Knight Cities podcast
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Carol Coletta of Knight Foundation unearths innovative ideas for making cities successful and interviews the people behind them.

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    Knight Cities podcast: David Maraniss tells the story of how Detroit exported innovation (episode 55)

    Detroit was once the innovation center of America. Ingenuity propelled a booming auto industry, Motown synthesized and popularized a new form of music, and social change poured out on race and workers’ rights.

    In his new book, “Once in a Great City,” David Maraniss has captured this story of Detroit of the early ’60s. Born in Detroit, David is an associate editor at The Washington Post and a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and bestselling author.

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    Knight Cities podcast: Bringing renewal to Newcastle (Australia) (episode 53)

    While between projects in late 2007 and early 2008, Marcus Westbury, a maker, festival director and writer, was exploring his hometown of Newcastle, Australia, and found dozens of buildings and once-vibrant streets that 'had fallen into disrepair and despair.' Today, however, Lonely Planet describes Newcastle as a city whose 'time has finally come.' Marcus' new book, 'Creating Cities,' tells the story of how Newcastle transformed.

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    Knight Cities podcast: Renaissance of Detroit riverfront invites public participation (episode 51)

    Make your way to the edge of downtown Detroit, and you will find a river. Until recently, it wouldn't have been a very inviting experience. But today, the Detroit riverfront has become one of America's best waterfront parks. Mark Wallace is president and CEO of the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, the organization responsible for turning the waterfront into a great place for people.

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    Knight Cities podcast: Philly park with renewed sense of purpose packs in the crowds (episode 48)

    Until last summer, Philadelphia’s Spruce Street Harbor was moribund, lacking people and energy. That is, until David Fierabend and his colleagues at Groundswell Design transformed it with inexpensive, temporary design changes that have made it the place to go in the city. He discusses the project and how it was done with Knight Foundation Vice President of Community and National Initiatives Carol Coletta.

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    Knight Cities podcast: Nonprofit boards have power to influence policy – if they will seize the opportunity, with Anne Wallestad (episode 45)

    If you serve on a nonprofit board this week’s “Knight Cities” is especially for you. Raising money is part of the job for nonprofit board members, but there’s also a significant opportunity that isn’t taken advantage of nearly enough: influencing policy. This week on “Knight Cities,” we talk to BoardSource President and CEO Anne Wallestad.

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    Knight Cities podcast: Insights from Down Under in making government bureaucracy open to change, with Erma Ranieri (episode 34)

    Are “creative” and “bureaucracy” mutually exclusive terms? Erma Ranieri is working hard to prove otherwise. As commissioner for public sector employment in South Australia, she is leading Change@SouthAustralia to speed change in government. For her efforts to make government bureaucracy creative and responsive to citizens she was named 2014 Telstra South Australia Business Woman of the Year.

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    Knight Cities podcast: Philly’s Fairmount Park Conservancy shows value of public-private partnerships, with Kathryn Ott Lovell (episode 33)

    Kathryn Ott Lovell is responsible for one of the nation’s largest non-commercial public-private partnerships. She is executive director of the Fairmount Park Conservancy, an independent nonprofit organization that champions Philadelphia’s vast park system, where she orchestrates the daily dance of balancing public and private concerns and responsibilities to produce quality parks for citizens.

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    Knight Cities podcast: Building a new kind of economy, with Tessy Britton (episode 31)

    Is it time for a new kind of local economy in our cities, one that's based on people sharing their knowledge? Tessy Britton believes it is. Tessy and her colleagues at Civic Systems Lab are building a city framework where people can teach skills to those around them and learn new ones. It's part sharing economy, part neighborliness. I asked Tessy about the Civic Systems Lab and what she calls the 'new civic economy' she is helping to build.

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    Knight Cities podcast: Trial by fire in Chicago, with Jim Lasko (episode 29)

    An estimated one third of adults can be called soloists, people who work in non-traditional relationships with their employers. And the rate is growing rapidly, 15 to 17 percent every year. A soloist is, as George Gendron puts it, an extreme version of an entrepreneur and requires much of the same support and same capacities. George should know. He was editor-in-chief of Inc. Magazine for two decades, where he founded the Inc. 500 and worked with Michael Porter on the creation of the Inner City 100, a ranking of the fastest-growing companies in Americas inner cities.

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    Knight Cities podcast: How to Go Solo, with George Gendron (episode 28)

    An estimated one third of adults can be called soloists, people who work in non-traditional relationships with their employers. And the rate is growing rapidly, 15 to 17 percent every year. A soloist is, as George Gendron puts it, an extreme version of an entrepreneur and requires much of the same support and same capacities. George should know. He was editor-in-chief of Inc. Magazine for two decades, where he founded the Inc. 500 and worked with Michael Porter on the creation of the Inner City 100, a ranking of the fastest-growing companies in Americas inner cities.

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    Knight Cities podcast: Paul Grogan of The Boston Foundation (episode 27)

    Paul Grogan is one of the nations great civic innovators. He has had a 360-degree view of what makes cities tick—from his early service as aide to two Boston mayors, to the creation of the nation’s first national intermediary for community development, to the founding of CEOs for Cities, then to Harvard and now as president and CEO of the Boston Foundation. Its been a tour de force of civic service, which is why Paul always has important new insights to share on cities.

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    Knight Cities podcast: Charles Leadbeater on why empathy is essential for city success (episode 26)

    Each week, it seems someone publishes yet another list of essentials for city success. In fact, at Knight, we have our own list of these essentials: talent, opportunity and engagement. But Charles Leadbeater, a leading authority on innovation and creativity, believes empathy should be right at the top of these lists. Email me via: Coletta (at)

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    Knight Cities podcast: Miami developer Avra Jain shares insights on real estate revitalization (episode 25)

    Do you ever look at an abandoned building in your city and think, why doesn’t someone fix that up? Do you ever imagine that you might be the one to bring it back to life? Avra Jain is a Miami-based real estate investor and developer. Her latest project is the redevelopment of the famous Vagabond Motel in the up-and-coming MiMo Biscayne Boulevard Historic District, and she has advice for would-be developers. Email me via: Coletta (at)

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    Knight Cities podcast: Dennis Scholl on how art brings vibrancy to communities (episode 24)

    Making art general in cities across America is the charge of Dennis Scholl, vice president for arts at Knight Foundation.  Dennis and his colleagues are the brains behind the Knight Arts Challenge (which is currently open for ideas in South Florida), the enormously popular Random Acts of Culture, and Inside|Out, the project that takes replicas of famous works of art in museums and puts them in unexpected places. This week on “Knight Cities,” Dennis and I talk about his work and how art is bringing new vibrancy to cities. Email me via: Coletta (at)

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    Knight Cities podcast: Sandra Kulli on creating community (episode 23)

    How do you create a sense of community in a brand new development? Its a question Sandra Kulli, a real estate marketing strategist, has been wrestling with for years. She is president of Kulli Marketing, and we had a chance to catch up recently in Todos Santos, Mexico, the site of one of her newest projects, Tres Santos. Its a project that could have been a typical resort on the Pacific, but the developer chose instead to forego gates and golf courses to reach for an authentic connection to the people in this small Mexican town. Email me via: Coletta (at)

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    Knight Cities podcast: Shaun Abrahamson, on how startups can solve the challenges cities face (episode 22)

    Can business muster the will, the know-how and the capital to take on the problems cities face? Shaun Abrahamson is betting on it. He is co-founder of, a new public benefit corporation based in Miami - and a Knight Foundation grantee - that supports companies working to solve the most urgent urban challenges.  Email me via: Coletta (at)

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    Knight Cities podcast: Matt Lerner on Walk Scores and why neighborhood walkability matters (episode 21)

    What’s your Walk Score? Thats a question that has become increasingly popular among urbanists since the founding of Walk Score seven years ago. Now real estate agents prominently display the number on their listings, knowing the value it adds to properties. Matt Lerner is a co-founder of Walk Score and its original chief technology officer, and is now vice president of local engineering at Redfin, the company that purchased Walk Score in October. He is our guest this week on 'Knight Cities.' Email me via: Coletta (at)

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    Knight Cities podcast: Paul R. Levy on how Philadelphia transformed its Center City (episode 20)

    He’s been called the shadow mayor of Center City Philadelphia, and there is no one in America today who knows more about how to cultivate a downtown than Paul R. Levy. Paul is president and CEO of Center City District, the organization supported by property owners that makes the district appeal to businesses and residents alike by keeping it clean, safe, green and active. In our conversation this week, Paul explains why Philadelphia, a Knight community, is thriving again, even as it weathers a profound economic transition. And it all starts with the revitalization of the city’s Center City. Email me via: Coletta (at)

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    Knight Cities podcast: Jason Roberts on building better blocks in our communities (episode 19)

    Before planning fatigue sets in, why not just build a better block? That’s the approach of Jason Roberts who leads Team Better Block. Jason is a charismatic man who works with communities – first his own in Oak Cliff, Texas, and now with communities around the world – to turn vacant properties into lively, thriving blocks that showcase what’s possible in a neighborhood. He usually has to break a few laws to do it, but the result is places people love and want to be. It’s an approach that employs acting your way to success versus planning your way to success. Note: We're off for the holidays. We'll return on Jan. 7, 2015. Email me via: Coletta (at)

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    Knight Cities podcast: Scott Stowell on designing for people (episode 18)

    Scott Stowell runs Open, a design studio in New York. He is in the final days of a Kickstarter campaign for his new book, “Design for People,” which is filled with the stories behind the stories of the firm’s biggest design projects. In this week’s “Knight Cities,” Scott and I talk about his book and how to organize the kind of Kickstarter campaign he is using to fund it. Listen to our conversation here. And sign up for the Knight Cities newsletter to get alerts as soon as new conversations are posted. You can follow us on Twitter at #KnightCities or @KnightFdn. And if you have ideas for people you’d like to hear more from, please email me. Email me via: Coletta (at)

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    Knight Cities podcast: Ryan Gravel discusses community engagement and Atlanta’s BeltLine (episode 17)

    The Atlanta BeltLine is a massive development turning 22 miles of historic railroad corridors circling downtown into a network of parks, trails and transit to link 45 of the city’s neighborhoods. It is among the largest and most wide-ranging urban development and mobility projects in the United States. And it all began with a master’s thesis by a student at Georgia Tech, Ryan Gravel. Ryan, now a senior urban designer at Perkins+Will in the firm’s Atlanta office, explains how deep community engagement made the BeltLine a reality against all odds on this week’s “Knight Cities.” Listen to our conversation here. And sign up for the “Knight Cities” newsletter to get alerts as soon as new conversations are posted. Email me via: Coletta (at)

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    Knight Cities podcast: Alice Cabaret on innovating to improve neighborhoods (episode 16)

    Imagine a globally connected set of urban studios inviting citizens to work on their best ideas for regenerating disinvested neighborhoods. That’s the ambitious vision of South African Alice Cabaret, founder and director of GRIND, the Global Regeneration Initiative for Neighbourhood Development. GRIND is headed to Detroit and other U.S. and European cities after making its debut in Johannesburg. Alice is also urban strategist for Propertuity, developers of Johannesburg’s most exciting new creative district, the Maboneng Precinct. Alice is this week’s guest on “Knight Cities.” Email me via: Coletta (at)

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    Knight Cities podcast: Leslie Koch on transforming New York’s Governors Island into a vibrant public space (episode 15)

    How do you create a radically open platform for building new cultural capital in cities? That's been the job of Leslie Koch, president of the Trust for Governors Island, a nonprofit organization created by the city of New York to run what is an historic former military base being transformed into a park by and for New Yorkers. With the lightest possible touch, she has transformed a set of empty buildings and grounds into a platform animated by artists, collectors, and passionate hobbyists. It's a model every city can learn from. Email me via: Coletta (at)

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    Knight Cities podcast: A conversation on race and inclusion with Angela Glover Blackwell of PolicyLink (episode 14)

    The quest to be a “just and fair” nation seems like a goal every American can rally around. But when you start unpacking the racial implications of that ambition, things can get complicated fast. Angela Glover Blackwell is founder of PolicyLink, a national organization that continues to lead the always-difficult debate on race, class and inclusion in America, and she is our guest this week on “Knight Cities.” Listen to my conversation with Angela here. And sign up for the “Knight Cities” newsletter to get alerts as soon as new conversations are posted. Email me via: Coletta (at)

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    Knight Cities podcast: Terry Mazany on what's next for Chicago (episode 13)

    What would happen if thousands of people in your city got together with friends, neighbors, even strangers on a single day over a meal to discuss the future of your community? That’s the question the people at the Chicago Community Trust asked on the occasion of the foundation's 99th anniversary. And the results should serve as inspiration to cities everywhere. Terry Mazany, president of the Chicago Community Trust and mastermind behind Chicago’s "On the Table," reports on the event and tells us what’s next on this week’s "Knight Cities." Email me via: Coletta (at)

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    Knight Cities podcast: Mary Kramer discusses the catalytic effect of the catalytic effect of The Detroit Homecoming (episode 12)

    Imagine a homecoming that brought more than 100 of your city’s native luminaries back to town to see for themselves what life is like now. Then imagine you invited their investment in real estate, in businesses, in the people of your city. That's what happened in Detroit when Mary Kramer of Crain’s Detroit organized a get-together of epic proportions, complete with a prospectus of investment opportunities.This week on 'Knight Cities,' Mary describes the homecoming experience in Detroit and why the next one is already in the works. Maybe it's time your city had its own homecoming? Email me via: Coletta (at)

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    Knight Cities podcast: Jeff Risom of Gehl Architects on improving the quality of public life (episode 11)

    Public life is making a comeback in U.S. cities after more than 50 years of decline, inspired, in large part, by the work of Gehl Architects in Copenhagen. Helping cities accelerate that movement and get the details of public space right is a special talent of Jeff Risom. He is partner and managing director of Gehl Studio, the U.S. subsidiary of Gehl Architects, where he oversees design, planning and research projects throughout the Americas. Gehl has worked with cities worldwide to use public space to shape public life. Email me via: Coletta (at)

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    Knight Cities podcast: Talking livability and sustainability with Vin Cipolla (episode 10)

    Not many nonprofits have been around more than 100 years, especially ones dedicated to creating a more livable city. But the Municipal Art Society of New York ( – or MAS NYC as it is now known - has defied the odds and continues to thrive in a fast-changing city. With a storied history of championing the first municipal zoning code in the United States and saving Times Square and Grand Central Terminal, today the organization leads a broad agenda promoting the city’s economic vitality, cultural vibrancy, environmental sustainability and social diversity. This week on “Knight Cities,” our guest is Vin Cipolla, president of MAS NYC. Email me via: Coletta (at)

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    Knight Cities podcast: Phil Cooley shares insights from Detroit's comeback (episode 9)

    Phil Cooley is one of Detroit's most enthusiastic champions. Phil, the owner of Slows Bar-B-Q and developer of Ponyride, an incubator for social innovators, was an early investor in the revitalization of the city. He has been an insider to Detroit’s do-it-yourself comeback and has lessons to share for urbanists everywhere who are working to jump-start their own grassroots version of revitalization in their cities. Email me via: Coletta (at)

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    Knight Cities podcast: Neil G. Ruiz on tapping the talent pool of foreign students (episode 8)

    One of the most important sources of talent for U.S. cities is foreign students enrolled in our universities. That's why Neil Ruiz is taking a closer look at where they come from and the impact they are having. Neil is a senior policy analyst and associate fellow at The Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program. His research focuses on regional and state economic development, innovation, international migration, high-skilled immigration, as well as global economic issues. Find out how your city can increase its talent by tapping foreign students on this week's 'Knight Cities,' when I talk to Neil Ruiz. You can follow us on Twitter at #knightcities or @knightfdn. And if you have ideas for people you'd like to hear more from, please email me: Coletta (at)

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    Knight Cities podcast: Cathy Ho on how the pop-up movement is changing communities (episode 7)

    It seems that every city has its own version of pop-up parks, parklets, better blocks and other temporary design interventions intended to add life and fun to city streets. Cathy Ho curated a celebration of these clever urban actions in a major exhibition, 'Spontaneous Interventions: Design Actions for the Common Good.' It first appeared as the official U.S. presentation at the 13th International Architecture Exhibition at the Venice Biennale in 2012, and it continues to tour the U.S., first in Chicago and most recently in New York. This week we talk to Cathy Ho on 'Knight Cities' about how the pop-up movement started, what is fueling its growth and how it is changing cities. You can follow us on Twitter at #knightcities or @knightfdn. And if you have ideas for people you'd like to hear more from, please email me: Coletta (at)

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    Knight Cities podcast: Plain talk with economist Joe Cortright on the success of cities (episode 6)

    Economist Joe Cortright has been a trusted guide for urban leaders for many years. For more than a decade, he has dissected the movement of young talent through America's big cities. He calcuated the Talent Dividend and the Green Dividend for cities. He developed a way to measure changes in vibrancy associated with creative placemaking and unpacked what's really happening in the poorest neighborhoods. He is one of the world’s experts on clusters and effectively presses the case on the value of difference to cities. This week, he strongly challenged a New York Times Magazine piece on Portland that claims the city suffers from too much talent. Those are among the many reasons I am excited to talk with Joe this week on 'Knight Cities.' He is an easy-to-understand economist who uses plain talk to discuss what’s important to the success of cities. You can follow us on Twitter at #knightcities or @knightfdn. And if you have ideas for people you'd like to hear more from, please email me: Coletta (at)

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    Knight Cities podcast: Arts leader Deborah Cullinan leads community change (episode 5)

    Can a major art institution lead a city in the exploration of its most urgent economic and community development questions?  If you talk to Deborah Cullinan, executive director of San Francisco's Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the answer you get is a resounding "yes." Deborah is using the contemporary arts center she leads to shape San Francisco's future.  And it's not the first time Deborah has used her role as arts leader to change a community.  She previously served as executive director of Intersection for the Arts, an arts-focused community development organization committed to radical partnership across sectors to achieve equitable community change. Intersection played a lead role on the 5M Project, a four-acre prototype for the next generation of urban development, in downtown San Francisco's Tenderloin District. Listen to my conversation with Deborah Cullinan.

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    Knight Cities: Innovator Bryan Boyer on the future of work (episode 4)

    The work we do, where we do it, who we do it for, how much of our time we spend on it, and why we work are all in flux. To understand where all of this is going, this week "Knight Cities" talks with Bryan Boyer, principal at Dash Marshall; a partner at Makeshift Society; and a member of the board of directors at Public Policy Lab. Bryan is both thinking and acting on the growth of the independent economy and what it means to America. His three-part meditation on the questions this new economy is raising appeared on Medium earlier this year while he was guiding Knight Foundation’s thinking on how to harness more talent in Knight cities. And he calls the startup of Makeshift Society in Brooklyn his exploration of what the 21st century chamber of commerce for the design community might look like.

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    Knight Cities podcast: A conversation with San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed on attracting and retaining talent (episode 3)

    As mayor of San Jose, Chuck Reed has confronted some of the thorniest issues facing cities: the need to renegotiate employee pensions, the tensions between wanting good urban planning and accommodating new corporate headquarters, the drying up of state funds, the need for cities such as San Jose to build strong brands. In this week’s 'Knight Cities,' Mayor Reed talks frankly about these and other challenges, along with one of the innovative ways he is tapping new talent for City Hall.  He also gives voters advice on what to look for in a candidate running for mayor.

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