Knight Foundation's $5 million Cities Challenge under way in Bradenton, elsewhere

BRADENTON -- What's the value of 300 words?

If it's associated with a great innovative idea to help Bradenton be successful, it could be worth a share of $5 million in the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation's Cities Challenge.

The challenge is open to any individual, public, private or nonprofit organization across the globe with the primary rule that it has to be beneficial and implemented in one of 26 Knight Foundation communities, including Bradenton.

Meredith Hector, director of program administration for the Knight Foundation, said she is already impressed with the direction Bradenton is heading -- but all it takes is one great idea "to make this great city even greater."

Hector noted the Cities Challenge is different from the foundation's arts and news challenge. The Cities Challenge, she said, "is a fantastic and easy way for people to elevate their ideas."

In a brief video presentation, Carol Coletta, vice president of Community and National Initiatives, said the foundation is hoping to draw

ideas that will make Knight Foundation communities more vibrant and thriving places to live.

"No project is too small, if the idea is big," she said.

No specifics are being provided on what kind of ideas should be presented. But five criteria should be considered in an application: The impact the project will have into the future, innovation, inspiration, learning what would work better and whether the individual or group submitting the idea has the capacity to carry out the project once funded.

Other than that, Hector said, the challenge is all about a city's success. The application process, found on knightcity.org, involves answering two questions with up to 150 words each: "What is your idea and what do you hope to learn from it?" asked Hector.

A team of reviewers with various backgrounds will review the entries. If selected, finalists will be invited to submit a more detailed proposal to compete in the final round. That will include an estimated budget for a project that could realistically be completed within 18 months.

"Over the next six weeks, we are inviting applications, and from the $5 million, we are looking to award grants at the city, neighborhood and even block levels," said Hector. "It could be a citywide idea or specific to a neighborhood. Don't limit yourself. We are looking for fresh ideas."

Initial applications are due by Nov. 14.

The three key drivers in making a city successful, Hector said, are talent, opportunity and engagement. Entries should consider how to attract and keep the best and the brightest, find ways to expand economic success and break down economic barriers for all and engage the community.

The finalists will be announced sometime in January and winners will be selected by March.

Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.