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11 Risky New Ideas Score Funding from Knight Foundation's Prototype Fund

Government may once again find itself the peripheral beneficiary of the Knight Prototype Fund, as the latest round of funding focuses chiefly on media and data consumption.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is funding 11 risky new ideas through its Knight Prototype Fund, the foundation announced Feb. 23. The projects, which are chiefly themed around media and data consumption, will each receive $35,000. This round of funding makes $9 million invested in the Knight Prototype Fund since 2012, and could give government new ideas in the fields of open data, civic engagement and innovation.

“Funds like the Prototype Fund are important because we have a need to spread innovation and rapid iteration within the media and public sector,” Chris Barr, Knight Foundation director for media innovation, told Government Technology. “Without funds like this, it would be likely that many of these projects wouldn’t get off the ground. The Prototype Fund is risk capital, so it really allows for early stage experimentation that otherwise people would have to bootstrap or prioritize internally within their organizations.”

Past Knight Prototype Fund projects include GovLoop, a social hub for government innovation, and mRelief, a tool for matching benefits recipients with their entitlements.

One newly funded project is the Spectrogram Tool for Public Input, created by former Code for America senior director Catherine Bracy. The tool will attempt to pair digital tools that governments have at their disposal with missions of civic engagement and representative decision-making.

“The Spectrogram tool is really an engagement tool thinking within the context of public meetings,” Barr explained. “How can we use the Internet to provide rapid feedback from citizens without them having to be present physically at meetings?”

Other projects in this round of funding include Access Missouri, a portal designed to make it easier to explore information about legislation and legislators in the state, and the Institute for Nonprofit News' One-liner, which seeks to help newsrooms improve website performance and better understand the privacy implications of a burgeoning market of third-party analytics tools, social networking widgets and advertising software.

A project by ThirdSpace, called Visible Contracts, will try to make Philadelphia’s procurement data easier to understand by molding the city’s open data into interactive visualizations, and Authenticon by Benetech, which supports digital privacy through a free, open source tool that makes it easier to verify a person’s cryptographic or secure online identity.

The full list of funding recipients can be found on the Knight Foundation blog, along with details for each project.

Colin wrote for Government Technology and Emergency Management from 2010 through most of 2016.