This is part of a weekly series that highlights the organizations or people behind one of the Foundation’s funds.
Here at the Centre County Community Foundation, we’ve been talking about the Knight Foundation a lot. Yesterday morning we presented the Knight Foundation’s Soul of the Community Report at the Chamber of Business & Industry of Centre County’s Business Before Hours event.
The Report shows that engaged communities are successful communities, and that the qualities that cause the greatest attachment to a community are social offerings, openness and aesthetics. State College’s 2010 rankings in these categories are high overall compared to other similar communities that were surveyed, and higher in 2010 than they had been previously.
But the Knight Foundation’s report wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows in its assessment of State College. There are still many people in the community, young professional and recent college graduates chief among them, who don’t feel as connected to the community as they could. We at the Community Foundation are determined to work with other organizations and community leaders to find projects that will increase community attachment, which will in turn improve the community at large. We’d like to see the Knight Foundation’s 2011 report show that people feel even MORE connected to their community than they did last year.
But what exactly IS the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and how did it get involved with State College?
The Knight Foundation, which now has assets nearing $2.5 billion, was created by prominent newspaper men John and James Knight in 1950. Its current aim is to help sustain democracy by leading journalism to its best possible future in the 21st century.
The Knight Foundation does that in a variety of ways. It helps to safeguard the rights of journalists worldwide and supports public information campaigns about the value of freedom of information and open government. And as the nation’s leading journalism funder, Knight has supported training for more than 100,000 journalists worldwide, and has helped to transform journalism education. Since 2007, Knight has invested more than $100 million in new technologies and techniques, including in more than 200 community news and information experiments. It also seeks to improve public media, discover new platforms for investigative reporting, increase digital and media literacy, promote universal broadband access and support a free and open Web.
While Knight works nationally and internationally, Knight’s Communities Program focuses on improving the quality of life in the 26 U.S. communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. In 18 of the 26 areas, these efforts are overseen by community foundations; this is the case in State College.
One of the ways Knight supports these communities is through the $70 million Community Foundations Initiative, which focuses on ensuring that communities nationwide have the information they need to make decisions about their lives.
The Knight Foundation has five funds with the Centre County Community Foundation and has given us more than $1.7 million over the last 18 years. This money has funded, and will continue to fund, big projects like creating Wi-Fi access in Centre County libraries and creating a 2-1-1 phone information service that would act as a 9-1-1 for people who are in need of social services but don’t know where to turn, and small projects in the form of grants to individual non-profits in Centre County, as well as providing help with the operating costs of the Foundation itself.
The Centre County Community Foundation’s relationship with the Knight Foundation has been a very productive one. We look forward to many more years of working with them to make Centre County a better place.
Click here for more information about the Knight Foundation and their latest State College Soul of the Community Report.