Thirty-two innovative projects—five in Detroit–will share $5 million as winners of the first Knight Cities Challenge.
An initiative of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the challenge attracted more than 7,000 ideas to make the 26 communities where Knight invests more vibrant places to live and work. It asked innovators of all kinds to answer the question: What’s your best idea to make cities more successful?
The 32 winners proposed a host of ideas, from training a new community of Detroit rehabbers who will work together to combat blight and reactivate vacant buildings, to creating a subscription service that celebrates Akron with a monthly boxed selection of local goods and experiences, from mobilizing city leaders to hold monthly ceremonies for St. Paul newcomers where they are presented with a warm winter hat, to fostering conversation among strangers by installing Charlotte’s signature porch swings in public spaces.
“Not only did the Knight Cities Challenge uncover a wealth of new ideas to make our cities more successful, it will help strengthen a network of civic innovators who are taking hold of the future of their cities,” said Carol Coletta, Knight Foundation vice president for community and national initiatives. “These important connections will help create a pipeline for new approaches to city transformation and spark the type of collaboration vital to growing and spreading good ideas.”
All the winning projects focus on one or more of three drivers of city success: (1) Talent: Ideas that help cities attract and keep the best and brightest; (2) Opportunity: Ideas that create economic prospects and break down divides; (3) Engagement: Ideas that spur connection and civic involvement.
Winning projects are based in 12 of the 26 communities where Knight invests, including: Akron, Ohio; Bradenton, Fla.; Charlotte, N.C.; Columbus, Ga.; Detroit; Gary, Ind.; Lexington, Ky.; Macon, Ga.; Miami; Philadelphia; St. Paul, Minn.; and San Jose, Calif. Two projects focus on multiple Knight communities.
Open to any individual, business, government or nonprofit, the Knight Cities Challenge has just two rules: (1) A submission may come from anywhere, but the project must take place in or benefit one or more of the 26 communities where Knight invests and (2) the idea should focus on one or more of three drivers of city success: talent, opportunity or engagement.
The challenge launched in October 2014. Finalists were announced in January. The challenge will reopen for submissions in fall 2015.
2015 Knight Cities Challenge Winners in Detroit
RE: Brand Detroit: Innovating Detroit Neighborhoods, $164,810 by Brand Camp University (Submitted by Hajj Flemings): Changing the narrative of underserved neighborhoods by developing compelling branding and digital presences for neighborhood businesses that better tell their stories.
Brick + Beam Detroit, $87,424 by Michigan Historic Preservation Network (Submitted by Emilie Evans): Creating a new community of Detroit rehabbers who will work together to combat blight, reactivate vacant buildings and improve their city.
The Buzz, $84,055 by Detroit Future City (Submitted by Erin Kelly): Pairing barbers with landscape contractors to transform overgrown vacant lots through facilitated design workshops that teach mowing and pattern-making techniques.
Detroit Homecoming, $100,000 by Crain’s Detroit Business (Submitted by Eric Cedo): Engaging Detroit expats with a new digital community designed to keep them connected to Detroit and its opportunities.
LIVE Detroit, $40,000 by LIVE Detroit (Submitted by Rachel Perschetz): Attracting and retaining residents by creating a center for information about Detroit neighborhoods and city life that showcases the best of Detroit.