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Knight Foundation - $9 million boost with Technology for Engagement - Code for America 5M, NYU 3M, TED ~1M

From: Steven Clift <clift@e-democracy.org>
Date: Mon, 25 Feb 2013 09:42:23 -0600
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Feb 25, 2013
Knight commits $9 million to civic technology and engagement
TED, Code for America and New York University receive support

"Knight doubles down on tech’s potential to connect communities for
action" on Knight Blog
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


Andrew Sherry, Vice President/Communications, (305) 908-2677,


Knight doubles down on tech’s potential to connect communities for action

For several years, an important slice of Knight Foundation’s
grantmaking has been devoted to finding ways communities can use
technology to connect for action. Nothing will ever replace
face-to-face contact, but the new found ability of huge portions of
the earth’s population to connect to one another instantly is clearly

Our goal is to help those transformative benefits flow to places they
won’t automatically go on their own, starting with physical
communities. We’d like see technology enable broad-based engagement,
amplify what it means to be a citizen and ultimately revitalize

Two years ago we labeled this field Tech for Engagement, and we’ve
seen its potential confirmed by some early successes. New tools are
getting people more deeply engaged in community life, whether that
means building playgrounds, conducting community planning or finding
ways to make government more transparent.

Many of these innovations however are limited in scope and
scalability. The potential of Tech for Engagement will only be
realized when connected citizens not only report potholes, but use
technology to address society’s big problems and opportunities. We
believe technology can help people create solutions together in ways
we haven’t yet imagined.

That is unlikely to happen on its own, so we are building an
infrastructure to make it possible. Market forces aren’t – yet -
propelling droves of people into civic tech careers. To push the
field, funders need to step in to help build a corps of civic-minded
technologists who are passionate about using their skills for the
greater good.

So today, we’re excited to announce $9 million in funding to Code for
America, New York University and TED to help develop the people, ideas
and infrastructure  to realize the potential of Tech for Engagement.

We’re starting this week at TED, whose robust community of designers
and problem solvers routinely produce breakthrough “Ideas Worth
Spreading.” Knight is partnering with TED to amplify and measure the
impact of those ideas as they ripple through society, producing tools
and solutions. Over the weekend, Knight ran a series of workshops at
TED annual conference where executives from Google, Zappos, IBM, and
the political sector lent their online engagement expertise to
challenges in the civic sector.  In the future, two TED Fellows will
be working on projects that use tech to engage communities. It’s the
beginning of what we hope will mean more good tech-driven and
people-centered ideas scaled to cities around the country.

In addition, we’re working with the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School
of Public Service at New York University to create a learning network
of technologists and social entrepreneurs at leading universities
around the country. The network will not only provide training but
also help about 100 communities across the country identify
challenges, and then use technology to solve them. One of the things
we love about this project is the way it will put people front and
center in helping to design their own solutions.

As these projects unfold, the MacArthur Foundation will help measure
their impact and disseminate the findings to develop the field. Beth
Noveck, former deputy White House CTO, is leading this along with
other leaders including Clay Shirky, Susan Crawford, Archon Fung and

Finally, we’ll also help Code for America reach 13 communities. Knight
was the first foundation to invest in Code for America, and we’ve been
proud to watch it grow to become a network of more than 500 civic tech
leaders in more than 40 cities.  Day to day it shows cities what’s
possible with today’s technology – by embedding fellows in city
governments to find local solutions and recruiting volunteers to help
make their communities more open and participatory. One woman in New
Orleans was so moved by an app that shows all blighted properties in
the city that she went up to the fellow after the meeting and gave him
a hug, presumably relieved to have visibility into what the government
was doing in her own neighborhood.

Knight Foundation believes that no one is better qualified to govern
an informed and engaged community than its own citizens. With Tech for
Engagement, we hope to help them do just that.

By Damian Thorman, national program director at Knight Foundation

Steven Clift - http://stevenclift.com
  Executive Director - http://E-Democracy.org
  Twitter: http://twitter.com/democracy
  Tel/Text: +1.612.234.7072
Received on Monday, 25 February 2013 15:42:56 UTC

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