Knight Prototype Fund tests early-stage ideas

technology / Article

September 18, 2013 by Chris Barr

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Above: Employable? is an early prototype for the Making it in America project by DataToys.

This week team members from 10 media and information projects are traveling to Pittsburgh to kick off their projects with a crash course in human-centered design. As part of the Knight Prototype Fund grant program, these workshops, facilitated by LUMA Institute, set the tone for six months of experimentation, rapid iteration and design thinking.

It’s the first time we’ve brought the teams together for these sessions, where they will be building towards a demo of their projects. As the pace of innovation keeps increasing, we believe this process will help adapt their projects to the new reality.  These type of events also allow us to create closer relationships with grantees and build peer networks as the teams tackle challenging problems.

Our Prototype Fund, which supports small projects with grants of $35,000, is designed to help teams and individuals test core assumptions in their early-stage ideas. We don’t ask them to focus on the outcomes; we ask that they test their concepts by concentrating on what features will eventually resonate with possible audiences.   In the process asking interesting questions becomes as valuable as making interesting things.

For example, when the Data Toys team entered the Knight News Challenge they believed that they could create toys to “introduce systems-based ways to make sense of raw data … through play.” What would that look like? At the beginning they weren’t sure, but by building rough prototypes, connecting with users and exploring several paths the team now has a good idea and has began to collaborate with RadioLab and Public Radio International on their next batch of “toys.” 

Applications to the Prototype Fund, which is limited to U.S. based projects, are accepted on a quarterly basis. The next deadline is Oct. 25. The application process is pain-free; just answer these five questions about your project.

Chris Barr, media innovation associate at Knight Foundation

Related Link: "Innovation starts with people" by Chris Barr on KnightBlog

 

Prototype Fund grantees polishing off a concept poster at today's human-centered design workshop. pic.twitter.com/IoSonLFuA5

— Chris Barr (@heychrisbarr) September 18, 2013

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