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Is This How to Breathe Life Into a City's Vacant Land?

BY Sam Roudman | Wednesday, July 10 2013

A new online effort hopes to revive Philadelphia's vacant lots. Photo: Matt Bevilacqua

For urbanites in Philadelphia looking to make a garden from one of the city’s 35,000 or so unused lots, the most common advice has consisted of two words: good luck. That’s because while data on any given parcel is technically open there, actually figuring out who owns it, or if anything can be done with it, can require a spelunking expedition into the dark caverns of city bureaucracy. Organizers and developers have launched a new project to make it easier to find and utilize vacant land. Read More

What Knight's Really Trying to Do with $9 Million to TED, NYU, and Code for America

BY Nick Judd | Tuesday, February 26 2013

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced Monday that it would invest $9 million into technology for greater civic engagement, a signal that the philanthropy is going to make a multi-year commitment to this space similar to the its initial five-year commitment of millions of dollars into "news innovation" through the Knight News Challenge. The smallest grant from Knight announced Monday has caused the greatest stir. Knight is giving nearly $1 million to TED, the flashy, expensive conference that produces web videos of "ideas worth spreading." Read More

Five Pieces of Advice For New Civic Hackers

BY Nick Judd | Tuesday, February 12 2013

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is getting ready to invest a lot of money in the idea that technology can help scrape the rust from the corroded gears of American democracy. This being our jam at techPresident, I'm going to put on my editor's hat and editorialize: If you become involved and decide to enter the field of civic hacking, here are five things you ought to know. Read More

What is "New Urban Mechanics" and Why Does Philadelphia Want Some?

BY Nick Judd | Wednesday, October 3 2012

When Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter announced on Monday that Philadelphia will get a new arm of city government called the Office of New Urban Mechanics, he was signing on to a sizable experiment in how government is supposed to work.

Nutter's administration is emulating a program Boston City Hall put in place two years ago to find innovative — you might also say "untested" — ideas and see if they can make government work better. The Boston Office of New Urban Mechanics is just a handful of people led by Nigel Jacob, a former programmer, and Chris Osgood, a city official who came to Boston after a stint at New York City's Department of Parks and Recreation. Their job is to help those new solutions to old problems navigate the often tricky hallways of city bureaucracy.

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If American Politics Were a Team Sport, Would It Be Any Nicer?

BY Nick Judd | Wednesday, April 25 2012

In a country where someone is nearly as likely to play fantasy sports online as they are to follow the national elections, maybe one way to increase participation in elections is to bridge the two. At least, that's the idea that MTV, Politifact, the Center for Responsive Politics, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and others are pursuing: A $250,000 Knight grant is the principal money behind a project, supposed to go into beta in July, that will turn the elections into a fantasy sports game. Users will arrange candidates into "teams," according to a press release, and individual candidates will be scored based on publicly available data about the truth or mendacity of their public statements (Politifact); their political disclosures (CRP); polling performance (RealClearPolitics); willingness to fill out a candidate questionnaire (Project Vote Smart); their political ads (Wesleyan Media Project); and Facebook and Twitter use. Players, MTV announces, will also rack up points for using Foursquare to check in to town-hall events or political debates. They can also get points by starting the voter registration process through Rock the Vote. Read More

From Detroit, a Dispatch on Bridging the Digital Divide

BY Miranda Neubauer | Wednesday, April 11 2012

Detroit at night, 2008. Photo: Ed Schipul

As more and more people become a part of what a 2011 McKinsey report called "the $8 trillion global economy," broadband access and digital literacy in many areas of the United States remain low. In search of ways to avoid leaving Americans behind as the economy moves online, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation awarded an $810,000 grant in September 2009 to Community Telecommunications Network, a Detroit, Mich. nonprofit. After three years of work, a new report shows how hard that can be. Read More

Knight Foundation Funds TurboVote Expansion in South Florida

BY Miranda Neubauer | Wednesday, February 29 2012

Funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation will help TurboVote expand its student voter registration service to South Florida, with Miami Dade College being the first institution in the area to introduce the service to its students in the spring, according to an announcement by the group. Miami Dade College is the largest college in the United States with over 170,000 students. Florida International University and the University of Miami will also be adopting the service, so that the service will eventually have the chance to reach close to 200,000 students in the area. Read More

Non-Profit Jumo Networks Its Way Into to GOOD's Portfolio

BY Nick Judd | Thursday, August 18 2011

When Jumo launched last year, it had all the elements of a buzzworthy new thing: The celebrity founder, Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes; the new-wave mission, a social network to connect nonprofits and supporters; the ... Read More

Citizen Science and Transparency Projects Among Knight News Challenge Winners Announced Today

BY Nick Judd | Wednesday, June 22 2011

Today, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation* announced the winners of the fifth and final year of the Knight News Challenge, explaining how it will allocate this year's nearly $5 million pool of money to support ... Read More

With 'Macon Money,' Knight Foundation Hopes a Hyperlocal Project Will Go Global

BY Nick Judd | Tuesday, June 21 2011

After connecting hundreds of people and generating nearly $65,000 in business for local shops and restaurants in Macon, Ga., an online-offline game that uses alternative currency to spur civic engagement may be going ... Read More

Transparency and Public Shaming: Pakistan Tackles Tax Evasion

In Pakistan, where only one in 200 citizens files their income tax return, authorities published a directory of taxpayers' details for the first time. Officials explained the decision as an attempt to shame defaulters into paying up.

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wednesday >

Facebook Seeks Approval as Financial Service in Ireland. Is the Developing World Next?

On April 13 the Financial Times reported that Facebook is only weeks away from being approved as a financial service in Ireland. Is this foray into e-money motivated by Facebook's desire to conquer the developing world before other corporate Internet giants do? Maybe.

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The Rise and Fall of Iran's “Blogestan”

The robust community of Iranian bloggers—sometimes nicknamed “Blogestan”—has shrunk since its heyday between 2002 – 2010. “Whither Blogestan,” a recent report from the University of Pennsylvania's Iran Media Program sought to find out how and why. The researchers performed a web crawling analysis of Blogestan, survey 165 Persian blog users, and conducted 20 interviews with influential bloggers in the Persian community. They found multiple causes of the decline in blogging, including increased social media use and interference from authorities.

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Weekly Readings: What the Govt Wants to Know

A roundup of interesting reads and stories from around the web. GO

Russia to Treat Bloggers Like Mass Media Because "the F*cking Journalists Won't Stop Writing"

The worldwide debate over who is and who isn't a journalist has raged since digital media made it much easier for citizen journalists and other “amateurs” to compete with the big guys. In the United States, journalists are entitled to certain protections under the law, such as the right to confidential sources. As such, many argue that blogging should qualify as journalism because independent writers deserve the same legal protections as corporate employees. In Russia, however, earning a place equal to mass media means additional regulations and obligations, which some say will lead to the repression of free speech.

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Politics for People: Demanding Transparent and Ethical Lobbying in the EU

Today the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) launched a campaign called Politics for People that asks candidates for the European Parliament to pledge to stand up to secretive industry lobbyists and to advocate for transparency. The Politics for People website connects voters with information about their MEP candidates and encourages them to reach out on Facebook, Twitter or by email to ask them to sign the pledge.

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Security Agencies Given Full Access to Telecom Data Even Though "All Lebanese Can Not Be Suspects"

In late March, Lebanese government ministers granted security agencies unrestricted access to telecommunications data in spite of some ministers objections that it violates privacy rights. Global Voices reports that the policy violates Lebanon's existing surveillance and privacy law, Law 140, but has gotten little coverage from the country's mainstream media.

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