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Letter: Knight Cities Challenge encourages innovation

I want to give my warmest congratulations to the five winners of the Knight Cities Challenge in Detroit. Each of the ideas was chosen because of its potential to help build a more successful Detroit by attracting and keeping talent in the city, creating spaces where opportunity is expanding and open to all, and increasing civic engagement.

Brand Camp University will support small businesses in underserved neighborhoods. Brick + Beam Detroit will create a new community of Detroit rehabbers who will work to combat blight. Detroit Future City will pair barbers with landscape contractors to transform overgrown vacant lots. Crain’s Detroit Business will engage Detroit expats through a new digital community to connect them to the city. LIVE Detroit will create a center for information about neighborhoods and city life that showcases how much Detroit has to offer.

These five join a group of 32 standout winners in 12 cities across the nation, chosen from a pool of more than 7,000 applicants. Uncovering new ideas from civic innovators of all kinds — individuals, nonprofits, governments and businesses small and big — was an important reason why we launched the challenge. We were thrilled with the responses we received and the diverse range of winners.

The winning projects in Detroit add to the momentum of Knight’s other investments in the city. We’ve widely supported independent artists and arts institutions, committed to revitalization efforts like the redevelopment of Eastern Market, and supported early-stage and creative startups through the Detroit Development Fund.

We have found the energy and innovation in Detroit truly inspiring, and we are proud to have supported this vitality through these projects. We also know there is more to discover — Detroiters have the creative ideas, talent, pride and dedication to advance our communities and our city at large.

We’ll be running the challenge again in the fall and encourage people to both reapply and submit new ideas. We are also open to hearing your ideas throughout the year and hope to see more and more Detroiters get involved in shaping their city right now.

Katy Locker, Knight Foundation,

program director for Detroit