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What the Knight Cities Challenge is looking for in Charlotte

A new competition is looking for proposals from Charlotte citizens who have been dreaming about new ways to build community, but don’t really know what to do with them.

In other words, the 2017 Knight Cities Challenge is designed to get people to wake up, drink some coffee, take a risk, and float a couple of new ideas.

Throughout October and early November, the Knight Foundation is looking for new proposals in the challenge, which is taking place in 26 cities. Charles Thomas of the Knight Foundation says that in Charlotte, the competition hopes to identify projects that attract and retain talent, that expand economic prospects by breaking down divides and making new connections, and that spur engagement and civic improvement.

“Overall, the question we’re asking innovators is ‘How do you make your city better?,” Thomas says. Proposals will be accepted between Oct. 10 and Nov. 3.

“We live in such a society where things are so polarized, we’ve forgotten what it means to be a good neighbor.”
— Charles Thomas, Knight Foundation

One of the winning proposals in last year’s challenge — Can Do Signs — was entered by Sarah Hazel, an assistant in the city manager’s office. She says the Knight Foundation “really gives people the opportunity to try something new.”

“If you have an idea that will make your city great and that you think is innovative, new, a different way of looking at things, but will really help to improve your community, it gives you an opportunity to try and fail or succeed and make sure you learn from it,” she says.

Hazel, who also was a challenge winner in 2015, advises people to just apply. “If you have an idea bouncing around that will help increase civic engagement, or break barriers to retain talent and bring talent to the city, write it down. Just go for it!”


Introduction to the Knight Cities Challenge
The Knight Foundation lays out the program in broad strokes.

Summary of Last Year’s 37 Challenge Winners
Nationally, 37 proposals shared $5 million in funding in 2016.

Charlotte Details
Three proposals won last year in Charlotte.