Photo credit: Chris Barr.
Sometimes you have a great idea, and you just need time, space and some capital to test it. Seventeen projects will get that chance as the latest recipients of Prototype Fund grants from Knight Foundation.
The Prototype Fund is designed to give people with great concepts for media and information projects grants of $35,000 and six months to take their idea all the way to demo with a class of others facing a similar challenge. What can you learn in six months? Quite a bit.
Recently, grantees, friends and advisers gathered at Matter in San Francisco to watch presentations from Knight grantees completing their Prototype Fund grant experience. The event focused on highlighting learnings from projects started six months earlier.
In the case of this group, we learned how youth can learn about fair use to become little Jon Stewarts, how live video can engage radio audiences, and how sometimes, despite technological advances, parts of your community might prefer a paper map. The presenters talked about how they tested assumptions, addressed technical challenges and worked to understand user needs.
We fully expect some of the grantees will move on to further funding from Knight Foundation and other sources. Two of the projects from the recent class have already secured outside funding. Max Ogen’s DAT has received a grant from the Sloan Foundation and will become a project of the Open Data Institute, and 596 Acre’s Living Lots project has received an OpenGov grant from the Sunlight Foundation.
In all 17, projects presented at demo day: The Rashomon Project, Curious City, How Secure Am I?, DocHive, WFMU, CollabMatch, Transom Online Workshops, Radiotopia, VoteStream, Kon*Fab, Data Docs, DAT, FOIA Machine, Living Lots, OnBoard and Media Breaker.
However, the event wasn’t just for grantees completing their experience. Team members from the 17 new projects were there as well, beginning their Knight experience. In what Journalism and Media Innovation Vice President Michael Maness refers to as an “engineered collision,” the grantees took advantage of the learning and peer networking moment before a two-day innovation boot camp, designed to give them tools to better understand the needs of users.
The latest projects receiving investments in this Prototype Fund round are:
Capitol Hound: Offering the public a searchable database of the transcripts of North Carolina legislative sessions, including an audio archive and alert system for General Assembly sessions and committee meetings.
Expunge.io: Producing a youth-developed mobile app designed to help juvenile offenders navigate complex government and legal processes.
GovLoop Academy: Developing an online education site for federal, state and local government employees that will feature free, short training content: webinars, videos and podcasts.
LibraryBox: Improving a device that provides access to digital information in areas with poor or no Internet connectivity.
Louder: Testing the use of a crowdfunded advertising platform that allows users to donate small amounts to spread news and information that is important to them.
Minezy: Creating a tool to help journalists more easily find information in email archives received through Freedom of Information Act requests by analyzing data and highlighting important social relationships, dates and topics.
MLRun: Helping journalists create deeper stories through a user-friendly Web platform that helps analyze large data sets by discovering patterns in documents.
News On Demand: Increasing the “quality time” people spend with news by building a system that provides news based on a reader’s available time and attention level.
Open Data Philly: Improving government transparency and citizen engagement by expanding OpenDataPhilly.org, which provides access to data related to the Philadelphia region.
PressSecure: Making it easier for citizen journalists to share and preserve media through a mobile app that unites the efforts of public-interest archives, mobile security experts and free press advocates.
Project Fission: Creating a newsroom tool that allows journalists to collect and explore small units of information that can be pulled together to create new story formats.
SmartResponse.org: Tracking the effectiveness of disaster relief organizations to provide people with better information on the capacity and funding of organizations directly involved in relief efforts.
Tabula: Improving an open-source tool that makes it easier for journalists to extract data from PDF documents.
Tipsy: Making it easier for content providers to generate revenue by developing a new way to fund news sites through micropayments from readers.
Uncovering Cost, Examining Impact: Developing a crowdsourcing tool to collect data from California residents about what they pay for common health care procedures and making the information available to journalists and the public through KQED, Southern California Public Radio and ClearHealthCosts.com.
Whilecard: Creating a tool that recognizes user preferences for news and information based on their activities (i.e. world and sports in the morning, and stocks and tech when working).
Wiredcraft: Creating an open source tool that allows people to collaboratively edit and publish geographic data and related maps quickly and efficiently.
Check back to hear more about how this class of Prototype Fund recipients fares. The grants are available several times a year on a rolling basis. The next deadline is May 1. To learn more or to apply, visit prototypefund.org.
Chris Barr, media innovation associate at Knight Foundation