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August 30, 2018
Empowering local communities through games: Introducing the Niantic/Knight Fellows Program
Blog > Empowering local communities through games: Introducing the Niantic/Knight Fellows Program
August 30, 2018
Empowering local communities through games: Introducing the Niantic/Knight Fellows Program

At Niantic, one of our core goals is to connect our users with their local communities through real world exploration. Over the past few years, and with the help of some amazing partners, we’ve been able to bring communities together, educate players on the history of their neighborhoods, help students in the classroom further their understanding of the world around them, and create places for our communities to play games together. Passionate and knowledgeable individuals are the key to making these moments happen. We have made it part of our mission to work with people who are dedicated to positively impacting our local communities through games. In collaboration with our partners at Knight Foundation, through the partnership that we announced last year, we’re now directly empowering people to do so.

Since the launch, we’ve collaborated on events in four U.S. cities, including open-streets festivals in Philadelphia, Charlotte, North Carolina, and San Jose; a university welcoming weekend in Akron, Ohio; and local library explorations in Philadelphia. We’ve seen firsthand how technology can enhance or augment existing community efforts to support vibrant public life.

Building on the success of these events, we’re thrilled to launch the Niantic/Knight Fellows Program, a 6-month initiative enabling local leaders to use Niantic technologies, such as those found in Pokémon GO, to create a positive impact in their communities. The inaugural cohort of five fellows are leaders who are passionate about technology, augmented reality and their local communities. They are tasked with bringing projects to life that address issues within their communities using Niantic technology, while promoting resident engagement.

The five fellows dedicated to making a positive impact in their respective cities are:

  • Ming-Chun Lee - Charlotte, North Carolina
  • Roger Riddle - Akron, Ohio
  • Joey Allen - Macon, Georgia
  • Christopher Foreman - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Collin Fraum - Palm Beach, Florida


Efforts by these fellows to incorporate Niantic technology into local community activities are already underway. Last week in Akron, Ohio, Suzie Graham (of the Downtown Akron Project) and Roger Riddle helped integrate Pokémon GO into back-to-back community weekend events: the Porch Rokr Annual Music & Art Festival on August 18 and the In the 330 walking event on August 25. During each of the events, the team installed temporary in-game locations surrounding the event area, setting up Lures, which are items designed to increase the appearance of nearby Pokémon, throughout the festival and passing out posters to participants. Ultimately they drew in approximately 1,000 players, encouraging residents to explore one of Akron’s most historic and eclectic neighborhoods.

On September 30 in Charlotte, North Carolina, Ming-Chun Lee will incorporate Pokémon GO in the city’s Open Streets 704 event, getting players to go outside, walk and bike through the streets, and build a sense of community.

On October 7 in Macon, Georgia, Joey Allen will participate in another Open Streets event that will integrate Pokémon GO to bring people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds together to walk, skate, bike and re-imagine how we use public streets.

The Niantic/Knight Fellows Program is an exciting part of Niantic and Knight Foundation’s efforts to harness the power of technology to spark public life in communities. We are eager to see the impact of each fellow’s projects, to share lessons learned and to continue exploring innovative and immersive strategies that strengthen communities.

If you’re using AR or one of our games to help promote community building or education, please write to us and tell us what you’re working on at

—Yennie Solheim, Social Impact

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