UCD Named Knight Cities Challenge Finalist for Proposal to Study Justice in Public Spaces

Jan 17, 2017 7 months ago

We are pleased to announce we were named today as a finalist in the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s third annual Knight Cities Challenge. The Knight Foundation received more than 4,500 applications in its national call for proposals to answer the question of how to make cities more successful. We were named as one of only 144 finalists in the 26 communities where the Knight Foundation invests to make communities more vibrant places to live and work.

For the Knight Cities Challenge, we are proposing to develop and deploy a “Just Space” audit to assess our network of public space projects, including The Porch at 30th Street, our Parklets, and our pedestrian plazas, building on the notion that public spaces are forums to be experienced and negotiated across lines of race, class, gender, age, sexual preference, ethnicity and ability differences. We will use our nationally recognized, data-driven approach to placemaking to assess our public spaces to understand:

  • who has access to our spaces (distributional justice);
  • how the public perceives fairness in decision-making about the spaces (procedural justice);
  • and what constitutes quality interpersonal interactions in our spaces (interactional justice).


We plan to engage a broad range of partners from academia, the community, and outside practitioners to produce a tool to assess projects and devise interventions. We envision the product being used by space planners and managers in Philadelphia and beyond.

Across Philadelphia, considerable investments are being made in developing and restoring public spaces in the city. We are prepared to build on our own history of evaluation and evolution to engage with important and often difficult questions about equity. We are guided by a deep curiosity and commitment to studying the public realm, and by using the data we will produce from this audit, we can contribute to a crucial conversation about justice. 

The Knight Foundation board of trustees will collaborate with experts and reviewers to select winners of the challenge. The winners will be announced in spring of 2017, and will receive a portion of a $5 million total pool of funds to implement their proposals. For more information, and to see the full list of finalists, visit knightcities.org.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. They invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Their goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which they believe are essential for a healthy democracy.

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