The brain buzz was palpable of the 20 community leaders thinking of their most innovative ideas Friday morning at the Manatee Community Foundation.
How can Bradenton keep talented people? Where can opportunities for growth be focused? What will make citizens more involved?
For a third year, the Knight Foundation is putting up $5 million of risk capital funds for individuals, nonprofits, businesses and government agencies in the 26 Knight cities across the country to compete for a slice of funding by coming up with their best ideas to answer one or all of these questions for their individual cities.
A Knight city is one where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once owned a newspaper. Four Knight cities are in Florida: Tallahassee, Palm Beach, Miami and Bradenton.
Leaders representing organizations like Realize Bradenton, State College of Florida and Manatee County Neighborhood Services came together to learn more about the challenge.
Unlike a normal and lengthy grant-writing process, just three questions need to be answered in 100 words or less to make ideas concise, clear and specific. Ideas need to be interesting, refreshing and focused on Bradenton, but proposals are unlimited and “no idea is too big” to the Knight Foundation.
George Abbott, special assistant to the vice president of the Knight Foundation, was the one who started the Knight Foundation’s challenge and gave a presentation in Bradenton on Friday.
He said that in the first year of the challenge, 7,160 applications were whittled down to 32 winners, which funded projects like musical swings in four Knight cities where people can coordinate to make a song, or creating a Bhutanese cultural center and AirBnB out of a vacant building in Akron, Ohio. For the second year, Abbot said he was worried about the reception following the success of the first year, but 37 winners were chosen out of more than 4,500 applications.
The ReuseReCONNECT initiative from Realize Bradenton won $90,140 in 2015, the first year of the Knight Cities Challenge. PopUps for a Purpose in Bradenton was an experimental project out of the initiative of eight “pop-up” events that would bridge the gap between generations.
Johnette Isham, executive director of Realize Bradenton, said although the original project period was from October 2015 to May 2016, the project is still putting on events, and her organization couldn’t have done it to this extent without help from the Knight Foundation.
“It puts a national spotlight on how great our community is,” Isham said. “To think we could have even more projects going on and popping up all over our friendly city is really exciting.”
The application opens Oct. 10 and runs through Nov. 3 at noon.
For more information, anyone can visit knightcities.org to learn about the application process and past grant recipients.