Knight Blog

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

ArtPlace: helping create a sense of place via the arts

June 12, 2012, 10:49 a.m., Posted by Marika Lynch


Above: A mural at Wynwood Walls. Photo Credit: Flickr user wallyg

Today, the national funder ArtPlace announced support for new projects in Miami, Philadelphia, Detroit, St. Paul, San Jose and other communities across the United States.

ArtPlace funds projects that put the arts at the center of community revitalization and is supported by Knight Foundation, other leading foundations, banks and government agencies.

In Miami, funds will help launch a new Business Improvement District in Wynwood - which has grown from a warehouse district into the center of the local contemporary arts scene over the past decade. If property and business owners approve, they’d ultimately tax themselves to fund projects to beautify the neighborhood and make it safer.

“Art has been at the core of the revival of Wynwood,” Matt Haggman, Miami program director for Knight Foundation, told the Miami Herald. “Art gives an area a sense of place and an identity, which serves as a catalyst for economic development.”

ArtPlace is also funding Wynwood’s the Light Box at Goldman Warehouse, a multi-disciplinary cultural center and meeting space, and the Bass Museum’s project to commission site-specific, works in public spaces to engage residents and visitors in the center of Miami Beach.

Four other Knight communities will also receive funding for the following projects:

Narratives and gaming: design principles in civic engagement

June 12, 2012, 7:39 a.m., Posted by Charles Tsai

Earlier this month, Knight Foundation, as part of its Technology for Engagement Initiative, gathered thought leaders to talk about the best ways to use new tools and platforms to bring communities together around important issues. Here, author Charles Tsai and Dave Timko talk with Games for Change co-founder Benjamin Stokes and others on design principles for engagement. A full report is forthcoming.

At Knight’s recent Technology for Engagement Summit, innovators, academics and funders took time to examine some of the recent successes in civic engagement and what we can learn from them. Do they hint at design principles for the tools we develop for engagement?

Recent bright spots point to increased uses of narratives and gaming. This is no surprise. If engagement is about sustaining action and involvement beyond one-off events, then engagement will naturally take the form of stories or games. They provide meaningful structures for sustained actions.

They can motivate action better than facts and figures. Just witness the challenge in getting people to exercise, eat healthfully and recycle. Compare that to how immersed children are in gaming: the average American will have played 10,000 hours of games by the time he or she reaches age 21.

Narratives are cleverly used by three recent initiatives that succeeded in spreading quickly, person to person: the Harry Potter AllianceKony 2012 and Caine’s Arcade.

Each one relies on an unfolding narrative to hook people. You’re not just told a good story, you’re part of one. You don’t just donate or sign petitions, you’re writing the next or last chapter of a powerful story.

 The Harry Potter Alliance asks fans who grew up with the books to imagine the young wizard in this world. What evil would he fight and how can you raise your own “Dumbledore’s Army” to help him? This simple reframing, a practice dubbed “cultural acupuncture,” helped mobilize hundreds of thousands of youth to action. Together, they’ve sent five cargo planes of aid to Haiti and donated more than 88,000 books around the world. 

The alliance’s success gave founder Andrew Slack this epiphany: “Fantasy is not an escape from the soul of our world but an invitation to go deeper into it.”

Matching nonprofits with developers, new platform aims to leverage tech for social good

June 11, 2012, 12:08 p.m., Posted by Elizabeth R. Miller


Photo Credit: Code for America

A new online platform intended to use technology for social good is currently in the development stage.

SocialCoding4Good, a project from the Palo Alto-based Benetech, is designed to engage software developers, technical writers and other IT professionals with social causes that need their tech help.

The platform aims to increase awareness of this new type of volunteerism by matching humanitarian organizations that work on issues like disaster relief, human rights and education with the ideas, skills and time of product developers.

The project is supported with seed funding from Knight Foundation through the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

About the foundation’s support for the project, Knight’s Program Director in Silicon Valley, Judith Kleinberg says: