Knight Blog

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

Encouraging young people to more actively participate in civic life

April 24, 2012, 12:09 p.m., Posted by Christopher Sopher


Photo Credit: Flickr user Theresa Thompson


Engaging young people in civic life is a perennial challenge. This year, Knight Foundation, MTV and a group of non-partisan civic media partners are teaming up to make youth engagement a reality through fantasy. They will build Fantasy Election, a game modeled on fantasy football but built around the 2012 presidential and congressional races.

“It’s a fantasy game but the stakes couldn’t be higher. If a fun format, competitive prizes, and credible information give young people the habit of engagement in civic life, it will be a big win,” said Alberto Ibargüen, CEO of Knight Foundation, principal funder of the game.

A record 52% of Americans ages 18-29 voted in 2008, totaling nearly 23 million votes— 16% of the total electorate. A growing body of research shows that new voters who vote twice are considerably more likely to continue voting for life. The challenge, then, is to sustain or increase youth participation in a year with a different political environment, to help young people develop a lifelong habit of civic participation.

For decades, MTV has used its reach with young audiences to run social campaigns on issues from sexual health to cyberbullying to civic participation. Chief among these was the Choose or Lose campaign, an election participation initiative, in partnership with Rock the Vote, encouraging young people to make their opinions heard. This year, MTV's Power of '12 campaign is focused on encouraging young Americans to understand and leverage their immense power as a demographic group, and in providing new "onramps" to participation for young people who haven't been engaged in the past. That's where Fantasy Election enters.

Silicon Valley Community Foundation engages people in planning for Bay Area growth

April 23, 2012, 11:13 a.m., Posted by Elizabeth R. Miller

This post is one of a series focused on how community foundations are investing in news and information projects to make an impact on issues they care about. The following video was filmed during Knight’s 2012 Media Learning Seminar, where five community foundations gave brief, TED-like talks on how the projects they launched are impacting their cities.

In the video above, Margot Rawlins shares how the Silicon Valley Community Foundation helped bring the community together to address the impact of population growth in the Bay Area.

Two million people are expected to move to the region over the next 25 years, representing a 35% increase in the community’s population. The impact on the community and the quality of life for both its existing and new residents is significant, says Margot Rawlins of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

That’s why the foundation took a three-pronged approach to “try to get enough information out to people to learn that the way we grow has a big impact on the things they care about in their community,” Rawlins said.

Using technology to help build a better Philadelphia

April 23, 2012, 8:09 a.m., Posted by Elizabeth R. Miller


Above: an event from last year's Philly Tech Week

Today marks the start of a week-long celebration of technology and innovation in Philadelphia. Philly Tech Week seeks to increase the impact of innovation in the city by focusing on how technology and collaboration can improve the community.

One of the city’s major challenges is the lack of digital access: 40% of  residents lack broadband access at home.

To help engage others in finding solutions, Knight Foundation and KEYSPOT, which delivers free Internet access, training and technology at 70 sites around the city, are co-sponsoring the event’s Access and Policy track.

An insert in today’s Philadelphia Daily News maps out those free Internet access points in the city and highlights other activities taking place during the week, such as a panel on the intersection of print and digital literacy. Another session will feature leading women and minority tech entrepreneurs who will share their personal and professional stories from the technology industry. All events are free and open to the public.