Knight Blog

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

Involving community in helping shape economic strategy

June 19, 2012, 10:10 a.m., Posted by Jennifer Thomas

University Park residents in Akron came out in force on Saturday, June 16 to involve members of the community in shaping an economic strategy for their neighborhood.

Over 350 neighborhood residents, engaged by the University Park Alliance, met to decide and prioritize the work and to contribute to the conversation on  how to bring in additional funding.

Residents overwhelming voted for a Special Improvement District as a financial tool that would assist the neighborhood in achieving its goals. University Park Alliance is a $10 million effort supported by Knight Foundation to create a 50 block live, work, play mecca in the heart of downtown Akron.

"When I gave the opening remarks, I was almost in tears," Eric Johnson, the executive director of the University Park Alliance, told the Akron Beacon Journal, which covered the meeting in "University Park Alliance shares ideas for neighborhood." The article notes that participants used interactive keypads and computers to answer questions about their priorities; the top three included crime and safety, "neighbors helping neighbors" and economic development. 

Internet native news networks, what's working in #opengov and more for #civicmedia day 2

June 19, 2012, 9:24 a.m., Posted by John Bracken


Yesterday was a busy first day of the MIT-Knight Civic Media conference. You can catch up via the conference liveblog. Highlights included first panel, Dan Sinker’s summary of the hack session, the announcement of the Knight News Challenge winners and details about Knight’s new prototype fund with Michael Maness and Joi Ito.

We’re going to keep the momentum going today with four more panels. Like yesterday, the #civicmedia will be livestreamed.

Things kick off at 9:00 a.m. ET with a discussion of Internet Native News Networks led by Christina Xu of the Awesome Foundation. Presenters include Hong Qu, of UpworthyIvan Sigal of Global VoicesCharlie Sennott of GlobalPost and David Wertime of Tea Leaf Nation.

At 10:30 a.m. ET, Susan Crawford will lead us through a discussion of Open Gov: What’s Gone Wrong, What’s Gone Right? Particpants will include Mark Headd of Code for AmericaMike Norman of and Chris Vein, Deputy United States Chief Technology Officer for Government Innovation.

Seven lessons learned about social impact games

June 19, 2012, 8:50 a.m., Posted by Mayur Patel


The prevalence of games in people’s lives is undeniable. Nearly three-quarters of all American families play computer and video games. Increasingly, businesses, nonprofits, funders and governments are tapping into this trend, experimenting with games to unlock existing social challenges. Yet, what are games good for and when are they most effective?

Last month, we completed an in-depth evaluation of two-real world social impact games Knight funded to bring individuals together to address local challenges: Macon Money, an alternative form of local currency to connect residents to each other and to attract and expose people to local business in Macon, Ga; and Battlestorm, a youth-based game to improve hurricane preparation awareness and habits in Biloxi, Miss.

We’re excited to share the results of these two experiments today at the 9th Annual Games for Change Festival! While a lot has been written about the impact of digital games on learning, less attention has been paid to the effects of real-world games – i.e., games that are played out in the physical world. We hope the insights gathered will encourage funders, researchers and gamers to explore the potential of these games with us and help move the field forward.

In addition to the main study, we’ve created an interactive data visualization synthesizing the Macon Money findings and an infographic poster on Battlestorm.

Here are seven lessons about the effectiveness of the two real-world games and how games can be leveraged for social impact in communities. 

1.       Making Exploration Safe – Games are powerful liberating structures that allow people to test new patterns of behavior in a playful and secure environment. In Macon Money, residents took advantage of their free currency to experiment with new spending habits: 46% of players surveyed spent their bills at a local business they’d never frequented before, and 92% of those players report returning to those businesses after the game.