Emerging City Champions 2020 is Now Accepting Applications

This press release is cross-posted from the Knight Foundation website:

How innovative ideas from Millennials and Gen Z can lead to resilient post-Covid communities 

Knight Foundation announces $250,000 re-investment to support young civic innovators to create vibrant and civically engaged communities

MIAMI — June 1, 2020 — To unlock the creative potential of young civic innovators and create more resilient post-pandemic communities, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announces a $250,000 re-investment in the Emerging City Champions fellowship and microgrant program.

The leadership program – which seeks Millennials and Gen Z innovators with bold ideas to enhance public space, mobility and civic engagement – is accepting applications for 20 new leaders for its 2020-2021 class. ECC seeks individuals with creative solutions to drive transformative change as cities reopen and look for a way forward in the post-Covid world.

ECC provides $5,000 in seed funding and unique training from established city builders to turn ideas into reality. Last year’s ECC leaders worked on projects that invigorated downtown Aberdeen, S.D., through historic public art, removed barriers for Charlotte residents with disabilities, and drove community skills sharing in Philadelphia.

“If there were ever a time to invest in young innovators with new ideas about how to build cities anew, it’s now,” said Sam Gill, Knight’s chief program officer and senior vice president. “This effort will equip the next generation to lead in a time of change.”

Amanda O’Rourke, executive director of 8 80 Cities, which leads the ECC program said: “Civic engagement, public space and mobility have always been central to ECC, and each cohort of leaders have consistently brought some of the most responsive and innovative ideas to advance these things in their communities.”

This will be the sixth ECC class. Since 2015, Knight Foundation’s investment in the program has launched the leadership journeys of over 100 exceptional alumni who have gone on to found nonprofit organizations, establish businesses and influence government policies. Current Knight Public Spaces Fellow Erin Salazar’s career as a city builder began with her ECC project, a community mural that led to a multi-year transformation of San Jose’s downtown.

Other ECC leaders have made significant improvements to their communities by using their skills as artists, educators, grassroots advocates and public servants. They have created neighborhood programs, community events, and vibrant public spaces that have pushed boundaries, changed mindsets and inspired long-term investment in the public realm.

“We are grateful that Knight Foundation has doubled down on its support of the program, recognizing the important role public space plays in creating more inclusive and healthy communities, and understanding that diverse young leaders with community-driven solutions are key to the future of cities,” O’Rourke said.

ECC is a year-long incubator for civic innovators between the ages of 19 and 35 with project ideas that take place in or benefit one of the 26 communities where Knight invests. Winners will be awarded $5,000 in seed funding and training from established city builders to turn their ideas into reality.

A major component of the program is a trip to Toronto for interactive tours of community-led programs and public spaces, presentations by inspiring city leaders, as well as hands-on workshops on project planning, community engagement, communication and tactical urbanism.

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’s efforts to help cities attract and keep talented people, expand economic opportunity and create a culture of engagement.

To apply to the Emerging City Champions Fellowship, applicants must submit either innovative and untested ideas, or existing projects that they are seeking to scale up at emergingcitychampions.org by Sunday, July 12, 2020.

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. For more, visit: 880cities.org.

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 kf.org.


Media Contacts:

Amanda O’Rourke, Executive Director, 8 80 Cities, 647-784-3048, aorourke@880cities.org
Kenny Ma, Director of Communications, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, 305-908-2646, media@knightfoundation.org


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