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Devin D. Thorpe

Devin Thorpe

New Lab Will Help Community And Place-Based Foundations Close Information Gaps

Applications for the Knight Community Information Lab accepted through March 24

Press Release – MIAMI – Feb. 13, 2017 – The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation today announced a new opportunity for community and place-based foundations: an 18-month lab that will help them get to the heart of the information gaps in their community, and develop long-term solutions with the input of local residents.

Foundations can apply now through March 24 to be a part of the Knight Community Information Lab, an 18-month process to apply the essentials of human-centered design training to better understand residents’ information needs, then prototype solutions.

Knight Foundation announced the opportunity Monday at its annual Media Learning Seminar, a gathering of funders, media and tech leaders exploring ways to ensure communities are informed and engaged.

“We are all inundated by news and information. But the paradox is that it can be difficult for communities to find the quality, locally focused information they need to address issues they care about,” said Lilly Weinberg, community foundations program director for Knight Foundation. “The Knight Community Information Lab will help foundations find and focus on the gaps and work with residents to discover ways to fill them.”

The four foundations ultimately chosen will attend workshops together that follow the four steps of human-centered design: inspiration, which involves in-depth community research and testing assumptions; interpreting that research; working with the audience to design solutions; and testing the idea with peers. Knight funding will cover travel and staff time to devote to the lab. Recipients will be announced in the summer, with the lab beginning in the fall.

Knight Foundation recently tested this concept with four foundations, which went through a similar process. Today, Knight is investing an additional $1 million in matching grants in the solutions they developed with their communities. The recipients and projects are:

  • Chicago Community Trust: To host “Social Labs,” where Chicago residents will come together to explore and design solutions to alleviating the systemic issues of racism and inequality. The labs will be based on data collected through the Trust’s annual community engagement initiative, On the Table.
  • Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation: To expand its successful work helping small New Jersey news outlets better engage the public, by supporting creative news and information projects that invite residents and local institutions – from libraries to governments and grassroots organizations – to be part of the process and inspire them to take action.
  • Incourage Community Foundation: To help the foundation work alongside residents to design a new, interactive format for a community indicators report, one that offers real-time, actionable information about their small, Wisconsin city that residents can use to make decisions.
  • Silicon Valley Community Foundation: To form a regional media collaborative of mainstream and ethnic outlets to work together, and engage the public in, investigative projects on housing affordability.

The lab initiative has its roots in the Knight Community Information Challenge, which launched in 2008 as the disruptions of the digital age began to dramatically affect communities and newsrooms. The challenge offered matching grants to encourage funders to take a leadership role in meeting local information needs, providing $22 million to 88 foundations across the country.

The lab builds on that approach, and creates a new way of funding for Knight Foundation. Instead of supporting a specific news and information project, Knight is helping foundations take a few steps back to discover and design an approach that is right for their community.

More information, and the lab’s application, is available at Knight Foundation staff will be available for questions during a webinar on the labs on March 1.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy. For more, visit

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