Knight Blog

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

Innovating philanthropy while innovating media: thoughts from the Knight News Challenge review

May 1, 2012, 11:30 a.m., Posted by Raina Kumra

Raina Kumra, CEO of Juggernaut and co-director of innovation for the BBG (along with Robert Bole), was one of 19 readers who helped decide which of the 52 projects moved to the next round of the Knight News Challenge on networks. Here, she provides her thoughts on trends that emerged from the entries considered. 

Knight's News Challenge is one of the few events in the foundation world that I can think of that makes foundation funds accessible to real people with big and small ideas. This was my first time as a reviewer for the News Challenge (its sixth one to date) and I walked away with an appreciation for each of the ideas put forth, as well as the design of the challenge itself.

rainaThis challenge had over 1,000 submissions. That’s an indication alone that there are few mechanisms in the foundation world that are as widely publicized and instantly accessible for those looking at apps that help media help people. The reviewers were made up of an impressive and diverse group of journalists and other media-centric folk including: Olivia Ma from YouTube, Ethan Zuckerman from MIT's Center for Civic Media and Harvard’s Berkman Center and Dan Greene from the Gates Foundation to name a few. Lucky for us, the Knight team along with another group of advisors whittled down the entries to about 50 for us to review before the full day session began.

Since the focus of this round of the challenge was networks, a variety of themes emerged from the proposals we reviewed:

Innovating at annual conference for grantmakers

April 30, 2012, 10:59 a.m., Posted by Elizabeth R. Miller

At this year's Council on Foundation's conference in L.A, Knight Foundation is taking part in several discussions on innovations in the field, including why the future of philanthropy is mobile, how data is impacting the sector and how games can create social change and more. 

On Sunday, a new evaluation on the social impact of real-world games was the center of a panel led by Jessica Goldfin, strategic adviser to the president at Knight Foundation. Knight recently released its evaluation which explored aspects of real-world games that are most effective in addressing community issues.

Today, John Bracken, director of journalism and media innovation, will participate in a panel discussion around funding mobile for social impact. Zero Divide is hosting “The Future is Mobile” at 10 a.m. PST / 1 p.m EST. The conversation will feature both funders of mobile projects and practitioners who will provide hands-on demos, including two Knight grantees, VotoLatino and Safecast

Also today, Vice President for Strategy & Assessment Mayur Patel will offer his insights as to how advances in digital technology and changes in how people access and engage with news and information have altered the way foundations operate. The event will be livestreamed, starting at 12:30 p.m PST / 3:30 p.m EST.

Damian Thorman, Knight's national program director, will also help lead a conversation around high-impact investing for economic rebuilding, with Knight grantee, National Fund for Workforce Solutions.

Knight's Director/Strategy & Assessment Jonathan Sotsky, will also take part in a conversation about innovative ways grantmakers build data into their work, both as a tool for assessing the needs of individual grantees and as a resource for program design and sector-wide change.

Tomorrow, Knight's Vice President of Communications Andrew Sherry will share communication strategies to transform philanthropy. He'll talk candidly about the strategic and critical role of communications, as well as successes and challenges the foundation faces. 

Below you'll find more detailed information about each of the panels, including meeting room locations. For those following on Twitter, the hashtag is #cofLA.

Emily Bell: How a new research effort will help newsrooms determine what's next

April 30, 2012, 10:01 a.m., Posted by Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York

Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism announced today it will launch a new research effort to develop best practices for digital journalism, with funding from the Knight and Tow Foundations. Each of the projects will be short term, to help newsrooms evolve quickly. Here, Emily Bell, director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism, writes about the initiative. 

Ten years ago, the benefits of a web presence were still debatable in many newsrooms, five years ago almost nobody used Twitter for journalism, four years ago ‘data journalism’ was a minority interest, three years ago most news outlets had never developed a mobile app, today very few newsrooms use sensor networks or automated text services to help provide stories for consumer audiences.

emily bellNobody who works as a journalist needs to be reminded of the pace of change in the field. New tools, different platforms, dynamic audiences and an extraordinary expansion of options for storytelling  challenge every individual journalist and every newsroom  on a daily basis.

The melting of what was once a predictable industrial process into a fluid stream of possibilities is at the same time liberating  and threatening, as it brings with it questions of skills and sustainability.  When I joined Columbia University from the Guardian in 2010 as the first director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism, one of the motivating  factors was the need to find out more about what journalism’s needs and opportunities might be.  The funding from Knight Foundation and the Tow Foundation for this major research initiative gives us the ability to do exactly that.