Knight Challenge seeking innovative thinkers

By William Singer, News Editor


Josh McManus, the Akron-based program director for the Knight Foundation, answered audience questions at a forum on Wednesday, Oct. 8.

The Knight Cities Challenge is looking for innovators who “will take hold of the future of our cities,” according to the Challenge’s website. Not all of the entries to the contest can win, McManus explained that the Knight Foundation hopes the challenge will get innovators and thinkers to come up with ideas that they can put into action themselves.

Ideas for the challenge must also focus on one or all three of the key components the Knight Foundation has identified for a successful city: attracting and keeping talent, expanding economic prospects, breaking down divides, and spurring connection and civic involvement.

The challenge offers grants of various sizes from a pool of $5 million and is taking applications from anyone with ideas that will have a positive impact on their city. The application process began Wednesday, Oct. 1 and runs through Friday, Nov. 14.

McManus stressed that the Knight Foundation is willing to listen to pitches from anyone.

“We are happy to receive ideas from an individual or an institution, and anything in between,” McManus said. “Even if you don’t win, you still have your plan written down. It’s amazing what you can do once the plan is written down.”

According to the Challenge’s website, applicants should form a plan which helps one of the 26 Knight communities, and that you do not need to be a professional grant writer to apply.

The initial application only requires two primary pieces of information: a description of the project, and what applicants intend to learn from the project. Each of these sections must be 150 words or less.

During the forum, McManus was asked if the Knight Foundation would be providing any examples for applicants in terms of the types of ideas the foundation would like to see. McManus responded by explaining that in years past, many submissions end up looking like their examples, so they try to avoid giving that type of information.

“I would say think about the things in your day-to-day life that are completely unexpected,” McManus said.

Recently having moved to the Akron area, McManus reinforced his point by using examples from the city as illustrations of unexpected things citizens see every day. These things range from things like statues on UA’s campus or the Cuyahoga Falls national park.

“We are looking for things that have the potential to have an atypical return,” McManus said of the contest.

Applicants can apply for the Knight Cities Challenge at, the official website of the challenge.