It is unlikely that a project in Philadelphia to create artistically interesting signs for polling places will reverse decades of declining U.S. voter turnout, or that the initiative in Charlotte in which city employees take 10 minutes each week to meet a new person will offset widespread distrust of government.
But no one will know until someone tries. And once again, the Knight Foundation is willing to try, by putting $5 million on the table for the second year of its Knight Cities Challenge.
The challenge’s aim is to test new ideas aimed at alluring talent, increasing opportunity and improving engagement in 26 Knight Communities around the country. New York City is, unfortunately, not one of those communities. In fact, not a single one of those communities is in New York State, New Jersey or New England.
But don’t let that stop you from applying. Knight (which has funded City Limits in the past through a separate journalism program) stresses that residents from anywhere can propose an idea as long as it is targeted to one of its target towns. You have from October 1 to October 27 to answer three questions with responses of 100 words or less. If you want more information about the program, Knight is planning Q&As and other events.
Perhaps the best guide would be to look at the 32 winners from last year. After all, just as the Knight project solicits ideas from New York City and other areas, it could also provide inspiration for initiatives here based on projects funded elsewhere. With record low turnout in our 2013 municipal elections, maybe a bedazzled “Vote Here” sign is worth a shot.