Knight Blog

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

Improving student achievement in Charlotte

June 28, 2012, 10:57 a.m., Posted by Susan Patterson


Above: Miami students receive free laptops through the One Laptop Per Child program

Today, Knight Foundation announced it is joining Charlotte’s philanthropic leaders in supporting Project L.I.F.T, a five-year, $55 million initiative to improve student achievement in West Charlotte schools.

Knight is not an education funder, so why would we invest in this effort? We do care about access to technology and  engagement, however, and the two grants, totaling just over $4 million, support our interest in “informed and engaged communities.”

One grant will put laptops designed for children into the hands of all kindergarten-through-fifth grade students in seven LIFT schools – that’s about 3,200 laptops.

These One-Laptop-Per-Child laptops will come loaded with a child-oriented Wikipedia, books and other learning tools that the teachers will decide upon.  Internet access in West Charlotte is only about 20 to 40 percent of the community, and it’s something parents asked for. We hope these laptops and training will provide our students with the digital skills needed for 21st century life.

Creating a "manifesto" for the Tech for Engagement community

June 27, 2012, 10:49 a.m., Posted by Daniel Latorre

Earlier this month as part of its Technology for Engagement Initiative, Knight Foundation gathered thought leaders to talk about the best ways to use new tools and platforms to bring communities together around important issues. Attendees were asked, where is this nascent field going, and what issues should we be exploring?  Here, Project for Public Spaces' VP of Digital Placemaking Daniel Latorre introduces the Tech for Engagement Manifesto his work group started.

A few weeks ago we were all face to face with laptops down and smartphones mostly in our pockets. An amazing feat for a highly wired group. Asked to lead a manifesto break out group towards the end of our unconference, the civic activist in me gladly accepted such a happily ludicrous task to attempt to do in 30 minutes. What you see below is the product, let's call it an alpha, of five attendees' hack at synthesizing the values we heard at the summit along with some input from the wider summit group over email afterwards.

TED Prize engages people in designing the City 2.0

June 27, 2012, 10:24 a.m., Posted by Elizabeth R. Miller

Update: Live from TEDGlobal, organizers announce the TedPrize will raise its grant awards for The City 2.0 by 10 fold - to $1 million.

A man who plans to turn thousands of plastic water bottles into an amusement park for children is one of the first recipients of the City 2.0 TED prize, which includes $10,000. 

Ruganzu Bruno Tusingwire, a 29 year-old eco-artist from Uganda, first started exploring his idea while studying at Kyambogo University. He'll use the prize money to grow his local TEDx community, help sustain a local eco-artist loan program supporting women to develop their business ideas and expand the amusement park from its existing single plane-shaped sculpture into a permanent park.

Early this year, TED unveiled the details of its annual prize in support of “one wish to change the world.” This year, the award went not to a single person, but instead to an idea: The City 2.o – the city of the future. 

With Knight Foundation support, the platform,, allows people everywhere to help create their own future city. Residents are able to propose – and lead – projects to upgrade their own cities on issues important to them – from transportation to public housing, recreational space and more. 

As part of the site, TED held an open call for new projects with plans to divide the $100,000 TED Prize into ten $10,000 awards for the best projects which represented "inspiring ideas worth spreading," (TED's mission). 

Four other winners have also been announced including Jason Sweeney, whose web and smartphone based platform allows people to crowdsource and geo-locate quiet spaces in their community. Another winner aims to help democratize the design movement by helping people build their own homes using locally-sourced materials and open sourced design. The remaining five winners will be announced monthly.