What’s your best idea to make cities more successful?

The Knight Cities Challenge seeks new ideas from innovators who will take hold of the future of our cities. Over the next four weeks we are inviting applicants from across the nation to tell us their ideas for making the 26 Knight cities more vibrant places to live and work. From a pool of $5 million, we’re looking to award grants at the city, neighborhood and block level, and all sizes in between.

We want the most innovative and effective ideas and a plan to realize them. Ideas should focus on one or all of three key drivers of city success.

TALENT: Ideas that help cities attract and keep talented people.

OPPORTUNITY: Ideas that expand economic prospects by breaking down divides and connecting people.

ENGAGEMENT: Ideas that spur connection and civic involvement.

We want to be surprised by the ideas we receive, and try not to prescribe in too much detail what might fit the challenge. But here are some examples from last year’s winners that highlight our three focus areas:


Attract and keep talented people. Cities are stronger for everyone when they can attract and keep talented people. People, both younger and older, are returning to cities in record numbers, looking for the best of city life.


Minimum Grid: Maximum Impact

Minimum Grid:
Maximum Impact

Recipient: MidTown Inc.

City: Columbus, Georgia

Award: $199,195

Aim: Establishing a comprehensive network of bicycle and pedestrian connections among the entertainment and business district of Uptown and the 24 diverse neighborhoods of MidTown.

Unbox Akron

Unbox Akron

Recipient: Chris Horne

City: Akron, Ohio

Award: $52,168

Aim: Fostering a stronger connection to the city by creating a subscription service that celebrates Akron with a monthly selection of local goods and experiences delivered in a box.


Expand economic prospects by breaking down divides and making new connections. To succeed, cities need to create places where people of diverse backgrounds and income levels can connect. They need to help workers connect with and flourish in today’s mobile and digital economy.


Unbox Akron

RE: Brand Detroit: Innovating Detroit Neighborhoods

Recipient: Brand Camp University

City: Detroit, Michigan

Award: $164,810

Aim: Changing the narrative of underserved neighborhoods by developing compelling branding and digital presences for neighborhood businesses that better tell their stories.

Minimum Grid: Maximum Impact

Pop-Up Pool Project

Recipient: Group Melvin Design

City: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Award: $297,000

Aim: Introducing fun, easy solutions at city pools, which will be designed to make them more vibrant places to meet and interact with neighbors and friends.


Spur connection and civic involvement. Cities need spaces and programming that enable people to come together and help shape their city’s future. Engaged citizens are helping set the agenda for change in their city and connecting with their community to take concrete, collective action.


Minimum Grid: Maximum Impact

The Voting Signage Project

Recipient: Here’s My Chance

City: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Award: $166,394

Aim: Making voting in local elections more enticing by creating new types of signs at polling places and commissioning artists to perform site-specific pieces on election days.


Neighborhood Conservation Kit

Recipient: Central Roxborough Civic Association

City: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Award: $20,000

Aim: Putting the future of communities in residents’ hands with a toolkit they can use to create a special zoning designation called a Neighborhood Conservation Overlay.

Who should apply?

The Knight Cities Challenge welcomes anyone with big ideas and the ability to realize them. Activists, designers, artists, planning professionals, hackers, architects, city officials, educators, nonprofits, entrepreneurs, block captains, social workers—everyone is welcome. The only rule is your project needs to benefit one of the Knight Communities.


No idea is too big.

Applications open October 1 - 27

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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.