Aberdeen’s Opportunity: The Knight Cities Challenge

   The city of Aberdeen has been given a unique opportunity. Aberdeen citizens and commerce groups alike will soon have the chance to make their voices heard during the Knight Cities Challenge beginning October 1, 2015.
   The Knight Cities Challenge is a project – sponsored by the Knight Foundation, one of the nation’s leading foundations – seeking the best and most innovative ideas for community improvement.
   The Knight Foundation has $5 million to give away to 26 different cities across the United States, and Aberdeen, South Dakota, is one of them. The most enthralling part about the Knight Cities Challenge is who they want to hear from – you.

“I have no doubt that Aberdeen can do this.”
Lilly Weinberg, Knight’s Director for Community Foundations

   The foundation wants to hear from anyone with pioneering ideas on how to make their city successful. They want to hear from students, entrepreneurs, activists, artists, scientists, designers, and the list goes on.
   Lilly Weinberg, Knight’s director for community foundations, stated, “Anyone and everyone is qualified to apply for this challenge.” Any group or individual, whether community members or Northern students, is strongly encouraged to apply in order to make a difference.
   Weinberg believes that some of the most innovative ideas can be found with often unlikely people. She stated, “There is no idea that is too big or too small.”
   With the Knight Cities Challenge, applicants do not have to be civic leaders or professional grant writers.
   In fact, the initial application is only three questions with a limit of 100 words per answer. The application is simple, and multiple applications are welcomed.

Knight Foundation Logo. Photo courtesy of the Knight Foundation Facebook page.
Knight Foundation Logo. Photo courtesy of the Knight Foundation Facebook page.

   There will undoubtedly be numerous brilliant ideas submitted during the Knight Cities Challenge. However, the best ideas will be ones that focus on advancing talent, opportunity and engagement in communities.
   According to the foundation, these three things are the most fundamental goals of the challenge, because they can make a city successful.
   If a city can provide economic opportunity and civic engagement it will be able to not only attract a demographic of talented people but also retain the talented individuals who are already a part of the community.
   The Knight Cities Challenge is designed to reinvigorate communities. While applying, Weinberg encourages applicants to think, “What can bring people together?”
   A few examples from the 2014 Knight Cities Challenge include sending out boxes of local goods in Akron, Ohio, making city pools in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, more vibrant and interactive places, and turning unutilized space in Gary, Indiana, into the ArtHouse – a social kitchen and culinary incubator.
   The year 2014 was the inaugural Knight Cities Challenge, and a total of 32 winners were chosen amongst which to distribute the $5 million.
   However, there is no set amount on the minimum or maximum number of winners. The funds will simply be distributed among the most innovative and effective concepts.
   Akron, Philadelphia, and Gary are just a few of the cities across the United States that are a part of the Knight communities. Others include Detroit, Michigan; St. Paul, Minnesota; Charlotte, North Carolina; Miami, Florida; and Grand Forks, North Dakota.
   The foundation works with 26 different communities where the founders, brothers John (more commonly referred to as Jack) and James Knight, owned various newspapers. The Knight Brothers had a passion for journalism and communities with vitality, and their foundation now focuses on projects that promote informed and engaged communities.
   Although many of the Knight communities are large cities, members of the small Aberdeen community should not feel discouraged.
   Weinberg has seen Aberdeen’s potential. She stated about her most recent visit, “I was really blown away by the innovations in your small community.” She went on to say, “A large part of the United States is made up of smaller communities. What better place to experiment and learn from than a smaller market.”
   Applications will be available October 1 and will be accepted until October 27. For applications and more information about the Knight Foundation, go to: http://www.knightfoundation.org. The winners will be announced early next year.
    “Give us the best ideas and let’s really show the rest of America what smaller communities can do,” said Weinberg. As a community, Aberdeen and NSU have been given an exclusive opportunity to change and make improvements on the Knight Foundation’s dollar. Weinberg stated, “I have no doubt that Aberdeen can do this.”

Katie Grote