Knight Foundation Requests New Proposals for $5 Million in Grants

What’s your best idea to help your city succeed? The Knight Cities Challenge opened Monday, calling on innovators of all types in San Jose to answer this question.

Now in its third year, the national challenge is an initiative of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The challenge seeks new ideas to make San Jose and the 25 other communities where Knight invests more vibrant places to live and work.

Winners will receive a share of up to $5 million and become part of a network of civic innovators. Funding will be granted at all levels from small to large amounts. Applications will be accepted through Nov. 3 at

The challenge has only a couple main guidelines. Submissions may come from anywhere, but the project must take place in or benefit one or more of 26 Knight communities. The idea should also focus on one or more of three key drivers of city success:

  • Talent: Ideas that help cities attract and keep talented people.
  • Opportunity: Ideas that expand economic prospects by breaking down divides and making new connections.
  • Engagement: Ideas that spur connection and civic involvement.

The challenge is open to anyone from anywhere: neighbors, architects, activists, artists, city planners, entrepreneurs, students, educators, city officials, as well as governments and organizations. More information is available on

The initial application will be easy to complete. You don’t have to be a professional grant writer, but you should be ready with a plan to make your idea a reality.

If you have questions about the challenge, you can join us for virtual office hours or in-person events in many of the 26 Knight communities to learn more. The schedule, which is regularly updated, can be accessed here.

Community members and entrepreneurs, as well as experts in urban planning, design, academia and government will help Knight review entries. Knight will announce finalists and winners in early 2016.

In March this year, Knight announced 37 winners of the second Knight Cities Challenge. Below is a look at last year’s winners.

  • Post Street Night Market: Expanding economic opportunity with a recurring night market that features local crafts, food and entertainment. A $100,000 grant was awarded to East Side activist and impresario Justin Triano for this proposal.
  • The MayFeria: Increasing civic engagement and expanding economic opportunity in San Jose’s Mayfair neighborhood with The MayFeria, which will consist of folk life events, a community task force, and a coordinator to help identify and make better use of cultural and civic assets. The Mexian Heritage Plaza won $125,000 for this project.

Have an idea? Visit to apply. The challenge closes at noon on Nov. 3.

Anusha Alikhan is the communications director for the Knight Foundation. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside.

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