Knight Blog

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

Knight Foundation and its partners in Technology for Engagement attend TED2012

Feb. 28, 2012, 3:21 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

By Brett Hudson

My colleagues and I who are part of Knight’s Technology for Engagement Initiative are at the TED conference this week in Long Beach, Calif.  TED convenes some of the greatest minds around the globe to explore ways to foster a more informed, collaborative and innovative society.  

These goals are at the core of Knight’s Tech for Engagement Initiative, which funds digital technologies that inspire civic dialogue and collective community action. Leaders of several of our funded projects are participating in TED.

On Monday, Eric Gordon, who leads Community PlanIt, an online engagement platform for local planning efforts, led Knight’s TED Master Class called “3 Tools for Democracy in the Digital Age.” The class included a lively discussion with the TED Community on tools that place citizens at the center of decision-making in their communities.

Paula Ellis, vice president/strategic initiatives at Knight Foundation, who led the master class, reports:

Knight News Challenge Networks: Open is better

Feb. 28, 2012, 10:40 a.m., Posted by John Bracken


Photo Credit: Flickr User Jason A. Samfield

Note: To apply for the News Challenge, and read our FAQ, visit

A friend recently wrote that “open-source licenses are one of the most confusing things on the planet.” We see a need to better explain the open source rules for the Knight News Challenge, and our rationale for developing them. A couple of recent Twitter threads make it clear that there are outstanding questions about our policies.

At Knight Foundation, we are fans of open source software. Our mission as a foundation is to inform and engage communities. We want the tools and platforms that we fund to be widely used. We believe projects built using open source code are more likely to spread, and be built upon, than those that rely upon proprietary software. Panda and Overview , two projects supported through the 2011 News Challenge, are now open for developers to work on.  Earlier this month, our collaboration with Mozilla Foundation relaunched as OpenNews, and “is about helping journalism thrive on the open Web.” All told, we’ve provided support to some 76 open source projects since the News Challenge launched in 2007.

One criteria we use when selecting Knight News Challenge winners is potential social impact. We think that the use of open source code is a key part of achieving that impact. However, as my colleague Jose Zamora recently wrote (and as the head in the wall points out partway through this video), we will also accept proposals that use other licenses or proprietary code. To be clear: we prefer projects that are open source. But if you or your company have a rationale for a non-open source project, we will consider it.

Each year, we receive questions, and criticism, about our use of the General Public License. This year, some have again argued that we have chosen the wrong open source license. For now, GPL is the standard license we’ve selected to offer to our grantees.  We are also open to consider other licenses on a case-by-case basis.

@MEnista: U.S. won’t solve serious problems if we don’t tap into power of Millennials

Feb. 28, 2012, 9:19 a.m., Posted by Elizabeth R. Miller


During a summit in San Jose, students use interactive keypad voting to discuss what policy makers, college faculty/administrators and students themselves can do to improve college completion rates in their community.

In communities across the country, empowers and invests in Millennials to create and implement solutions to social problems. With support from Knight Foundation, the organization is bringing its Millennial-led engagement efforts to five Knight communities: Detroit, San Jose, Charlotte, Philadelphia and Miami.

Recently, Maya Enista Smith, CEO of talked with Knight about the project at the Gathering of Leaders in Miami, which brings together social entrepreneurs to help them accelerate social change.

Knight Foundation:’s mission is to empower and invest in Millennials to create and implement solutions to social problems. What is your programming model?

Maya Enista: Our model is to convene, invest and train in this generation of leaders to solve the problems that they face in their communities. We believe that young people are best equipped to solve these problems and it is our role to support them. For example, we recently convened a group of 100 community college students in San Jose, Calif. to talk about the obstacles that they face with respect to community college completion. We provided the students with the opportunity to work collaboratively to propose solutions to those challenges and asked them to compete for a share of $25,000 to identify and support the most innovative solutions. Now with funding, undocumented students that face financial and emotional challenges will have a place where they can go to talk to someone, print their papers, use the Internet and gain moral support with peers.  A mentorship and counseling program will also help foster care children properly transition into college life, and video and editing support will be available for student organizations on campus who are doing good work but who have trouble making their ideas and solutions visible. All of the winning project descriptions are available online.