Tallahassee, Fla., – The Community Foundation of North Florida, in partnership with The Village Square, recently received a $72,000 challenge grant to revitalize the dialogue among the city’s diverse residents around community issues. The project entitled “We the People” will create a 21st Century virtual and face-to-face public square by offering unique town hall forums, in addition to constructive online engagement through a community problem-solving Wiki. The project’s goal is to renew Tallahassee’s marketplace of ideas where good solutions rise from an informed citizenship, and where abundant information can be channeled into constructive results.

The grant was awarded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation as a part of the Knight Community Information Challenge. The challenge is a five-year, $24 million initiative to help community and place-based foundations find creative ways to use new media and technology to keep residents informed and engaged. The Community Foundation of North Florida is one of 24 community and place-based foundations recently selected to receive a grant in this highly competitive national grant contest.

“Access to information is essential for the quality of life in our community and for providing resources to help increase access for all citizens,” said Joy Watkins, President of the Community Foundation of North Florida. “Through this grant contest, Knight is challenging communities across the country to respond to the changing media landscape and ensure that residents have access to information. We are pleased to be able to support Knight’s work in our area, strengthen The Village Square’s endeavors, and increase access to information for citizens in our community.”

“Information is as important to a thriving democracy as clean air, jobs and schools. As leaders, local foundations are taking the initiative to meet those information needs,” said Trabian Shorters, Knight Foundation’s vice president for communities, who leads the challenge. “This project and others like it help ensure that everyone has the information necessary to make decisions about their governments and their lives.”

Allan Katz co-founded The Village Square in 2006 with Tallahassee Community College President Dr. Bill Law. “Rapid changes in the way we communicate with each other and the hyper-partisan environment nationally have left communities less able to deal with local and state issues constructively,” said Katz, a former Tallahassee city commissioner who has been nominated by President Obama to become U.S. Ambassador to Portugal. “The best ideas in a democracy come from engaged and informed citizenship,” said Law. “This project will bring more light and less heat to problems ahead of us.”

“The social glue of communities has changed substantially over the last 40 years,” said Joyner. “Civic clubs and service organizations used to knit us together to form a geographical community whose bond was greater than political difference. But ideology-based groups are on the rise and, as a result, our unique made-in-America social fabric is fraying.”

“We the People” will expand The Village Square programming on local and state issues through varying formats like “Dinner at the Square,” “Take-out Tuesday,” “Politics, Partisans & A Pint” and “Sunday Night Supper Club,” intentionally reviving community between people with diverse perspectives.

To compliment these face-to-face forums, the project will have an online component: A Wiki-based online problem-solving tool, where neighbors can collaborate to assemble relevant facts and resources for addressing local, state and national issues. “We hope to create an online community that defies the trend toward angry likeminded groups; where people will treat each other with the same respect as they do when they see neighbors at the grocery store or at their mailbox,” said Joyner.

Learn more about the project HERE.
Learn how you can get involved HERE.

Read entire press release HERE.