Knight News Challenge on Elections offers more than $3 million for innovative ideas

Press Release

February 25, 2015


The Democracy Fund, the Hewlett Foundation, and the Rita Allen Foundation 
team with Knight Foundation for innovation contest

MIAMI – Feb. 25, 2015 – The next Knight News Challenge opens today looking to fund ideas that better inform voters and increase civic participation before, during and after elections.

Related Link

"Knight News Challenge on Elections opens for ideas" on Knight Blog by Jennifer Preston, 2/25/15

The challenge is a collaboration between the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, a leading funder of news and media innovation, and three other foundations: the Democracy Fund, the Rita Allen Foundation and the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation. Winners will receive a share of more than $3 million, which includes up to $250,000 from the Democracy Fund.

Applicants can enter by completing a brief entry on by March 19 that answers the question: How might we better inform voters and increase civic participation before, during and after elections?

The challenge aims to attract a broad range of innovative ideas from journalists, civic technologists, academics, students, startups, nonprofits, businesses, governments and individuals.

“Digital tools and behaviors have changed the way we live our lives, and hold the potential to have a bigger impact on the way we use and access civic information,” said John Bracken, Knight Foundation vice president for media innovation. “We hope to learn how, through elections, we can build more informed communities in a democracy.”

“We see a huge opportunity for journalists, citizen journalists and technologists to work together on a wide array of projects from bringing more transparency to money and politics to dissecting the nuances of complicated issues,” said Jennifer Preston, Knight Foundation vice president for journalism.

"Election officials working with academics or startups with nonprofits could spark new ways to give Americans the information and tools they need to fully engage in civic life on Election Day and year round,” said Tom Glaisyer, program director for informed participation at the Democracy Fund. "We hope collaboration across the election administration, technology, and media fields will lead to innovative approaches that make voting easy, efficient, and fair.”

“We hope this round of the Knight News Challenges spurs journalists, technologists and civic innovators to develop new ideas that can lead to measurable improvements in civic engagement, which will, in turn, strengthen our representative institutions,” said Kelly Born, program officer at the Hewlett Foundation.

"By joining the Knight News Challenge collaboration, we are seeking to jump-start new projects using digital tools to improve the ease with which Americans are informed about and engaged in the democratic process,” said Elizabeth Christopherson, president and CEO, the Rita Allen Foundation. “This is a powerful opportunity for people with diverse perspectives to come together around the essential work of building a more informed and collaborative society."

The Open IDEO-powered platform facilitates conversations across projects and allows applicants to refine their ideas based on user comments and suggestions. In mid-April, Knight will select a smaller group of semifinalists to move forward in the contest and provide additional information on their ideas.

The challenge is open to anyone; for-profits, nonprofits and individuals from anywhere can apply. More information is available in our FAQ section on

Virtual office hours and in-person community gatherings for those who want to learn more are also being held and scheduled in the coming weeks. The schedule, which is regularly updated, can be accessed here:

The Knight News Challenge accelerates media innovation and advances journalism in the digital age by funding the best breakthrough ideas. Since 2007 Knight Foundation has reviewed more than 10,000 News Challenge applications and provided more than $50 million in funding to 133 projects. This is the first News Challenge of 2015. The theme of the last round was libraries, and the 22 winners were announced in January.

The application period for this round on elections will close at 5 p.m. ET March 19, 2015. Experts will help Knight and a set of advisers review the entries. Winners will be announced in June 2015.

Visit to apply.

* The Knight News Challenge will only support nonpartisan ideas. There are categories of ideas the Challenge will not fund, under laws governing elections and nonprofit organizations. It will not support ideas that are aimed to influence the outcome of any specific election or legislation. Nor will it fund, directly or indirectly, a voter registration drive. We will be offering virtual office hours during the application period and otherwise responding to questions to make sure applicants are clear on the parameters.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit

About the Democracy Fund

The Democracy Fund is a private foundation that fosters the highest ideals of the American republic – government of, by, and for the people – by investing in efforts to ensure that the U.S. political system is responsive to the priorities of the American public and has the capacity to rise to meet the challenges facing the country. The Fund supports organizations working to strengthen our media, improve the administration of our election and campaign finance systems, and foster more effective governance in the United States. For more information, visit

About the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation helps people build measurably better lives. The Foundation concentrates its resources on activities in education, the environment, global development and population, performing arts, and philanthropy, as well as grants to support disadvantaged communities in the San Francisco Bay Area. A full list of the Hewlett Foundation's grants can be found in its online grants database.

About the Rita Allen Foundation

The Rita Allen Foundation invests in transformative ideas in their earliest stages to leverage their growth and promote breakthrough solutions to significant problems. Established in 1953, it has provided major grants to more than 130 early-career biomedical scholars, many of whom have made important advances with their research. Since 2009, the Foundation’s resources and areas of investment have expanded. It now supports innovative approaches to challenging problems in science and society, with a focus on promoting informed engagement in civic life. Throughout its work, the Foundation embraces collaboration, creativity, learning and leadership.


Anusha Alikhan, Director of Communications, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, 305-908-2677, [email protected]