Building on Success, Knight Foundation Expands Support for Community Foundation-Backed Information Projects

MIAMI -- (Feb. 11, 2013) – Helping to ensure a more informed and engaged public, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation today announced a new $9.5 million commitment to support local funders in meeting community information needs.

The funding expands the Knight Community Information Challenge, which helps community and place-based foundations make an impact on issues they care about by investing in news and information projects. Over the past five years, 40 percent of the community foundation field has applied for challenge funding, with 100-plus winners investing $42 million in challenge and other media projects – more than doubling Knight’s own matching support.

“Whether it’s responding to wildfires in Arizona, locating affordable housing in Washington, DC, or fighting predatory lending along the Gulf Coast – challenge winners are, in myriad ways, affirming that people and communities live safer, healthier, and better lives when they’re well informed,” said Knight Foundation President Alberto Ibargüen.  “We do this because we care deeply about civic life. We all want to change our communities for the better. And we all know that whether it’s improving education, public health and safety or any other issue, the positive change we seek depends on the free flow of quality information.”

With extended funding, the challenge will provide the following through 2015:

Tailored seed funding for information projects: The grant challenge will continue as an open contest for community and place-based foundations, and will add a track for projects in emerging fields like mobile, open government and more;

Expanded technical assistance: Whether foundations are applying for the challenge or already mid-way through a project, an expanded team of consultants will provide advice on issues from software to project marketing and branding. The Knight Digital Media Center at the University of Southern California also will offer training tailored to funders;

Learning Networks: Knight will build on the early success of a select group of foundations by providing them with additional funding and asking them to partner with others exploring similar projects and to share their insights broadly;

Media Learning Seminar: The annual winter gathering in Miami will continue to be the place for foundation leaders to explore media trends and exchange lessons learned. Ibargüen opened the 2013 seminar today with the funding announcement. The seminar continues through Tuesday and is being streamed at knightfoundation.org/live.

Knight first launched the challenge as digital technology was just beginning to threaten traditional media models, and few community foundations saw media grant making as a part of their mission. Fast-forward five years, and this year’s Media Learning Seminar agenda is packed with foundation leaders sharing insights about their tested community information projects.

For them, the challenge has offered a unique opportunity to make an impact on issues they care about.  Projects have launched state investigations in New Jersey, helped pass a measure funding early childhood education in Colorado, and drawn more people into public planning discussions in California.

Recently, the Hawaii Community Foundation partnered with PBS to create the nation’s first statewide student news network.  The project allows kids to share stories and develop communications skills, while teachers learn about digital media. It’s efforts are chronicled in Case Studies: How Four Community Information Projects Went from Idea to Impact, a new report prepared by FSG and Network Impact for Knight Foundation.

“We see a movement building, but we know we are still in the early stages,” said Trabian Shorters, vice president/communities who leads the challenge. “ We have much left to do, and by providing not only funding but technical expertise, we seek to increase the impact these foundations and these projects have our communities.”

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.

Contacts:

Andrew Sherry, Vice President/Communications, (305) 908-2677, media@knightfoundation.org

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.