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How Would You Transform Your City?

Knight Emerging City Champions is a fellowship and micro-grant program for young civic innovators with bold ideas for developing engaged, inclusive and equitable communities toward a more effective democracy. This program is powered by 8 80 Cities and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Applications for the 2024 Knight Emerging City Champions program are now closed. The deadline was 11:59 pm EDT on May 27, 2024.

Here's How It Works

We are elevating new voices in city building and supporting bold projects that strengthen communities. We are looking for future city leaders with creative solutions to promote more engaged communities within the following categories:

Downtown & Neighborhood Revitalization
Downtown and Neighborhood Revitalization
Making an area more livable, attractive and economically vibrant by improving, developing and restoring downtowns and neighborhoods.
Public Spaces
Connecting people to the places where they live by supporting the programming, design and construction of inclusive and equitable public spaces.
Economic Opportunity
Economic Opportunity
Attracting and retaining residents by advancing inclusive pathways to jobs and entrepreneurship.
Recognizing the growing influence of technology in our public realm, this year, we are excited to team up with Helpful Places, a Toronto-based social impact organization that are internationally recognized leaders in civic tech, community engagement and open innovation. Together, we aim to dig deeper and explore how to leverage technology to create more informed and engaged communities and more equitable public spaces for all.

20 Champions


The fellowship is open to U.S. residents aged 18-35 with an innovative project idea and the drive to see it through in one of Knight Foundation's 8 resident communities. Applicants may be activists, educators, tactical urbanists, designers, artists, entrepreneurs, and more. We want diverse voices with fresh perspectives, talent, and commitment to building vibrant neighborhoods and cities.

1 Year. $5, 000 + $500 tech bundle


Champions will receive $5,000 in seed funding to implement one community project in one year. Each champion will also receive a $500 tech bundle to support their project activities. We are looking for projects that respond to community needs, build on local assets, and are implemented through collaboration. Projects must be within the following categories: downtown and neighborhood revitalization, public space and/or economic opportunity, and based in one of the 8 resident communities where Knight Foundation has offices. 

KECC Studio


This year, Knight Emerging City Champions will kickoff with an in-person KECC Studio in Toronto, Canada that will equip participants with the tools they need to begin implementing their community projects and connect them with champions across the U.S.

The KECC Network


Champions join a supportive and inspiring network of their peers from across the country. Participants receive ongoing mentorship from experts in diverse fields such as planning, design, communications, technology and more. 8 80 Cities and Knight Foundation will expose participants to opportunities for additional funding, professional growth, and support.

Are You Eligible?

Stayed tuned for updates on the 2024-2025 application period.

Applicants must be able to attend the Virtual Orientation on August 8, 2024, from 6 - 8 pm EST.
Applicants must live in the U.S., and they must be aged 18-35 years old at the time they apply.
Applicants must be able to travel to Canada between August 23 to 25, 2024 for the KECC Studio.
Applicants must propose a community project within the following categories: downtown and neighborhood revitalization, public space and/or economic opportunity. The project must take place in one of the 8 resident communities where Knight Foundation invests: Akron OH, Charlotte NC, Detroit MI, Macon GA, Miami FL, Philadelphia PA, San Jose CA, and St. Paul MN. Priority will be given to projects that also address Knight Foundation’s goals in that community. Learn more here.

Inspiring Ideas

From past champions

Christine Edwards
Amplify is a toolkit and event series that makes it easier for people to interact with local government.
Charlotte, NC
See project
Erin Salazar
The Exhibition District is a wildly ambitious, artist-initiated effort to erect over 40,000 square feet of murals in the heart of downtown.
San Jose, CA
See project
Tonja Khabir
The Bobby Jones Project organizes community members to re-envision a cultural asset through collaborative planning.
Macon, GA
See project
Timothy Jackson
Detroit Hives repurposes vacant lots into pollinator way-stations to promote urban sustainability and conservation awareness.
Detroit, MI
See Project