The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has announced grants totaling $9 million to Code for America, the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University, and TED, a nonprofit devoted to "ideas worth spreading," to create new tools that strengthen civic engagement.
Awarded through the foundation's Tech for Engagement initiative, the grants include $5 million to Code for America, which will expand its efforts to accelerate innovation in local government to more communities, and $985,000 to help TED amplify and measure the impact of the ideas it helps to promote as they ripple through society. In addition, NYU Wagner's Governance Lab (GovLab Research and Academy) was awarded $3.12 million to train graduate students across disciplines and institutions to design, build, and implement technology-based solutions to the challenges communities across America face. The funding from Knight complements a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to study the impact of the academy's projects and share 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, an 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."
"We believe in the power of connected action," said Knight Foundation director of national programs Damian Thorman. "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."