Knight to Award $5 Million for Great Ideas on Strengthening Communities via Online Content & Conversation

The Knight Foundation is inviting entries to a $5 million competition to find innovative new ways to ensure communities get the news they need. Knight’s 21st Century News Challenge is focused on using online channels to power physical communities much like newspapers (Knight’s heritage) have done in the past.

It’s all about what Knight is calling the need for "community news experiments," says Eric Newtown, Director of Journalism Initiatives. To motivate, "smart, new ways to help communities act in their own true interests," Knight will award a total of $5 million to individuals, organizations or businesses worldwide that can show their ideas will transform community life, Newtown says.

News Challenge awards will be made in five categories:

  • Ideas — Those who receive awards in this category must agree to share their ideas with others, further developing them publicly in a blog on a Knight-designated web site for at least a year. (Individuals)
  • Pilot Projects & Field Tests — To support the development of innovative pilot projects, prototypes, field tests or trials that use news and information to create physical, geographic community. (Individuals, groups, organizations or companies)
  • Leadership — To achieve large-scale impact. (Educational institutions, nonprofits or think tanks)
  • Commercial Products & Investment — To launch products that might not yield the return a venture capitalist is looking for, but are likely to be profitable and address a social need. ("Double bottom-line" products or companies.)
  • Other — Wide open.

Beware though. Knight isn’t looking for the obvious. As stated in the What We’re NOT Looking For section of the contest Web site, "We  love citizen bloggers, but to qualify for one of these awards, you’ll have to show how what you’re doing will transform the field. Blogging about a school board meeting is valuable, but not unique."

This is a great opportunity for community-based nonprofits, or national organizations working on regional or local projects, to be funded to experiment with online communications innovations. I’m interested to see what happens with this Challenge.

PS The communications strategy for the Challenge itself is also a great model. This RFP looks far different from the standard. And the ‘quick and dirty’ application form is designed to solicit key info from applicants, without sucking them dry. Nice job, Knight Foundation.

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Nancy Schwartz on November 14, 2006 in Grants and Other Funding, Nonprofit Communications, Special Opportunities | 1 comment
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