Commitment to innovation: John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Written by: Lisa Ranghelli

Date: May 16, 2019

Editor’s note: The following is a Power Moves toolkit Power in Practice example.

“In many cases, Knight is the first funder of that particular project or initiative. Catalyzing a lot of experimentation and change … My perspective is that they are willing to fund things that are new and innovative and unproven and that have huge potential. … There is a lot greater opportunity for impact if you are willing to fund innovation.” – Stakeholder of Knight Foundation

Our Philamplify assessment of the Knight Foundation noted that its commitment to innovation was key to its impact in the journalism industry. Stakeholders praised Knight’s comfort with risk-taking and willingness to experiment as a refreshing change from the cautious nature of many large philanthropies.

This drive for innovation has led to positive outcomes such as helping journalism transition to digital platforms, increasing the capacity of libraries to be community information and digital access hubs and opening up grantmaking to a broader set of individuals and organizations through its various challenge grant programs and prototype fund. The Knight challenges invite ideas from anyone, and applicants initially provide merely a brief project description. Only finalists have to submit a full proposal.

Continuing to demonstrate its nimbleness, in September 2017, Knight announced a new $2.5 million journalism fund to improve trust in news, in response to the rising spread of misinformation on the Internet. This initiative built on prior grants made through the Knight Prototype Fund to improve the flow of accurate information, a collaborative project with the Democracy Fund and Rita Allen Foundation.

Lisa Ranghelli is senior director of assessment and special projects at NCRP and primary author of Power Moves: Your essential philanthropy assessment guide for equity and justiceFollow @NCRP and @lisa_rang on Twitter, and join the conversation using #PowerMovesEquity!

This post is part of a series of case examples on building, sharing and wielding power for NCRP’s Power Moves toolkit