Articles by George Abbott

  • Article

    Second round of Knight Green Line Challenge opens June 10

    May 14, 2015 by George Abbott

    The St. Paul Green Line. Photo by Flickr user Jerry Huddleston.

    Today we’re announcing year two of the Knight Green Line Challenge. The challenge is an open call for the best ideas to build more successful communities in the Central Corridor neighborhoods along the Green Line that connects St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minn.

    The challenge seeks answers to one key question: “What’s your best idea to tap into the potential of the Green Line to make surrounding neighborhoods more vibrant places to live and work?” There is $500,000 in grant funding available to make the winning ideas a reality.

  • Article

    Knight Green Line Challenge closes with more than 350 ideas

    July 10, 2015 by George Abbott

    Knight Green Line Challenge closes with more than 350 ideas

    Photo by Michael Hicks on Flickr.com

    Applications for the 2015 Knight Green Line Challenge are now closed. We received more than 350 ideas for projects that tap into the potential of the Green Line to make surrounding neighborhoods in St. Paul, Minn., more vibrant places to live and work.

    We saw ideas for each of the six neighborhoods along the line that aimed to push the three key drivers of city success: exciting current residents and attracting newcomers; expanding economic opportunity and breaking down community divides; and creating and strengthening a culture of robust civic engagement.

    Now, a team of local and national readers will join Knight Foundation and St. Paul Foundation staff in an initial review of applications. They will be looking for ideas that are new and innovative, that could have a strong local impact, that provide an opportunity for learning, and that can be executed successfully by the applicant.

    We’ll announce the finalists in August. Finalists will receive feedback on their ideas and will need to refine their applications and add detail. The finalist application includes an expanded word limit for the initial questions. Finalists will need to provide a final grant amount and full budget. Finalists will also need to provide a timeline for the project, describe risks or barriers to success, discuss how their project will expand knowledge in the field, share how they will tell their story and explain their plan for sustainability (if the project is intended to be sustained). Finalists also have the opportunity to add a maximum of two letters of support as well as a sketch, photo or illustration.

    Final applications will be due on Aug. 26. A team of readers will share their expertise with Knight and St. Paul Foundation staff in a detailed review process. We will announce winners of the 2015 Green Line Challenge in late September.

  • Article

    Civic spirit and common themes emerge from 4,500-plus Knight Cities Challenge entries

    November 19, 2015 by George Abbott

    Civic spirit and common themes emerge from 4,500-plus Knight Cities Challenge entries

    Photo: The Swings, a first-year Knight Cities Challenge winner.

    For more than a week readers have been taking a first look at the more than 4,500 applications that we received for the Knight Cities Challenge this year. We chose the readers from among Knight community leaders and local and national experts in talent, opportunity and engagement, three factors we believe are vital to the success of cities.

    The reviewers are reading through the applications and making recommendations on which ideas deserve more exploration as finalists. They are looking for unique, new and innovative projects that can teach us something about making impact in the 26 Knight communities. We value their opinions, expertise and community knowledge; their input is invaluable in helping us make very difficult decisions.

    Some broad themes are beginning to emerge in this year’s application pool:

    · Great ideas: Conversations with reviewers, and my own scan of 800 or so applications, has made it clear that there are some fantastic ideas in the Knight cities. Even though there are applications that don’t fit into the criteria of the challenge, bad ideas are rare.

    · Passionate people: It’s hard to get much across in just 300 words; that’s part of the challenge. One of the things that does come through, however, is the passion of civic innovators to make a difference in their communities. The Knight communities are teeming with passionate, excited civic innovators.

    · Variety: We received a broad range of applications, with many different approaches to accelerating talent, opportunity and engagement. We’re particularly excited to see applications of all sizes from many communities.

  • Article

    Knight Cities Challenge receives over 7,000 ideas for making communities more successful

    November 14, 2014 by George Abbott

    Knight Cities Challenge receives over 7,000 ideas for making communities more successful

    The first Knight Cities Challenge is now closed. We received over 7,000 entries representing all 26 Knight communities, places where the Knight brothers once owned newspapers. Applications came from as far afield as Brazil and the Philippines. Now we’re entering the review period of the challenge where Knight program staff, augmented by a panel of readers, will review and discuss all of the entries.

    In early January we’ll announce the ideas that show the most promise for accelerating talent, opportunity or engagement in one or more of the 26 Knight communities. We will ask those applicants to give us more detail on their proposals, including budgets.

    Each applicant will need to answer seven questions:

  • Article

    A vision for San Jose, Calif.

    July 18, 2014 by George Abbott

    A vision for San Jose, Calif.

    San Jose, Calif. by Mike Boening (cc) on Flickr Photo: View of San Jose with a view toward the airport. Credit: Mike Boening on Flickr.

    San Jose finds itself in a unique moment in time. The Bay Area has a tremendous pull. It continues to grow and attract talented graduates from across the country and the world. Santa Clara County alone is projected to grow more than 23 percent in the next 25 years, and San Jose will add more new residents than San Francisco and Oakland combined.

    However, where these new residents go, and what form the growth takes are critical to the long-term success of San Jose. If done right, San Jose has the chance to establish itself as the largest and most significant hub of activity in the South Bay.

    To make the most of the opportunity downtown San Jose needs to become the cultural, retail, and employment nexus of the South Bay. Downtown is already home to the greatest concentration of cultural institutions in Silicon Valley, is at the center of a significant network of public transit links and offers the most multi-tenant office space south in the Bay Area. It is also home to the global headquarters of numerous firms, such as Adobe and Oracle.

  • Article

    How to make your Knight Cities Challenge application stand out

    October 10, 2016 by George Abbott

    How to make your Knight Cities Challenge application stand out

    Photo courtesy of 2015 Knight Cities Challenge winner, Daily tous les jours.

    The Knight Cities Challenge is now open. This is the third time since 2014 that we’ve issued an open call to uncover ideas to make cities more successful. The challenge will close for applications at noon ET on Nov. 3.

  • Article

    Knight Cities Challenge closes with more than 4,500 ideas

    November 3, 2016 by George Abbott

    Knight Cities Challenge closes with more than 4,500 ideas

    Photo by Mycatkins on Flickr.

    After more than 25 community events, countless brainstorming sessions, three online office hours and one Facebook Live event the Knight Cities Challenge is now closed. We received more than X applications responding to Knight Foundation’s call for the best ideas to make cities more successful with a focus on talent, opportunity and engagement.

    I’ve been reading through some of the applications, and I am surprised and delighted with the breadth and depth of the proposals. We have received a huge range of powerful ideas from a diverse group of civic innovators from the 26 Knight communities and beyond.

  • Article

    144 finalists advance in 2017 Knight Cities Challenge

    January 17, 2017 by George Abbott

    144 finalists advance in 2017 Knight Cities Challenge

    Knight Cities Challenge winner Biscayne Green. Photo courtesy of Miami Downtown Development Authority. 

    We didn’t know what to expect when we launched our third Knight Cities Challenge last fall. The response in the first two years was phenomenal; from a total pool of more than 12,000 applications we have named fewer than 70 winning projects. We wondered if civic innovators would bring that same enthusiasm to this round. There is no question that they did that—and more.

  • Article

    $500,000 Knight Green Line Challenge opens for ideas

    June 10, 2015 by George Abbott

    $500,000 Knight Green Line Challenge opens for ideas

    Photo: St. Paul's Green Line. Credit: Michael Hicks (CC) on Flickr.

    Today we’re opening the second year of the Knight Green Line Challenge. The challenge asks for your best ideas to tap into the potential of the Green Line connecting the Knight community of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minn., to make surrounding neighborhoods more vibrant places to live and work. Winning projects will share in $500,000 in funding.

    This is in the second year of the challenge, and with it Knight Foundation is trying to move three things that we know are key to St Paul’s success. The challenge is seeking ideas that do one or more of the following in the neighborhoods along the Green Line:

    ·      Attract newcomers and excite current residents,

    ·      Break down community divides and increase economic opportunity,

    ·      And build and strengthen a culture of civic engagement.

    Applications should focus on making impact in one or more of the these areas – and need to take place in and benefit one of the six St. Paul neighborhoods along the Green Line: Downtown, Frogtown/Thomas-Dale, Hamline Midway, St. Anthony Park, Summit-University or Union Park.

  • Article

    Apply for the Knight Cities Challenge

    October 1, 2015 by George Abbott

    Video: Knight Cities Challenge 2015. Photo: Musical swings, a 2014 winner, by Daily Tous Les Jours.

    The Knight Cities Challenge is now open for applications. The challenge, which today enters its second year, is a $5 million open call for ideas to make cities more successful in one of three key areas:

    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.”

    • Attracting and keeping talented people.

    • Expanding economic opportunity.

    • Creating a culture of civic engagement.

    The challenge will accept submissions until noon ET Oct. 27. The application is simple. There are just three questions, which each require only 100 words or less. You don’t have to submit a budget at this time, either. Anyone—businesses, nonprofits, governments, individuals—can apply as long as the idea benefits one or more of the 26 Knight communities. Apply at knightcities.org.

  • Article

    Knight Cities Challenge closes with more than 4,400 ideas

    October 27, 2015 by George Abbott

    Knight Cities Challenge closes with more than 4,400 ideas

    Photo by Mycatkins on Flickr.

    This year’s Knight Cities Challenge is now closed. We received more than 4,400 applications for our call for the best ideas to make cities more successful, with a focus on talent, opportunity and engagement in the 26 Knight communities. Thanks to everyone who applied and who participated in one of the Q&A sessions around the country.

    An initial scan of the applications reveals many great ideas from a committed and diverse group of civic innovators. Now our team of reviewers will get to work. Every application will be read by at least four people from the review board, which consists of about 50 people from Knight communities, along with experts on cities too. They offer a range of diverse and unique perspectives, and they will use their expertise to make recommendations to Knight staff on potential finalists.

    If your project is selected as a finalist, you’ll hear from us around the end of the year and you’ll have the month of January to pull together the details for your final application. At that point you’ll need to submit a more detailed application that will include a budget, timeline and specific deliverables.

    If you applied to the Knight Cities Challenge, again thank you. We appreciate your dedication to making the city you care about more successful. If our cities are to succeed we need civic innovators of all stripes to continue working every day on the projects that they’re passionate about. At Knight we’re lucky enough to meet extraordinary people every day, and sometimes we can even provide funding to support transformational work.

    I encourage all of you to stay connected with Knight Foundation. We seek to make resources and learning widely available so that you’re able to do your work better. If you see something you’re interested in don’t hesitate to reach out and ask. Look for a follow-up email from us that let’s you know what’s happening in your city.

    One way to stay up to date with what we’re thinking is to listen to the “Knight Cities” podcast. Every week Carol Coletta, our vice president of community and national initiatives, interviews a civic innovator on their work and how it may be relevant to communities everywhere.

    We will stay in touch as the review process moves forward. For other updates, please follow @knightfdn and #knightcities on Twitter. We look forward to sharing the group of finalists in January. If you’d like more information, please reach out to me and ask.

    George Abbott is special assistant to the vice president for community and national initiatives and interim program director for St. Paul at Knight Foundation. He can be reached via email at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @garthurabbott.

  • Article

    37 Knight Cities Challenge winners will share $5 million in funding

    April 12, 2016 by George Abbott

    37 Knight Cities Challenge winners will share $5 million in funding

    Above: The Pop-up Pools project in Philadelphia was a 2015 Knight Cities Challenge winner. Photo Courtesy The Pop-Up Pool Project.

    We opened the second round of the Knight Cities Challenge in October with a little trepidation. We had been impressed by the enthusiasm for the first round of the challenge, which attracted more than 7,000 applications. We wondered if there would be the same interest the second time around. We had to turn down so many good projects—there were just 32 winners—we wondered if we would attract the same level of quality ideas.

    The answer was a resounding yes. While we received “only” 4,500 applications this year, they were of a consistent high quality. We were thrilled with the number of innovative, creative and interesting applications that sought to advance talent, opportunity and engagement, what we see as the three prime drivers of city success.

    We’re tremendously grateful to everyone who took the time to share their ideas with us.

    The quality and strategic focus of the pool of applicants shows. After our readers read more than 500 applications each, we named 158 finalists, 32 more than last year. Today we’re proud to announce the 37 winning projects that will share $5 million in funding.

    The winning projects are located in 19 of the 26 communities where Knight invests. This is a 58 percent increase from the 11 communities that had winning projects last year. We’re particularly excited to see the challenge provoke innovation and new thinking in Knight’s small and midsize markets.

    The Swings, an interactive musical installation by Daily tous les jours, was a 2015 winner that is touring multiple Knight communities. 

    The challenge seeks to provide risk capital for new ideas. If projects are successful, we hope other risk-averse investors will provide the winners with access to more funds. A good example of this is the Pop-Up Pool Project in Philadelphia, winner of $297,000 in support from the 2015 Knight Cities Challenge. The Pop-Up Pool Project sought to remake Philadelphia’s public pools as places that brought people together across economic divides. After the pilot site proved successful in summer 2015, the city is considering expanding elements of the project across the entire pool system. Some neighborhoods are even trying to crowd-fund their own pop-ups.

    This year the average grant size is $134,757, down about $20,000 from last year. Detroit has the highest number of winners with six winning projects ranging from neighborhood story tours by bike, to an engagement project that equips Detroiters with sensors to measure their urban surroundings. Philadelphia will receive the largest share of the funding with four projects for a total of about $875,000.

  • Article

    National Day of Civic Hacking enlists innovators to build community solutions

    May 29, 2014 by George Abbott

    National Day of Civic Hacking enlists innovators to build community solutions

    #Hack4NEO at the Beacon-Journal, cc by Persa Zula

    Developers worked in the office of one-time Beacon-Journal Publisher John S. Knight in Akron for #HackNEO in 2013. Photo by Persa Zula on Flickr.

    This weekend more than 120 events in more than 100 cities will observe the second annual National Day of Civic Hacking, an event open to everyone who has a passion for making constructive civic change. It’s for you, even if you don’t know how to code or wouldn’t dream of calling yourself a “hacker.” Last year more than 11,000 people participated and even more are expected this year.

    Participants will work together on hundreds of innovative projects that promote civic engagement and create a more open and transparent government. As part of our strategy examining the changing face of U.S. employment and how our communities can best adapt to and serve this increasingly fluid and independent workforce, Knight Foundation has posed a number of challenges that we invite participants to address.

    We’re asking civic hackers to think through the unique opportunities and issues that freelance and independent workers face.

  • Article

    Make the most of your entry for the Knight Cities Challenge

    October 9, 2014 by George Abbott

    After two extremely popular virtual office hours and a great response to community events around the country, it’s clear that we have tapped into a potential gold mine of ideas to make our cities more successful.

    We’ve received many inquiries regarding logistics, which are covered in detail at KnightCities.org, but there is one question I’ve heard most frequently: “What do you really want to see?” The answer is powerful, ambitious ideas that use place to accelerate talent, opportunity and engagement in one or all of the 26 Knight communities. If your idea fits those criteria, we’re open as to how you get there.

    So I can’t give you examples of projects we want to fund. What I can offer, though, is some tips on the best way to make your idea stands out:

    • Be clear. This is not a traditional grant application; we’re not looking for proposals written in “grant-speak.” Use everyday language that is clear and compelling and avoids jargon. We want to be able to see the essence of your idea at a glance, which is why our applications asks that you sum up the idea in a tweet, 140 characters or less. (We’re not asking you to tweet out your ideas, although you certainly can if you’d like).
  • Article

    33 winning projects to share $5 million in 2017 Knight Cities Challenge

    June 12, 2017 by George Abbott

    33 winning projects to share $5 million in 2017 Knight Cities Challenge

    The City of Boulder's "Tree Debris to Opportunity," a 2016 Knight Cities Challenge winner.

    Congratulations to the 33 winners of the 2017 Knight Cities Challenge. This is Knight Foundation’s third year running the challenge in our 26 communities. Each year we have posed a simple question: “What’s your best idea to make cities more successful?” The rules are simple and so is the application process. We want to encourage ideas from anyone with a good idea and the ability to execute it.