Knight Foundation Donates $939,700 to 8-80 Cities

Feb. 17, 2015

8-80 Cities will help civic innovators make their communities more vibrant places where people can walk, bike and access better transit options, thanks to $939,700 from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Funding will support a conference, city learning tours, fellowships and residencies for leaders from communities where Knight invests.

The support builds on the success of an earlier Knight investment in 8-80 Cities to host a conference and international study tour for civic innovators from several U.S. cities that stimulated a host of local projects. Knight has captured key lessons from the conference and tour in an interactive guide to livable cities being released today.

The lessons show that cities promote civic engagement by building public spaces that invite more public life. Cities are also encouraging walking, biking and providing transit options to be competitive in the global market; these amenities are critical to attracting and retaining the talented workers that builds healthy economies.

With new Knight funding, 8-80 Cities will facilitate a series of learning opportunities for civic innovators in 26 communities where the Knight brothers once owned newspapers. These opportunities will expose participants, who come both from inside and outside local government, to international best practices in using public space to build more vibrant cities. These leaders will develop new strategies to enhance community mobility, connect and rejuvenate public spaces, and establish a culture of civic engagement.

The project, “Building Active and Engaged Knight Communities” has two key objectives: 1) To expose current and emerging leaders to policy and public space efforts that foster quality of life and civic engagement; and 2) To build and strengthen a network of leaders that will encourage the sharing of ideas and innovations between communities.. 8-80 Cities will achieve these goals through:

Study Tours: 8-80 Cities will host study tours in Portland, Ore. and Copenhagen, Denmark. The Portland tour will show participants how a connected, walkable network of public spaces can help small businesses. On the second study tour, participants will explore world-class cycling, walking and connected public spaces in Copenhagen and learn how the city measures and encourages public life.
8-80/Knight City Fellows: This program will support 24 young and emerging leaders in implementing short-term, high-impact projects that strengthen mobility, public space improvements and civic engagement in their communities. Successful applicants will receive $5,000 in funding, go through a weeklong workshop in Toronto , Canada and be given access to a mentorship network.
8-80 Cities Immersion Program: Gil Penalosa, 8-80 Cities founder and his staff will organize weeklong residencies in four communities where Knight invests. Through keynote presentations, workshops and other activities, the program will inspire civic leaders, elected officials, and local residents to create community networks focused on walking, cycling and public spaces.
Winter Placemaking Lab: Through engagement activities and community-driven planning, 8-80 Cities will support one community where Knight invests in developing pilot projects that bring public life back to public spaces and promote civic engagement during the winter season. 
The project will establish a group of committed advocates for change, and create a wider base of support for making U.S. communities healthier and more connected,” said Emily Munroe, executive director of 8-80 Cities. “In the longer term, we expect to see leaders pursuing more innovative approaches and city building that contributes to healthier communities and fosters a culture of engagement.”

“This project will bring our city leaders together to discover and share great ideas from across the globe that focus on public space as a driver of new opportunities, better quality of life, and residents who want to participate in shaping their community,” said Carol Coletta, Knight Foundation vice president for community and national initiatives. “The team at 8-80 Cities has demonstrated its ability to inspire quick results in cities worldwide. We are especially excited to train young talent who can carry out the work of creating a more vibrant public life in Knight cities.”

The 2014 conference and study tours hosted by 8-80 Cities and Knight Foundation inspired participants to implement high-impact initiatives, including the development of strategies to create a connected grid of protected bike lanes, open streets programs, and the revitalization of underused public spaces. It also helped to pave the way for St. Paul’s ground breaking 8-80 Cities Vitality Fund, which supports projects focused on making the city more livable.

Support for 8-80 Cities forms one part of Knight Foundation’s efforts to invest in in civic innovators who help cities attract and keep talented people, expand economic opportunity and create a culture of engagement. The foundation believes that designing places to achieve these goals is crucial to city success.