Ideas to inspire voters could earn cash prizes

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

How do you better inform, even inspire voters at election time?

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is asking the public to answer that question and offering more than $3 million for innovative nonpartisan ideas.

The Knight News Challenge is open to anyone including journalists, civic technologists, academics, students, startups, nonprofits, governments and individuals.

It’s a collaboration between the Knight Foundation, which works in 26 communities including Detroit, and three other foundations: the Democracy Fund, the Rita Allen Foundation and the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation.

Winners will receive a share of more than $3 million, which includes up to $250,000 from the Democracy Fund. Applicants can enter by completing a brief entry on by Thursday.

The challenge aims to attract a broad range of innovative ideas, said John Bracken, Knight Foundation vice president for media innovation.

“Digital tools and behaviors have changed the way we live our lives, and hold the potential to have a bigger impact on the way we use and access civic information,” Bracken said. “We hope to learn how, through elections, we can build more informed communities in a democracy.”

The challenge will not fund projects involving voter registration, lobbying or advocating for specific parties, initiatives or candidates.

Election officials working with academics or startups with nonprofits could spark new ways to give Americans the information and tools they need to fully engage in civic life on Election Day and year round, said Tom Glaisyer, program director for informed participation at the Democracy Fund.

The application period closes at 5 p.m. on Thursday. Experts will help Knight and a set of advisers review the entries. Winners will be announced in June.