Knight commits $9 million to civic technology and engagement

TED, Code for America and New York University receive support

LONG BEACH, CALIF. (Feb. 25, 2013) – Knight Foundation today underlined its belief in the potential of technology to revitalize democracy with $9 million in new support for three national organizations: Code for America, NYU Wagner and TED.

The funding, part of Knight’s Tech for Engagement Initiative, will strengthen the growing field of civic technologists using new tools to reimagine civic life.

“We believe in the power of connected action,” said Damian Thorman, Knight’s director of national programs. “We’ve seen that technology can engage people in community decision-making beyond the election cycle. But the field of tech for engagement is young, and needs infrastructure to develop to its full potential.”

Knight Foundation’s funding will:

Expand Code for America ($5 million): The self-described “Peace Corps for Geeks” is building a network of cities, citizens, community groups and startups committed to helping government work better for everyone. With new Knight funding, Code for America will expand one of its four programs to 13 communities. The organization, which has helped accelerate innovation in local governments, will also redeploy the successful apps and platforms it develops to more communities.

“We see the challenges local governments face everyday," said Jen Pahlka, Code for America’s founder and executive director. "By working side by side with residents and government staff, we hope to develop more ways that technology can help cities be the more open, transparent and participatory places we all need them to be.” 

Build a University-Based Network ($3.12 million): Housed at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University, the GovLab will train graduate students across disciplines and universities to design, build and implement tech-based solutions to pressing problems communities face across the country. Through its project-based learning work, GovLab Academy aims to instill the mindset and skillset required to tackle the pressing need for institutional innovation. Leading experts will train teams of graduate students to work with communities to develop solutions. Knight funding complements a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to study the impact of the academy’s projects and share the lessons learned.

“We can create institutions that know how to efficiently embrace the freewheeling, distributed, diverse and collaborative ways of solving big and small problems more common to open source programmers and global social movements,” said Beth Noveck, NYU Wagner Professor and former White House Deputy Chief Technology Officer. “We believe that everyone is an expert in something and many would be willing to participate in the life of our democracy, if given the opportunity to do so meaningfully.”  

Put TED Ideas into Action ($985,000): TED is a community of some of the most talented problem-solvers in the world, and its events produce many breakthrough “Ideas Worth Spreading.” Knight is partnering with TED, a non-profit organization, to work on amplifying and measuring the impact of these ideas as they ripple through society, producing technology tools and best practices for connected action. At this week’s annual TED conference, Knight is running a workshop on online engagement that features members of the TED community from the business, political and social sectors, and sponsoring a pavilion centered on Tech for Engagement, that will be the scene of several problem-solving TED challenges.

 “Understanding how ideas turn into action is a key priority for many in our community," said Chris Anderson, TED's Curator. "We're excited to be building a new web feature to track the impact some of our talks have. And it's been thrilling to see the demand for participation in our challenges initiative at TED2013."

About Tech for Engagement

Knight Foundation’s Tech for Engagement Initiative sees the potential of technology to transform democracy by allowing people to directly engage with neighbors and leaders in ways we have not yet imagined. An early funder in this nascent field, Knight has seen visible progress in this area, with online tools gathering opinions on civic issues, and open platforms making some government functions more efficient. Through this funding and other projects, the foundation seeks to fulfill the true potential of engaging citizens in solving the major challenges of their communities.

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 www.knightfoundation.org.

Contacts:

Andrew Sherry, Vice President/Communications, (305) 908-2677, media@knightfoundation.org

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 www.knightfoundation.org.