Wanted: Great Ideas for Improving 26 U.S. Cities

Stanton, Melissa
Lots of people have ideas for how the cities or towns they live or work in can be improved. Few people have the time, money and influence to make those ideas a reality.

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However, from now until Nov. 14, the Knight Foundation is seeking ideas from everyone — really, everyone — about ways to improve the 26 cities where the Knight brothers (John S. and James L.) once owned newspapers. Rather than hearing from major design firms, nonprofits and typical grant applicants, the Knight Cities Challenge wants input from people of “every demographic and generation” and emphasizes that “no project is too small as long as your idea is big.”

The initial application asks just two questions, to be answered in 150 words or less:

1. What's your idea?

2. And what do you hope to learn from this project?

A total of $15 million — $5 million over each of the next three years — will be distributed to help make the winning ideas a reality. (The money goes to the project, not the inspiring person.)

The places that qualify for proposals: Aberdeen, S.D.; Akron, Ohio; Biloxi, Miss.; Boulder, Colo.; Bradenton, Fla.; Charlotte, N.C.; Columbia, S.C.; Columbus, Ga.; Detroit; Duluth, Minn.; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Gary, Ind.; Grand Forks, N.D.; Lexington, Ky.; Long Beach, Calif.; Macon, Ga.; Miami; Milledgeville, Ga.; Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Palm Beach County, Fla.; Philadelphia; San Jose, Calif.; State College, Pa.; St. Paul, Minn.; Tallahassee, Fla.; and Wichita, Kan.

Words of wisdom for winning ideas: Since the Knight Foundation believes the keys to a city’s success are to 1) attract talented people, 2) expand opportunity by increasing connections across economic divides and 3) create a culture of civic engagement, think along those lines. You don’t need to live in the city your idea will benefit. Finalists will be announced in January 2015 and winners in March.

Put your thinking cap on and apply at KnightCities.org.

Melissa Stanton is a project manager in AARP Education & Outreach/Livable Communities and editor of aarp.org/livable.

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