Foundation pushes technology’s ability to transform government

By Ben Gose

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation on Monday announced three new grants, totaling more than $9-million, designed to jump-start efforts to use technology to get people more engaged in civic life and to help local governments run better.

Code for America, a three-year-old nonprofit that seeks to increase the number of technology experts working to make city governments more open and efficient, will receive a $5-million grant from Knight’s Tech for Engagement program.

Code for America has four programs that help city governments and civic-oriented start-ups become more efficient through the use of technology. One of the programs, dubbed “Peace Corps for geeks,” deploys technology fellows to selected cities for a year.

In Boston, Code for America developed an app called “Adopt-a-Hydrant” that allows people to volunteer to be responsible for shoveling snow away from fire hydrants following big storms. That app is now being spread to other cities.

The new Knight grant will enable Code for America to expand one of its four programs to 13 new communities. Although the organization typically works in a new city for just one year, in three cities where Knight has a resident program director, the program will run for four years, to test whether the longer period enables the group to have a greater impact, says Damian Thorman, the foundation’s national program director.

This is the second grant Knight has awarded the organization. In 2010, Knight became the first foundation to support Code for America, with a $750,000 grant.

“We’re doubling down on this model,” Mr. Thorman says. “We want to give Code the opportunity to really scale their work.”



About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit