Four community foundations will join a new design lab funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to help ensure that their communities are informed about issues important to them.
The Knight Community Information Lab will lead the foundations — the Baltimore Community Foundation, the Cleveland Foundation, the Community Foundation Boulder County, and the Lancaster County (PA) Community Foundation — through an eighteen-month human-centered design process that will identify information gaps in their communities, prototype ideas, and develop long-term solutions to those gaps with the input of local residents. Starting in the fall, staff from the foundations will attend workshops that follow the four steps of human-centered design: inspiration, which involves in-depth community research and testing assumptions; interpreting that research; working with the target audience to design solutions; and testing the idea with peers.
Building on the approach used during the Knight Community Information Challenge, which launched in 2008 and provided $22 million to eighty-eight foundations across the country, Knight hopes to create a new funding model with the initiative in which foundations, instead of supporting specific news and information projects, take a few steps back to discover and design an approach that is right for their particular community.
"Since the very beginning of the digital disruption, communities have been inundated with news and information. But these days, it's actually harder to find the accurate, contextual, local news and information that is essential to everyday democracy," said Lilly Weinberg, director of Knight's community foundations program. "Funders have a role to play in finding these gaps and working with residents to discover ways to fill them."