Local finalists for Knight Foundation prize

Lee Mengistu

Six community projects from Lexington have a chance to win a cut of a $5 million annual prize from the Knight Foundation.

Each year, the Knight Foundation distributes a cumulative $5 million to project proposals in the 26 cities where its founders, brothers John S. and James L. Knight, once published newspapers. 

Anyone can submit a proposal, but the project must answer the question, “How can we make our cities more successful?” The projects attract talent, expand opportunities and promote civic engagement.

Over 4,500 applicants nationwide applied for the challenge, and is now narrowed down to 144 finalists. The six finalists from Lexington include a communal hardware store in the North Limestone neighborhood, pop-up art installations in a Southland strip mall and a project to simplify complicated civic data through bluegrass music.

Richard Young, an organizational development consultant for the 4-year civic engagement campaign ProgressLex, submitted a proposal on behalf of his organization to simplify and present the movements of city hall in an accessible website updated by paid citizen journalists.

Civiclex.org would focus on “informing and engaging more people about the issues facing city government through a new digital platform,” according to a press release.

The site would “create one location where you can spend ten minutes reading everything that’s in one place and have a fairly decent grasp of the issue versus having to hunt down a bunch of stuff,” Young said.

Similar sites, like Countable.org, break down the movements of bills and issues that pass through the halls of Congress for users who opt to use the site. But CivicLex.org would simplify local issues, like the upcoming city comprehensive plan update. 

“We want to utilize social media and use physical, non-digital means to get information out,” Young said.

This is the third year of the challenge. Previous winners from Lexington, including a permanent home for the rotating local farmer’s market and a civic engagement lab in a downtown parking lot, are in the works. Finalists must present a budget and The Knight Foundation board of trustees will announce the winners in late spring.