Emerging City Champion Ziba Zehdar in front of her mobile library, San José, CA

2018 Emerging City Champions Fellowship Accepting Applications from Young Civic Innovators

Press release originally posted on the Knight Foundation website

Knight Foundation announces $250,000 reinvestment to drive new ideas and innovation in communities

MIAMI—March 5, 2018—The Emerging City Champions fellowship is accepting applications for the 2018-19 cohort. Launched in 2015 with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the program provides upcoming civic leaders with funding and support to launch one project that will enhance public space, urban mobility or civic engagement in their city. Knight Foundation today announced a $250,000 reinvestment in the program.

The Emerging City Champions fellowship is open to anyone who meets the following criteria:

  • They must be between the ages of 19-35.
  • The project must take place in or benefit one of the 26 communities where Knight invests.
  • Projects must contribute to improving public space, urban mobility or civic engagement.
  • Applications must include a multimedia submission that describes their project.

The deadline to apply is Monday, April 2, 2018 at 11:59 p.m. EST. Successful applicants will be awarded $5,000 for their project, and receive ongoing mentorship, networking and capacity building opportunities. Interested applicants are encouraged to participate in a Facebook Live event on Wednesday, March 14 at 12 p.m. EST, where representatives of 8 80 Cities will answer questions about the program.

Visit www.emergingcitychampions.org for more information and to apply.

“Emerging City Champions has been a great vehicle for finding and supporting new voices and civic innovators in Knight’s communities. The funding and the training opportunities have supported champions as they have tested and, in some cases, successfully scaled projects that make their cities more vibrant places to live and work. As the program enters its fourth year we’re excited to expand the network of champions, and to strengthen civic leadership in Knight communities,” said George Abbott, Knight Foundation director for community and national initiatives.

The Emerging City Champions fellowship is for young people on the cusp of making transformative impacts in their cities. Emerging City Champions is a launchpad for up-and-coming civic innovators. Successful applicants have established themselves as dynamic problem solvers, but may lack the resources, connections or network to achieve their potential. Some participants may be seeking to scale up the impact of an existing community project. Others may have an entirely new and untested idea that will transform their city’s parks or transportation network. We encourage bold ideas and new solutions to common urban challenges from diverse voices.

“Emerging City Champions is about elevating new and diverse voices with fresh perspectives on how to build more accessible, inclusive and connected cities,” said Amanda O’Rourke, executive director, 8 80 Cities. “Each year, we are awed and inspired by the impacts and change that the fellowship participants bring to their communities. We are excited to see what new ideas this year’s competition will bring.”

The 2018-19 Emerging City Champions will be the fourth program cohort. Past participants have made dramatic improvements and long-term changes to their cities. These participants have established community organizations, created interactive public art, and transformed underused civic assets into vibrant public spaces. While most projects are temporary, each fellowship participant has pushed boundaries, changed mindsets, and in some cases inspired long-term investment in the public realm.

The program begins with the Emerging City Champions Studio in Toronto, Canada. The Studio is an immersive learning experience where fellowship participants hone their skills as civic leaders. Over three and a half days, participants will visit public spaces and learn about community-led programs that enhance civic engagement. The Studio features presentations by established city leaders and program alumni, and hands-on workshops on project planning, community engagement and marketing.

Emerging City Champions is led by 8 80 Cities, a nonprofit organization committed to improving the quality of life for people in cities by bringing citizens together to enhance mobility and public space.

Support for 8 80 Cities forms one part of Knight Foundation’s efforts to help cities attract and keep talented people, expand economic opportunity and create a culture of engagement. The foundation believes that successful communities are equitable, inclusive and participatory.

The 26 Knight cities include eight communities that have a resident program director: Akron, Ohio; Charlotte, North Carolina; Detroit; Macon, Georgia; Miami; Philadelphia; St. Paul, Minnesota; and San Jose, California. In 18 cities community foundations guide Knight’s investments: Aberdeen, South Dakota; Biloxi, Mississippi; Boulder, Colorado; Bradenton, Florida; Columbia, South Carolina; Columbus, Georgia; Duluth, Minnesota; Fort Wayne, Indiana; Gary, Indiana; Grand Forks, North Dakota; Lexington, Kentucky; Long Beach, California; Milledgeville, Georgia; Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; Palm Beach County, Florida; State College, Pennsylvania; Tallahassee, Florida; and Wichita, Kansas.

For more information on 8 80 Cities visit: 880cities.org. To apply to the Emerging City Champions Fellowship, submit your application at emergingcitychampions.org by April 2, 2018.

About 8 80 Cities
8 80 Cities is a nonprofit organization based in Toronto, Canada. We are dedicated to contributing to the transformation of cities into places where people can walk, bike, access public transit and visit vibrant parks and public places. Our approach is to engage people and communities across multiple sectors to inspire the creation of cities that are easily accessible, safe and enjoyable for all. We achieve our mission through grant projects, advocacy work and our innovative services.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. knightfoundation.org


Anusha Alikhan, Director of Communications, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, 305-908-2646, media@knightfoundation.org

Ryan O’Connor, Director of Programs, 8 80 Cities, 416-591-7404, roconnor@880cities.org


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