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Do you design for your community and work for engagement in public spaces?

City of neighborhoods. March 12, 2019 Category: FeaturedFundingShortUncategorized
In the first week the Knight Foundation was open for nominations for its new fellowships recognizing innovators working to create connection and civic engagement in public spaces, it got more than 300 nomination applications. That’s a lot of innovators.

“Individuals can really transform the public realm, and make a huge difference,” said Lily Weinberg, the foundation’s program director for community and national initiatives.

“If you are designing for your community, pushing for innovation in public space with engagement in mind,” she added, the foundation wants to receive your nomination by March 22, regardless of the industry or region in which you have done your work.

Up to eight fellows will split the $1 million the foundation has allocated — that’s $125,000 apiece if all eight slots are filled — and the money is not tied to any specific project, just an acknowledgement of the person. “We see these as a way to reward those leaders,” Weinberg said. “And [recognize] their potential to do extraordinary work in public spaces.”

In addition to the money, fellows will be mentored and encouraged to build a network. “It is a powerful opportunity to be with one another,” Weinberg said, “to be part of a broader network. I also think the public exposure [they will get as a fellow] will be an important aspect of this.”

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A panel of judges will look through the initial nominations and recommend those they believe should be considered, then the leadership at Knight will make the final selection. They fellows will be announced at the inaugural Knight Public Spaces Forum, slated to take place June 12 to 21, in Philly.

"It was important to us that this be an open nomination process."
Lily Weinberg

But up until nominations close, the public is in charge. “It was important to us that this be an open nomination process,” Weinberg said. “And that community members be engaged in it.”

So far Knight’s gotten a mix of nominations — people in the public and private sectors, nonprofits and government employees — and more third-party ones than self-nominations. They are seeing applications from  small to mid-size markets in addition to those coming in from the network of Knight cities.

Philadelphia is a Knight city, and the local office (currently without a program director) has funded a number of initiatives here, including “City Champions” who are reimagining public spaces, civic dialogue and support for nonprofits.

The first informational webinar they offered for potential nominees and nominators sold out, but they’ve scheduled another two given the overwhelmingly positive response to the fellowships. They will take place March 12 at 4 p.m. and March 14 at 3 p.m. Go to this page for the nomination/self-nomination form, and for information about how to register for the live webinars.

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