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How Would You
Transform Your City?

Emerging City Champions is a fellowship and micro-grant program for young civic innovators with bold ideas to enhance public space, mobility, and civic engagement. This program is powered by 8 80 Cities and John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Applications for the 2020-2021 fellowship are now closed.

Here's How It Works

We're elevating new voices in city building and supporting bold projects that strengthen communities. We are looking for future city leaders with creative solutions that:

Activate public life in public spaces
Enhance mobility options
Build a culture of civic engagement

Public space, mobility, and civic engagement have always been central to Emerging City Champions. With the pandemic and nation-wide protests highlighting deep inequities in our systems, it’s clear that we need to invest in diverse young leaders to create more resilient, inclusive, and equitable communities for our collective future.

20 Champions


The fellowship is open to U.S. residents aged 19-35 with an innovative project idea and the drive to see it through in one of Knight Foundation's investment 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.


Champions will receive $5,000 in seed funding to implement one community project in one year. We are looking for projects that respond to community needs, build on local assets, and are implemented through collaboration. Projects must address public space, mobility, and/or civic engagement challenges in the community, and must be based in one of the 26 cities where Knight Foundation invests.



In the past, Emerging City Champions kicked off with an in-person ECC Studio in Toronto, Canada. This year, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the fellowship will be completely online, beginning with a Virtual Learning Lab at the end of August that will equip participants with the tools they need to begin implementing their community projects.



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, 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 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