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Village Square Expands to St. Petersburg, Florida

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 21, 2012

THE VILLAGE SQUARE EXPANDS TO SECOND FLORIDA CITY
St. Petersburg College launches bipartisan non-profit founded by Tallahassee leaders

(TALLAHASSEE, FL) – May 21, 2012 – Tomorrow night, The Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions at St. Petersburg College becomes the first spinoff of Tallahassee-based nonprofit The Village Square as it hosts former U.S. Senator and Florida Governor Bob Graham.

The Village Square, founded by a group of Tallahassee leaders who enjoyed friendships despite their divergent political views, is dedicated to growing constructive, civil dialogue on matters of local, state and national importance. In its 6 years, the organization has hosted thousands of residents at over 50 programs on topics that range from Florida constitutional amendments to energy to the challenging intersection of faith and politics. The Village Square was the recipient of the highly nationally competitive Knight Community Information Challenge grant in 2009 awarded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to grow informed and engaged communities.

“We’re delighted to be partnering with St. Petersburg College as we grow beyond Tallahassee,” said The Village Square Board Co-chair, County Commissioner Bryan Desloge. “The College’s unique reach into their community is a great match for the neighborly spirit that has contributed to our success in Tallahassee.”

David Klement is the Executive Director of the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions. He reflects on the launch, in planning for over a year: “I am honored to have the Institute chosen to be the first ‘clone’ of The Village Square Tallahassee. It is a powerful concept for raising the level of public discourse, and we are excited at the prospect of sharing it with the Pinellas County community. The success of The Village Square Tallahassee is proof that people really do want to have meaningful conversations about the pressing issues of the day in a non-partisan, non-hostile atmosphere.”

Governor Graham was chosen to kick off The Village Square in St. Petersburg because he epitomizes its spirit. He is regarded as one of the nation’s senior statesmen, respected on both sides of the political aisle for his collaborative leadership style and for his 38-year career of public service. He will speak Tuesday night on the topic of “Restoring Civics Education and Renewing Our Democracy.”

For more information about the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions, go online to www.spcollege.edu/solutions or call (727) 394-6933. For more information on The Village Square, go to www.tothevillagesquare.org, or call (850) 264-8785.

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Community Foundation and Village Square Benefit from a Knight Foundation Challenge Grant

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Joy Watkins, President
Community Foundation of North Florida
(850) 222-2899 ext. 104
jwatkins@cfnf.org
www.cfnf.org

COMMUNITY FOUNDATION AND VILLAGE SQUARE BENEFIT FROM A KNIGHT FOUNDATION CHALLENGE GRANT

Tallahassee, Fla., January 13, 2010 – In a highly competitive national grant contest, the Community Foundation of North Florida is one of 24 community and place-based foundations recently selected to receive a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The grant was awarded as a part of The Knight Community Information Challenge, 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, in partnership with The Village Square, 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 aim 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 requires a $50,000 match from our community making the total project budget $122,000.

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

“The Village Square is thrilled to have this opportunity to partner with the Community Foundation and the Knight Foundation. The Village Square’s mission is to encourage civil dialogue about community issues and to ensure the people of our community receive factual information about those issues. Our work is right in line with what the Knight Foundation is trying to accomplish. This grant will enhance our work by allowing us to get more information to a broader audience.” Liz Joyner, Executive Director of The Village Square.

Allen Katz co-founded The Village Square in 2006, along 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,” says 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,” says 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,” according to 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,” says Joyner.

“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,” says Joyner.

“This grant presents a great opportunity for our organization and our community”, says Joyner. “We have a lot of work ahead of us to raise the $50,000 match and to implement the details of the project. Our hope is that the community will rally with us to raise the matching funds and help us improve the vitality of our community by increasing access to civil and factual information in our community.”

To learn more about the project or to get involved with The Village Square, please go to www.tothevillagesquare.org or contact Liz Joyner at liz@tothevillagesquare.org or (850) 264-8785.

About the Community Foundation of North Florida
The Community Foundation of North Florida is a nonprofit public charity serving the 10 county Big Bend area by facilitating and promoting charitable giving and strengthening nonprofit organizations. The Foundation helps people give in perpetuity to their favorite charities and helps nonprofit organizations with grants, education and endowment building expertise. For more information, contact Joy Watkins, President, at jwatkins@cfnf.org or 850-222-2899 ext. 104.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation advances journalism in the digital age and invests in the vitality of communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. Knight Foundation focuses on projects that promote community engagement and lead to transformational change. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.

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