“We’re creating this service to confirm our beliefs that not only will citizens become more engaged, their government will become more efficient. We believe fewer public records requests will be made by citizens, and fewer internal requests made by staff,” says Jerry Hall, eCitizens founder.
“We also intend to examine how documents and records from many municipalities can be aggregated and maintained in a cloud-based document repository – with free and open access by anyone through an open API. We believe municipalities, advocacy groups and entrepreneurs will all jump at the opportunity to tap into a vast wealth of knowledge and data often isolated in individual municipal silos. The potential social and economic benefits gained from these uses will be astronomically more valuable than the costs of collecting and aggregating this data,” says Hall.
Knight’s Prototype Fund investments are small – a maximum is $50,000 – and are designed to help
test an assumption, so that innovators can experiment, learn and iterate before moving on to the more costly stage of building out a project. When successful projects emerge, Knight Foundation is poised to help them scale.
“With the cost of experimentation dropping these days, it’s almost too expensive to not test an idea. So instead, we’re providing small amounts of funding, to see what works, and learn from the experiments to help move media forward,” said Chris Barr, who runs the Prototype Fund at Knight Foundation.
The Prototype Fund is the latest in a series of moves by Knight Foundation to match its funding more closely to the pace of innovation. Others include increasing the frequency of the Knight News Challenge, the international media innovation contest, and ramping up the Enterprise Fund, which invests in for-profit media companies that do social good.
eCitizens was founded by entrepreneur Jerry Hall, a civic-minded advocate who identified a need gained from his years of experience working as a volunteer to help improve various local municipal policies and ordinances. His prototype team includes Jed Sundwall and Mjumbe Poe, both supported by CodeforAmerica.org and each with years of experience and leadership in the technology and open-government world. For more, visit eCitizens.org.
About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media
innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. The Knight Prototype Fund continually accepts applications at knightprototypefund.org. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.
Jerry Hall, Founder of eCitizens, (858) 344-1104, media@eCitizens.org and
Andrew Sherry, Vice President/Communications, (305) 908-2677, email@example.com