$9 Million in Grants Aim to Improve Civic Engagement

This week, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced the recipients of $9 million in funding aimed at utilizing technology to get people "more deeply engaged in community life." The announcement was not without controversy.
February 27, 2013, 2pm PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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"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," says Damian Thorman on the foundation's blog. "We’d like see technology enable broad-based engagement, amplify what it means to be a citizen and ultimately revitalize democracy."

"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," writes Thorman.

Sounds like a good idea, huh? But, as Nick Judd reports, the announcement has caused a bit of controversy. "The smallest grant from Knight announced Monday has caused the greatest stir. Knight is giving nearly $1 million to TED, the flashy, expensive conference that produces web videos of 'ideas worth spreading.'"

In TED, "Knight is picking a curious partner if it wants to have a transformative effect on American democracy," says Judd. "TED has shown an active interest in avoiding ideas that its curators deem to be too transformative."

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Published on Monday, February 25, 2013 in Knight Blog
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