How Would You Use $ 5,000 to Improve Your City? Emerging City Champions Fellowship Accepting Applications

Press Release

MIAMI—April 3, 2017—8 80 Cities, a nonprofit dedicated to transforming cities, is currently accepting applications for the 2017 Emerging City Champions fellowship program, supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The program aims to advance creative solutions to complex urban challenges and support civic innovators in the 26 cities where Knight invests.

The program is open to anyone between the ages of 19-35. Young leaders can apply online until April 26, 2017, at Twenty applicants will be awarded with $5,000 in funding, and have a one-year deadline to implement their project idea.

Emerging City Champions uncovers new voices and empowers young leaders with bold ideas to improve their cities. The program equips participants with the skills, connections and support they need to improve public space and active transportation networks, and enhance civic engagement.

It begins with one idea. Applicants must submit one bold and innovative idea to improve their city. This might include pop-up parks, public events, or new programs to engage people in city building. 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.The idea must be implementable within one year, and with $5,000.The idea must contribute to at least one of the following objectives: enhancing public spaces; improving access to sustainable mobility (walking, cycling, public transit); or creating opportunities for civic engagement.

“The Emerging City Champions program proves that simple but innovative ideas can create more vibrant, successful and equitable cities. Each year, we are inspired by the creativity and passion of the program participants. We look forward to supporting and collaborating with 20 new champions this year,” said Ryan O’Connor, interim executive director of 8 80 Cities.

“The Emerging City Champions program provides civic innovators with the opportunity to make their city more successful, not simply through funding but also by providing them with the network, skills and know-how to bring positive change to their communities. The experiences gained through the program are both personally and publicly enriching,” said George Abbott, Knight Foundation director for community and national initiatives.

The program begins at the Emerging City Champions Studio in Toronto, Canada. The Studio provides space for successful applicants to workshop their big idea and build an action plan with the support of their peers and professional mentors. Champions participate in site tours, presentations and interactive city building workshops. Each day is curated to provide inspiration and core skills needed to successfully implement their project idea and maximize its impact.

Champions have diverse professional backgrounds and experiences. They may be musicians, carpenters, bike mechanics, poets, small business owners or do-it-yourself urbanists. Champions may already be established leaders, or looking for the chance to make a change in their community. They all share a common drive to build safe, equitable and vibrant cities.

Now in its third year, Emerging City Champions has become a training ground for young urbanists with bold ideas. The 45 alumni of the program attest to the opportunities this program creates.

Past champions have launched careers and established organizations through this program. In 2015, Rachel Hollar became the ‘go-to bike person’ in Macon, GA after founding Bike Walk Macon as her project. Rachel now works full-time as the executive director of the organization which promotes walking and cycling and hosts Macon’s Open Streets program. Cornetta Lane used her funding to launch a series of storytelling bike tours in Detroit to give voice to residents in overlooked but vibrant neighborhoods. In 2016, Cornetta was also selected as one of 37 winners of the Knight Cities Challenge, which allowed her to expand and grow the innovative concept. Amanda Zullo started Pop Up Produce in July 2016 to empower Charlotte residents to grow their own food. Six months later, Amanda was approached by Amazon to begin selling her Fresh Start growing kits online. For every kit purchased, one is donated to a family living in a food desert.

As past Champions have proven, public spaces, mobility networks and civic engagement are vital city building tools. We look forward to hearing how the next generation of civic leaders will use these tools to create successful cities and vibrant communities.

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: To apply to the Emerging City Champions Fellowship visit by April 26, 2017.

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 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


Ryan O’Connor, Interim Executive Director, 8 80 Cities, 416-591-7404, [email protected]

Anusha Alikhan, Director of Communications, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, 305-908-2646, [email protected]

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