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What’s New in Civic Tech: Philly’s Digital Literacy Grants

Plus, New York City is relaunching its Neighborhood Challenge initiative to benefit small businesses, a new report notes that government agencies benefit from collective wisdom for COVID-19 problems, and more.

by / October 22, 2020
Philadelphia Shutterstock/S.Borisov

Philadelphia’s cross-sector Digital Literacy Alliance group has announced its grant cycle for fall 2020, which is targeting civic groups in the city that work with immigrants and other limited English proficiency populations. 

As always, the primary focus of the grant-making is to support these organizations by funding innovations related to digital literacy. For the upcoming fall 2020 cycle, the Alliance will allocate roughly $250,000 toward a series of two-year grants. Within that, successful requests by individual organizations should be up to $40,000 dispersed across two years. For organizational partnerships, the amount is $50,000 over two years. 

As always, there are multiple areas of potential funding for these grants, including but not limited to projects that help with the navigation of digital resources or online forms, parent-child education opportunities supporting family learning, instructional models that prioritize digital needs, culture awareness or sensitivity training among digital literacy instructors, and innovative approaches to generally advancing digital literacy among limited English communities. 

The eligibility requirements for the grants are simple, starting with the stipulation that organizations or individuals applying must be based in Philadelphia. Past that, other requirements include that the application be for a two-year grant, organizations should have demonstrable experience serving the targeted communities, and, if awarded funding, the organization must then regularly communicate with the Alliance. 

Initial submissions for this grant cycle are due on Nov. 6, and the guidelines as well as the application can be found on the group’s website.

NYC Relaunches Neighborhood Challenge Initiative to Benefit Small Businesses

The New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and its partners have relaunched Neighborhood Challenge: Tech Forward, which is an open innovation platform designed to enable crowdsourced solutions to supporting small storefront businesses hit hard by COVID-19.

There is a long list of partners joining the NYCEDC in this endeavor, including the NYC Department of Small Business Services, The Urban Tech Hub @ Company, and CIV:LAB. As part of this relaunch, organizers are now seeking proposals that will pilot innovative and tech-enabled solutions from startups or anyone else interested in participating. Participants need not live in New York City or even in the U.S. — the challenge is global. 

There are, of course, parameters to the project. The challenge is to focus on four areas: digitizing business models, giving a redesign to establishment operations, mitigating storefront vacancies, and curb management or public space reconfiguration. The challenge will allot up to two winning proposals per each focus area.

Successful proposals will then be implemented with an eye, of course, toward scaling them. According to the press release for the relaunched challenge, “selected Neighborhood Challenge projects are intended to serve as catalysts for long-term sustainability and positive economic impact in New York City.”

As with many civic tech challenges, part of the structure of this one will involved a network of advisers who will give selected proposals guidance toward implementation. In this instance, those advisers will come from the Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer, the Office of Nightlife, Partnership for New York City, Cornell Tech, IEEE, Fraunhofer IAO, the NYC BID Association, and the NYC Hospitality Alliance. 

More information about the challenge can be found on the neighborhoodchallenge.nyc website.

Report: Collective Wisdom Is Key for Governments Solving COVID-19 Problems

A new report from The Governance Lab (The GovLab) at NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering has found that organizations that embrace shared wisdom are better at solving challenges for government, which right now especially includes those related to COVID-19.

These problems range from air pollution to chronic illness to sustainable development, climate change, disaster response, and more. Dubbed Using Collective Intelligence to Solve Public Problems, the report looked at global examples wherein public institutions used or are currently using new technologies to apply collective wisdom of people in their communities to those challenges. 

As part of this, The GovLab has also published 30 related case studies around how leaders have designed the most successful projects. More information can be found via the website for a broader project around the matter: Using Collective Intelligence to Solve Public Problems.

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Zack Quaintance Assistant News Editor

Zack Quaintance is the assistant news editor for Government Technology. His background includes writing for daily newspapers across the country and developing content for a software company in Austin, Texas. He is now based in Washington, D.C. He can be reached via email.

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