Articles by Carol Coletta

  • Article

    Creating cities that work for people

    April 2, 2014 by Carol Coletta

    Creating cities that work for people

    kidsholdinghands

    Above: Children enjoying a walk in El Pueblo, Los Angeles. Photo credit: 8-80 Cities.

    As a passionate advocate for cities, Gil Penalosa has been on my radar for a long time.  His work as commissioner of parks, sport and recreation in Bogota, Colombia, is legendary. And as a regular at Miami’s monthly Critical Mass bike ride, I am envious of cities that have adopted his Ciclovia model of declaring certain streets as “car-free” each Sunday, allowing cyclists, skaters and pedestrians to take over.

    RELATED LINK

    "Forum convenes community leaders to move cities from talk to action" by Gil Penalosa on KnightBlog.org

    Now, Gil does this work every day as the executive director of the nonprofit 8-80 Cities, and Knight Foundation is going to help with that outreach. Last year, Gil and I connected at the Adaptive Metropolis conference at University of California Berkeley. His compelling presentation on the need for 8-80 cities — cities that work for people from ages 8 to 80 — made me want to bring his message to Knight communities.

    Fast forward to June this year in Chicago where 200 urban influentials, many from Knight communities, will gather to draft local blueprints for applying the principles of 8-80 Cities in their communities. Teams made up of city officials, nonprofit leaders, funders and business groups will spend three days learning from a stellar lineup of speakers and each other. They will also have an opportunity to experience open-air concerts and dancing in Chicago’s Millennium Park.

    All 26 Knight Foundation communities have been invited to attend the “The Doable City” forum, and the response has been uniformly enthusiastic.

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    Knight Cities podcast: Resilience and recovery in the Big Easy

    June 10, 2015 by Carol Coletta

    Knight Cities podcast: Resilience and recovery in the Big Easy

    Knight Cities podcast

    Roberta Brandes Gratz is the author of a new book on post-Katrina New Orleans on the 10th anniversary of the hurricane. It’s titled “We’re Still Here Ya Bastards: How the People of New Orleans Rebuilt Their City,” and Richard Florida calls it an “absolute must read.” 

    Roberta also wrote “The Battle for Gotham:  New York in the Shadow of Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs.” With Jane Jacobs, she founded the Center for the Living City. She splits her time between New York and New Orleans. Here are five things you should know from my conversation with Roberta:

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    ‘Knight Cities’ podcast: Miami Science Barge, a showcase for environmental education

    July 19, 2015 by Carol Coletta

    ‘Knight Cities’ podcast: Miami Science Barge, a showcase for environmental education

    Can an old barge sitting in Biscayne Bay help the city of Miami come face to face with the challenge of climate change?

    Knight Cities podcast

    That’s the intent of the Miami Science Barge, a creation of CappSci and one of 32 winners of the Knight Cities Challenge in its first year.

    Alissa Farina is an innovation associate at CappSci, a foundation that applies “science and engineering to real-world problems, and one of the organizers of the Miami Science Barge. Here are five things you should know about the project:

    1.     The Miami Science Barge will be a floating urban ecological laboratory and public environmental education center on Biscayne Bay at Museum Park in downtown Miami.

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    ‘Knight Cities’ podcast: Campus Philly connects students—and inspires deep connections to Philadelphia

    September 2, 2015 by Carol Coletta

    Attracting and retaining talent is at the top of the economic development agenda in many U.S. cities. And the organization that probably knows best how to do that is Campus Philly.

    Knight Cities podcast

    Deborah Diamond is president of Campus Philly, and she joined us this week to talk about what the organization has learned. Here are five things you should know from our conversation:

    1.        The mission of Campus Philly is to connect students to Philadelphia in a way that matters to them.

    2.        Young adults have twin needs. They need career opportunities and they need to love where they live. 

    3.        Students don’t know what jobs are available. Campus Philly Crawls and Meet Your Industry events get students into workplaces to hear from leaders and gain insight into the city’s industries.

    4.        College Fest, another Campus Philly-produced event, brings together 5,000-plus college students for a combination festival and day of exploring the city. When students see all of the other college students, they realize they are in a college town. And when they make connections with each other, they build connections to Philadelphia because that’s what they all have in common.

    5.        Open Arts is a way to give free access to students to arts and culture. But students want more than free access. They want to see other students, and they want to participate in the arts, not simply observe as part of an audience.

  • Article

    Knight Cities Challenge opens Oct. 1 seeking the best ideas for cities

    September 10, 2015 by Carol Coletta

    Knight Cities Challenge 2015.

    Imagine if you won funding for your best idea to make your city more successful. Imagine social media buzzing with daily mentions of your project and your work being celebrated in the press. Then, imagine City Hall deciding your idea works so well that it will change the way the city does business.

    Want to learn more about the Knight Cities Challenge?  

    Knight’s Carol Coletta will be hosting a reddit Ask Me Anything chat on Oct. 2 at 7 p.m. ET. To join, go to reddit IAmA and click on the thread titled “I'm Carol Coletta, VP for Community and National Initiatives at Knight Foundation. AMA about how to make cities more successful, the Knight Cities Challenge, the Foundation and everything else.”

    That’s what happened to Ben Bryant, one of 32 winners of the inaugural Knight Cities Challenge. Ben’s brainstorm, the Pop-Up Pool Project in Philadelphia, became an instant hit when it launched this summer.

    Now, you have an opportunity to win support for your idea as Knight Foundation launches the second round of the Knight Cities Challenge. We’ll award $5 million to fund new ideas to make the 26 Knight communities more successful by advancing talent, opportunity and engagement. The challenge will be open for applications from Oct. 1-Oct. 27 at knightcities.org, and we’ll announce winners early next year.

    Why talent?  Because the percentage of college-educated graduates in any city’s population is the best predictor of economic success.

    Why opportunity? Because without the ability to improve your circumstances, the American dream is dead.

  • Article

    Exploring how cities deal with disruptions in tech and government

    July 29, 2013 by Carol Coletta

    Exploring how cities deal with disruptions in tech and government

    The following is cross-posted from NextCity.org.

    Today Next City launched The Shared City, a new daily blog about the rise and consequences of the sharing economy, in which social and governmental systems play new roles to enable less individual consumption and more collaboration. The column is supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, where Carol Coletta is vice president for community and national initiatives. I talked with Carol by phone last week to discuss this new column and why this topic interests us both so much. Below is an edited version of our conversation.

    Diana Lind: The Shared City column is going to look at how cities are dealing with disruptions in technology and government that are resulting in a stronger sharing economy and shared responsibility for shaping cities. Why do you think this is an important conversation to be having right now?

    carolcolettaCarol Coletta: Sharing is an extremely timely issue. In tough economic times, people can use their resources more efficiently or generate some extra income by sharing goods and services. Given the world’s environmental concerns, sharing is a way to "live more, own less." It can also be useful in instances when the government can’t provide all the services it used to provide.  Where we pitch in  by providing our own service and actually enjoy providing that service,  sharing can enhance our quality of life and the neighborhoods around us. Let me ask you: Why are you interested in the shared city and in the sharing economy?

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    'Knight Cities' podcast: Philly media site pursues ‘active’ citizenship

    May 6, 2015 by Carol Coletta

    'Knight Cities' podcast: Philly media site pursues ‘active’ citizenship

    Knight Cities podcast

    A new kind of journalism is being born in Philadelphia. It’s manifested in The Philadelphia Citizen, and its purpose is nothing less than to spark a new movement of citizens who refuse to outsource leadership to a political class. 

    The Citizen hopes to convince Philadelphians that citizenship is something they must actively and urgently claim. 

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    ‘Knight Cities’ podcast: 5 things you need to know about our economic future

    May 20, 2015 by Carol Coletta

    ‘Knight Cities’ podcast: 5 things you need to know about our economic future

    Is it possible to forecast the future? Institute for the Future has been doing that for almost 50 years. Kathi Vian leads Institute for the Futures’ Ten-Year Forecast, which was just released for the institute’s clients. It explores seven economies working at once to produce a future with a lot of surprises.

    Knight Cities podcast

    We talked to Kathi last week from her offices in Palo Alto, Calif., and here are the five things you need to know from our conversation on the Ten-Year Forecast.

    1.     Seven economies are operating all at once over the next 10 years. Each is in a different stage of evolution. Those economies are: corporate, consumer, collaborative, creative, civil, criminal and crypto.

    2.     The corporate economy is vulnerable like never before, automating for profits but also for volatility, while the increasingly volatile consumer economy is automating for instant gratification.

  • Article

    5 Knight cities experience big growth in young talent

    October 14, 2013 by Carol Coletta

    5 Knight cities experience big growth in young talent

    charlotte

    Above: Charlotte, N.C. Photo credit: Flickr user James Willamor.

    One of the biggest stories about the way we live in the past decade has been the migration of college-educated young adults to the heart of U.S. cities. It is a trend that has been gaining momentum for the past 30 years, but it has exploded since 2007, according to the American Community Survey from the U.S. Census Bureau.

    Five Knight cities were among those experiencing big increases of 25 to 34-year-olds with at least a four-year college degree in their Central Business Districts (CBD) and the neighborhoods in the three-mile radius around the CBD. Philadelphia, for instance, experienced a 66 percent jump, placing it sixth in the nation behind New York, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago and D.C. 

    RELATED LINKS

    "George Abbott: Everyone can be engaged in improving their community"

    "New program director takes pride in Detroit"

    "Exploring how cities deal with disruption in tech and government"

     

    The increase in Miami’s young adult population in the heart of the city almost doubled, rising 89 percent. Miami’s percentage increase was the highest in the nation, according to the data, which covers the period from 2007 through 2011.

    Charlotte (52 percent), the Twin Cities (32 percent) and San Jose (23 percent) also saw big increases.

    Why does it matter?

    When it comes to success factors for cities, talent is the first among equals.  There is nothing more important to a city’s success.  Nothing. The percentage of college graduates in any metropolitan area’s population explains—conservatively—58 percent of the metro’s success as measured by per capita income.

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    Cultivating talent, place and opportunity is essential to the rise of cities

    October 11, 2013 by Carol Coletta

    CityLab's "The Rudiments of Growing Cities" from Aspen Institute on YouTube

    In his new book, author Benjamin Barber speculates about our future “If Mayors Ruled the World.”  That could have been the theme for the discussions at CityLab. Organized by Bloomberg PhilanthropiesThe Atlantic and the Aspen Institute, the two-day event earlier this week attracted mayors, their aides, policymakers, philanthropists and social entrepreneurs to New York to consider the role of cities in tackling the world biggest challenges.

    The accidental timing of the event coinciding with the federal government shutdown made the point of the meeting all too clear: If city leaders aren’t in the business of finding solutions to the problems society faces, those problems may very well go unsolved. Thus, the sessions were dominated by practical exchanges on everything from safety and privacy to transportation and economic development.

    RELATED LINKS

    "George Abbott: Everyone can be engaged in improving their community"

    "New program director takes pride in Detroit"

    "Exploring how cities deal with disruption in tech and government"

    Despite their challenges, cities have a good hand to play. While poor people have always moved to cities seeking opportunity, today people with the economic freedom to choose where they live are also choosing cities. Increasingly they are choosing to live in the heart of those cities. This is a new development that requires city leaders to up their game and provide alluring places for talented people who can choose to live anywhere.

    At the same time, city leaders must get far better at expanding the growth model to provide opportunity for those with less education and fewer skills. 

    While some argue that we ought to make a big bet on manufacturing to provide jobs with good wages in the United States, it is also clear that “lean” manufacturing no longer requires the same number of workers nor can it use unskilled workers.  

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    Studio explores ideas for successful cities

    May 12, 2014 by Carol Coletta

    Studio explores ideas for successful cities

    cities

    Photo credit: Flickr user Norio NAKAYAMA

    One hundred civic innovators from across the country are gathering in Miami through Wednesday to tackle some of the thorniest questions on the future of cities.

    How might we advance opportunity by economically integrating neighborhoods in the next five years? How might we harness talent as the definition of work becomes increasingly fluid? How might we make robust acts of citizenship normal in our cities?

    RELATED LINKS

    "Putting ideas into action to build better cities" by Carol Coletta on KnightBlog

    "Learning Lab gathers ideas on promoting community engagement" by Carol Coletta on KnightBlog

    "Learning Lab gathers ideas on making the most of talent in our cities" by Carol Coletta on KnightBlog

    "Boston adopts new tools to engage residents in civic life" by Nigel Jacobs on KnightBlog

    "Scaling an Etsy Economy for a changing workforce" by Dana Mauriello on KnightBlog

    "Harriet Tregoning, identifying ideas to expand opportunities in cities" by Carol Coletta on KnightBlog

    "Encouraging more robuts acts of citizenship" by Adam Royalty and Scott Witthoft on KnightBlog

    "Studio explores ideas for successful cities" by Carol Coletta on KnightBlog

    These are some of the questions the Civic Innovation in Action Studio will address. No one really has answers. That we know because we’ve talked to the best minds in the country. But there are plenty of clues on where we might start to experiment.  

    That’s the purpose of the studio — to consider the research, bring a lot of wisdom and practical experience into the room, suspend judgment about our limitations, and design new approaches to test in Knight communities.

    For many of us, the studio will be a reunion of sorts.  We follow each other on social media. Our paths have crossed over the years at multiple conferences. A few of us have even worked together on rare occasions. But a gathering of this particular mix of colleagues in this unusual setting with this daunting task, that’s a first for all of us.

    We have two days of hard work ahead. Guided by our facilitators from Stanford d.school and IA Collaborative, by Tuesday afternoon participants will have captured 75 new ideas and by midday Wednesday, we expect to have 15 of those built out and polished. In between, there will be a little fun, including drumming, hand massages, and a lot of conversation.

    We’ll be blogging here from the studio. And we’ll be tweeting the proceedings at #knightcities.

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    Benjamin de la Peña considers the future of cities and the power of philanthropy

    October 31, 2013 by Carol Coletta

    Benjamin de la Peña considers the future of cities and the power of philanthropy

    Benjamin de la Peña recently joined Knight Foundation as director of community and national strategy. Below, Carol Coletta, vice president for community and national initiatives, interviews de la Peña about the transition to Knight from his role as associate director for urban development with the Rockefeller Foundation.

    Carol Coletta: You've spent your last few years at Rockefeller Foundation leading two major pieces of global work: Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and the Informal City. Describe the deep dives you took into each.

    BenjamindelaPenaBenjamin de la Peña: We explored Bus Rapid Transit in U.S. cities as an offshoot of our work on federal transportation policy. We realized that U.S. cities were facing myriad challenges to rolling out mass transit projects. Apart from funding, there was also the challenge of building and maintaining local coalitions committed to seeing the project through. Rail projects were costly, and the planning and construction would take seven years or more—well beyond the term of a mayor or a councilman. It was hard to get elected officials to champion projects that they would not complete in their first or even second terms.

    Bus Rapid Transit had a proven track record in delivering high-quality transit, for the fraction of the cost of rail, in as little as 18 months. BUT, despite its success in other countries, the brand was very watered down in the U.S. Many cities claimed to have BRT when all they invested in was fancier-looking bus stations and a differently colored bus. So, we set out to clearly define BRT—and what it can deliver—for ordinary citizens. We made it aspirational—rather than just a compromise service.

    RELATED LINKS

    "George Abbott: Everyone can be engaged in improving their community" on KnightBlog

    "New program director takes pride in Detroit" on KnightBlog

    "In conversation: Carol Coletta talks about the shared city" on NextCity.org

    Then we picked the cities that had the most promising potential for high-quality Bus Rapid Transit and provided support so they could raise their aspirations and so they had the technical capacity to deliver high-quality BRT, on time and on budget.

    We also invited housing advocates, design professionals and other citizen groups—anyone committed to the city, really—to ask for their help in imagining how BRT could reshape their communities. This was not going to be just about a better bus service; transit projects really are about the future of cities.

    In the Informal City Dialogues, the challenge was to begin changing the conversation about the role of informality (the informal sector and informal settlements) in cities. The informal sector represents huge parts of the economy in cities in the developing world (more than 50 percent in some cases), and yet the sector is ignored in policy and planning. 

    Every city with cosmopolitan ambitions will have a planning document that shows the vision for the future of that city. That vision will, almost invariably, have the same elements—bright shiny skyscrapers, verdant parks and gardens, wide boulevards and efficient mass transport. What it will not have are the souks and the tianguis, the auto-rickshaws and the pedicabs. Somehow these have all been imagined away as backward elements of poverty. And yet, the informal economy is itself global and cosmopolitan. Ghanian traders go to Hong Kong and Guangzhou to buy products that they then sell in the markets of Accra, Lagos and Abidjan. Leather-makers in Chennai sell their products to belt- and bag-makers in Mumbai who then export to Dubai. 

    In 2009 the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimated that the informal economy employed at least 1.8 billion workers, which would make it the largest labor sector in the world. Some estimates put the size of the informal economy at $10 trillion. If it were aggregated into a single country, it would be the second-largest economy in the world. 

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    ‘Knight Cities’ podcast: Nonprofit boards have power to influence policy – if they will seize the opportunity

    July 22, 2015 by Carol Coletta

    ‘Knight Cities’ podcast: Nonprofit boards have power to influence policy – if they will seize the opportunity

    If you serve on a nonprofit board this week’s “Knight Cities” is especially for you. Raising money is part of the job for nonprofit board members, but there’s also a significant opportunity that isn’t taken advantage of nearly enough: influencing policy.

    Knight Cities podcast

    BoardSource is the go-to resource for funders, partners and nonprofit leaders who want to magnify the impact of their nonprofits, and it has launched a new effort, supported in part by Knight Foundation, to encourage nonprofit boards to become effective advocates for the causes they represent. The campaign is called Stand for Your Mission.

    This week on “Knight Cities,” we talk to BoardSource President and CEO Anne Wallestad about this important work and the ways that nonprofits can amplify their impact.

    Here are five things you should know from our conversation:

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    ‘Knight Cities’ podcast: The Underline, a good idea on the move in Miami

    August 5, 2015 by Carol Coletta

    ‘Knight Cities’ podcast: The Underline, a good idea on the move in Miami

    Miami is buzzing about new plans for a 10-mile forgotten stretch of public property beneath its elevated metro rail. Manhattan has its High Line, and Miami will soon have its Underline. Meg Daly is founder and president of Friends of The Underline.

    Knight Cities podcast

    Here are five things you should know from my conversation with Meg:

    1. Change your perspective, and you may see new opportunity. In Meg Daly’s case, an injury caused her to abandon her car for transit and walking, and it was only then that she realized the potential of the land beneath Miami’s Metrorail for what is now known as The Underline.

    2. What do you do after you have a good idea? You just talk it up. And if 1 in 10 people think you have a good idea, you’re probably onto something.

    3. If you want to get a big idea moving, find your partners, find your advocates, find your believers, and they will push you through the right doors.

    4. The Underline used a University of Miami architecture studio class as a marketing opportunity to open up discussions. People came to see the student designs for The Underline, they commented on the designs, they had a voice, and they became owners of the project. When you later go back to ask them for money, it’s their idea.

    5. Unlike the High Line, The Underline is attempting to capture some of the incremental new value it creates through tax increment financing from new development that abuts The Underline. That money will be used to maintain and program The Underline.

  • Article

    Finding the balance that shapes our cities for success

    March 3, 2014 by Carol Coletta

    Finding the balance that shapes our cities for success

    balance

    Photo credit: Marvin Shaouni via Flickr.

    The national conversation on gentrification has suddenly intensified, with new voices questioning the nature of its impact. Stories in The New York TimesNew York magazine and on NPR are sporting some surprising headlines that essentially ask, is gentrification in communities all bad?

    I believe we need to consider the question in a different frame. At Knight Foundation, the work in our communities is focused on how civic innovation shapes places that accelerate talent and opportunity.  

    We are confident about these things: 

    • The percentage of college-educated people in a community is the most reliable predictor of its economic success.
    • The more education people have, the more mobile they are. 
    • People increasingly decide, first, where they want to live. Then they look for a job.
    • People with less education do better economically when they live in communities with people who have more education.
    • Opportunity thrives when people are connected to diverse networks (the power of “weak ties”).
    • Opportunity thrives when people of different incomes live near one another.

    Now comes the tricky part: How can we reinvent our communities as places that both attract talent and create opportunity? 

    It wasn’t too long ago that people who cared about cities were praying for gentrification if that meant new investment and more people returning to their communities. Today, with the new appeal cities have for both millennials and baby boomers, some worry that development pressures mean longtime residents and independent businesses will inevitably be priced out of their neighborhoods, leading to more economic isolation (as well as soulless cities).

    How can we harness exciting new market demand for cities to shape communities with more opportunity for all?  Specifically, how can the design and programming of places accelerate economic opportunity? What are the best levers—policies, practices, projects—to make place an accelerator of economic opportunity?