How Will You Transform Your Community? Emerging City Champions Fellowship Is Open for Applications

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How Will You Transform Your Community? Emerging City Champions Fellowship Is Open for Applications

Sponsored: 8 80 Cities and Knight Foundation will award $5,000 grants to 20 individuals for projects that energize public spaces.

American clergyman and writer Norman Vincent Peale once said, “Every problem has in it the seeds of its own solution.” And every gardener will tell you, seeds need more than to be planted. They need to be tended, watered, and planted in a proper location under hospitable conditions.

It’s much the same with ideas.

What if your idea could bring positive change to the place where you live? You’ve got the know-how and the desire, but maybe you need seed funding or leadership training to get it off the ground. Would a $5,000 grant and a 12-month window give you the chance to pilot, launch or further execute that idea?

If so, then apply to the Emerging City Champions fellowship for 2019-2020. This program funds individuals who want to transform public space, urban mobility or community engagement. These emerging city leaders are doing the hard, everyday work of making cities more accessible, inclusive and connected. Some may seek to scale an existing project, and some may look to pilot an innovative solution to improve their cities. What these fellows need is the financial support and access to a network of mentors that will activate those audacious ideas into reality. Since 2015, Emerging City Champions has built a network of up-and-coming leaders that has worked together and learned from each other

The one-year fellowship lasts from July 2019 through June 2020, and the deadline to apply is May 12, 2019. Successful applicants will receive $5,000 for their project, as well as professional development that includes access to training, resources and an extensive network of fellows past and present. The new cohort will kick off their fellowship in Toronto in late July at the Emerging City Champions Studio with an immersive four-day gathering that includes presentations, workshops, interactive tours and tactical urbanism exercises.

Emerging City Champions is led by 8 80 Cities, a nonprofit based in Toronto, Canada that is working toward more equitable communities by enhancing mobility and public space. They are dedicated to transforming cities into places where people can walk, bike, access public transit and visit vibrant parks and public places. Their approach is to engage people and communities across multiple sectors to inspire the creation of cities that are easily accessible, safe and enjoyable for all.

“Emerging City Champions brings together civic leaders who all share a common drive to build equitable and vibrant cities,” says Amanda O’Rourke, executive director of 8 80 Cities. “Each year, we are thrilled to support the diverse, community-driven projects that participants bring to their communities. We look forward to seeing what ideas this year’s competition will bring.”

This program is supported by Knight Foundation, which encourages American innovation and works to foster informed and engaged communities as a function of a healthy democracy. The support of 8 80 Cities forms one part of Knight’s efforts to help cities attract and retain talent, expand economic opportunity and create a culture of engagement.

Past Emerging City Champions have been writers, artists, musicians, teachers, entrepreneurs and more. They have leveraged this opportunity to improve their communities by launching such projects as storytelling bike tours, grow-your-own-food kits (now sold on Amazon), public beehives, and workforce development programs in low-income communities.

A map of Knight Foundation Cities for 2019.

Here are the application requirements:

  • You must be between 19 and 35 years old at the time of application;

  • You must apply as an individual, not as a team or group;

  • Your project must be implemented in one of the 26 communities where Knight invests;

  • Your project must be launchable within 12 months of the award; and

  • You must hold a valid passport and be available in late July for a trip to Toronto.

Applicants must submit a multimedia presentation, meaning a slideshow, video or blog post. You’ll have about 5 minutes to make your best argument for the project — more time than an elevator pitch, less time than a TED Talk. And you must share your presentation digitally.

The application window runs from April 8 until May 12, 2019, at 11:59 p.m. eastern time. For more information on 8 80 cities, visit If you think you’re an Emerging City Champion, or if you know someone who might be, visit

Jamila Bey is a journalist and radio talk show host based in Washington, D.C. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, NPR, and various other outlets.

Tags: public spaceplacemakingaccessibility

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