By Donna Frisby-Greenwood

So far, Philly hasn't taken the 21st century lying down.

Despite our ongoing challenges, our city has reversed decades of postindustrial decline and grown for seven years straight, defying the negative trends facing many other Northern cities. We have become known as a hub of innovation, home to a vibrant culture of local activism and civic involvement.

But as the economy evolves, so must Philly. We need as many residents as possible contributing their ideas and thoughts about what type of city they want Philadelphia to be, and how to make that vision a reality.

To spur and continue these types of discussions, the Knight Foundation has launched its Knight Cities Challenge, a $5 million initiative to help Philadelphia and 25 other cities reach their potential. The challenge hopes to start an exchange of ideas around three core concepts that affect city success the most: attracting talented people, expanding economic opportunity, and creating a culture of civic engagement.

No matter your profession or background, this is a great opportunity to discuss where our priorities are and where they should be now and in the future. If you have any thoughts for how to continue to make Philadelphia a better city, we strongly encourage you to submit an application.

Think about all of the amazing things happening here recently: the remaking of Dilworth Plaza into Dilworth Park; the wonderful Night Markets hosted by the Food Trust; the Welcoming Center's new immigrant professionals program; and Campus Philly's great work in attracting and keeping college students.

This could be just the beginning for Philadelphia. At the Knight Foundation, we believe there are many great ideas out there, and not just within the usual circles that win these types of challenges and discuss civic issues. Plenty of Philly residents have probably thought about something that would make this city a better place to live and work, but never were afforded the opportunity to propose their ideas, develop them, and possibly receive financial support.

The Knight Foundation is committed to bringing the best, most innovative ideas to the table - anyone with a big idea should apply. Activists, designers, artists, planning professionals, hackers, architects, city officials, educators, nonprofits, entrepreneurs, block captains, social workers, everyone is welcome to enter the challenge. The initial application is intentionally very simple: It is just two questions, and has no requirement for a detailed budget or a list of bona fides. We hope to encourage applications from people who aren't professional grant writers and haven't worked with the Knight Foundation before.

Successful cities need to be spaces where opportunity is open (and expanding) to all of its residents. This requires creating places where people from diverse backgrounds can come together and connect across economic divides, sharing their strengths throughout the entire community and the city at-large. We've deliberately built this openness into our application process and hope this spurs discussions - and action - encouraging community innovation beyond the challenge's conclusion.

This is a unique and important opportunity for everyone in Philadelphia to contribute ideas for making our city a better place. We believe no project is too small, so long as the idea is big. To submit your big idea, visit The deadline is 5 p.m. Friday.