Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Money For NE Wisconsin Civic Hack$

Civic hacking is a volunteer activity for most civic hackers, so funding can present a challenge for their projects.

Many civic hacks are purely software and are worked on intermittently when the coder has the time and interest. These hacks require almost no funding, although a minimal level of financial support for hosting (e.g. Google App Engine or Amazon Web Services) or other nice-to-have development costs are worthwhile incentives for many civic hackers.

Certain civic hack projects need funding in order to be effective and successful, such as projects involving hardware, a very large amount of coding effort, work that requires hiring someone with skills not available on the project team, or contract funding for a city or county to make essential data available in a useful format.

The Knight Prototype Fund (KPF) is one option for seed funding on certain unique and impactful civic hacks. My earlier post “Appleton Challenge: Submit Civic Hack Idea To Knight Prototype Fund By May 15” encouraged NE Wisconsin residents to submit a proposal for the recent KPF funding round which closed on May 15, 2015. At least two proposals were submitted to the KPF from our region for that round; we’re waiting to hear if either will move forward in the competition for funding approval.

The next round of proposals for the KPF are due by August 17, 2015. That gives NE Wisconsin civic hackers two months to develop and submit project proposals that explore media, journalism, civic experience, and data/information needs and compete for a $35,000 grant.It would be fantastic if a bunch of civic hackers who participated in the recent civic hackathon submit KPF proposals.

Click here for more info about the KPF program.

Click here to apply by August 17.

Click here to see projects the Knight Foundation has funded.

Knight Foundation grant project
There’s a lot I don’t know about the Knight Foundation grants and their funding process. But it appears for at least some of their grants, they make the submitted projects viewable online and track social metrics, such as how many times the project was viewed, commented on and endorsed. If that’s case for the KPF projects, it may make sense to develop a promotional campaign to generate interest in NE Wisconsin KPF projects if they make it into the second round of competition and a full proposal is requested for the project(s).

In addition to the KPF funding option for NE Wisconsin civic hacks, there are other potential funding sources. Some alternatives are:

  1. National, state or regional grant organizations.
  2. Local grant organizations, like the Community Foundation For The Fox Valley Region.
  3. NE Wisconsin companies and civic organizations.
  4. Local philanthropists and community leaders.
  5. Crowdfunding services like Kickstarter and Indiegogo

A challenge for most civic hackers who need funding is their limited time and skills are better spent working on the coding or other aspects of the project. This highlights an opportunity for non-coder civic hackers. The civic hacking community needs people to write both formal and informal grant proposals and contact potential sponsors or funders of civic hacks.

NE Wisconsin Civic Hacker Calls To Action

  1. Refine or develop an interesting civic hack project and submit a proposal to the Knight Prototype Fund by August 17.
  2. Email me if you want to work on formal or informal grant proposals for NE Wisconsin civic hacks; bwaldron (at) gmail [dott] com.
  3. Email me if you know of good funding sources other than the Knight Prototype Fund for civic hacking projects.
  4. Email me if you want to provide financial support for general or specific NE Wisconsin civic hacks.

(For people who read this blog post because they were interested in finding out how civic hacking and government open data can generate income or save money, I’m working on a future post that explores the economic value and profit potential of civic hacks.)


Additional resources relevant to funding civic hacks:


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