miami-Dade schools. The only way to reach out to each individual learning path is through technology.”

He reported success in raising matching funds for the $77 million needed to bring high speed Internet to South Florida public schools; however, he said that it will take more than money to address the opportunity gaps in the area.

“If I had the power to demand one single investment,” Carvalho said, “I wouldn’t want your money. I’d want to provide a mentor for one of the students in Miami-Dade. If he likes sports management, let’s find him a mentor in the field - medicine, law, criminal justice. If these kids have mentors, they’ll stay on the page with learning and graduate.”  

Tune in to Knight’s Media Learning Seminar via livestream, Twitter

Feb. 5, 2013, 1:37 p.m., Posted by Elizabeth R. Miller

Starting Monday, leaders in philanthropy, media and tech will gather for Knight Foundation’s annual Media Learning Seminar to explore how foundations can, and already are, helping residents be informed about the issues that shape their communities.

The seminar is part of the Knight Community Information Challenge, which engages community and place-based foundations in meeting local information needs. Over the past five years, Knight has invested in more than 80 projects, offering both challenge grants and technical expertise to get ideas off the ground.

Most of the sessions will be streamed at We hope you’ll follow along via video, and join the conversation on Twitter with @knightfdn and #infoneeds. We’ll also be taking questions via Twitter for the plenary sessions and featured speakers noted on the conference schedule.

The seminar kicks off at 10:15 a.m. ET on Monday, with a welcome and announcement about the future of the Knight Community Information Challenge from Knight’s President and CEO, Alberto Ibargüen. Directly afterwards, foundation leaders will share “moments of truth” and give insights into their successes and challenges in this area. 

The livestream will take a pause from 1:15 p.m until 3:45 p.m. ET Monday afternoon for breakout sessions, featuring conversations ranging from incorporating a media strategy into a project to using games for community engagement and more. Scribes will have notes from each session posted online soon after the conference ends.

In the afternoon beginning at 3:45 p.m. ET, Knight’s Vice President of Journalism and Media Innovation Michael Maness, will join Fred Dust, a partner at IDEO, for a discussion about re-thinking community information approaches and how to best design for impact

Monday night at 6:30 p.m. ET, Cesar Conde, President of Univision Networks will engage in a conversation with Ibargüen.

Tuesday morning kicks off at 8:30 a.m. ET with a plenary session where several foundations will share their stories of how they successfully built partnerships and collaborations.