Knight Prototype Fund invests in 20 new projects focused on increasing civic engagement and making data more accessible

Press Release

November 3, 2015


Next Prototype Fund application deadline is Nov. 16

MIAMI — Nov. 3, 2015 — The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation today announced funding for 20 new projects through the Knight Prototype Fund, which helps people explore early-stage media and information ideas with $35,000 in funding. The awards total $700,000.

How can we better protect consumer data and privacy? How can we make our politicians more accountable? How can we make it easier for people to shape their community and our world? How can we make complex data clear, interesting and relevant to people’s lives? These are some of the questions that Knight Prototype Fund teams will explore over the next six months, testing and tweaking a range of ideas: from an interactive tool that provides people with information on where their city is spending money, to a role-playing game that engages people in creative problem-solving around civic issues, from an app that helps people cut through the information fog with curated recommendations on what to read and watch, to an interactive world map that matches and compares information on search topics across the globe.

Knight launched the Prototype Fund in June 2012 to invite people to experiment, learn and iterate before moving on to the more costly stage of building out a project. Prototype Fund projects go through a six-month process that begins with human-centered design training. At the end, teams gather for a demo day to share their discoveries and prototypes.

“The new Prototype Fund teams join an expanding network of makers and doers looking to provide better ways to inform and engage communities with the information that is essential to their lives,” said Chris Barr, Knight Foundation director for media innovation who leads the Prototype Fund.

The next deadline for prototype applications is Nov. 16, 2015.

The organizations and people receiving investments in this Prototype Fund round are:

Pilgrim by (Project leads: Daniel Pianetti and Charles Broskoski | New York): Helping researchers find related articles, images, academic papers, text and more through an open-source, intelligent Web crawler that gathers this online data.

Billcam by DailyCloudt Inc. (Project lead: Stephanie Sharis | Berkeley, Calif.): Adding transparency to the legislative process through an embeddable, shareable legislative tracking tool that connects federal and state bills and corresponding community annotation with relevant news articles, information, topical blog posts and more. by Startup Policy Lab (Project lead: Charles Belle | San Francisco): Simplifying government data requests through a Web-based application that helps startups navigate law enforcement requests for consumer data and protects user privacy.

Carebot by NPR (Project lead: Brian Boyer | Washington, D.C.): Changing how newsrooms measure and celebrate success by measuring the things that actually matter: Did people complete the story? What proportion shared it? Did we make them care?

Catamount by Vermont Journalism Trust (Project lead: Stacey Peters | Montpelier, Vt.): Helping journalists provide their readers with more meaningful information by building a WordPress plugin that automates integration between news stories and data sets with contextual and historical details; for example, a story about a politician could provide a link to his top donors.

ClaimBuster by University of Texas at Arlington (Project lead: Chengkai Li | Arlington, Texas): Helping journalists fact-check statements made by politicians in real time using a machine-learning tool that automatically identifies factual claims likely to be important to the public.

CityGram by Code for Charlotte (Project lead: Jill Bjers | Charlotte, N.C.): Making it easier for local governments to connect with citizens by creating a notification system that allows users to receive information from the government by selecting a geographic area, category and delivery method for the notifications. by ClearGov Inc. (Project lead: Chris Bullock | Hopkinton, Mass.): Helping citizens better understand local government finances through a website, which will include easy-to-understand infographics and benchmarking data that allows them to compare these finances to similar towns. The site will also serve as a platform for local governments to engage with citizens and improve transparency.

Dataproofer by Vocativ (Project lead: Gerald Rich | New York): Helping data journalists and others check whether a data set is accurate or contains errors through an app that lets users assess the quality of their data before they begin reporting, analyzing or visualizing it.

Hudson App by Run Hop (Project lead: Pete Davies | San Francisco): Making it easy and fun to discover things to read, watch and listen to through an app that sources from social signals and curated channels. Join the beta at

Local/Municipal Election Dates and Deadlines Data Management System and API by U.S. Vote Foundation (Project lead: Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat | Arlington, Va.): Helping to increase voter engagement by creating a nationwide system to collect, maintain and distribute information on upcoming local election dates and deadlines.

LPFM Radio Impact Maps by Prometheus Radio Project (Project lead: Paul Bame | Philadelphia): Helping radio stations understand and better engage with audiences, funders and volunteers by creating software that maps interference and population demographics for low-power FM (LPFM) radio stations in an inexpensive and straightforward way.

IdeaMapr by Bouldin Labs (Project lead: Matt Hall | Austin, Texas): Helping communities collaborate with local government on complex civic decisions by developing an online tool that guides people through the decision-making process and creates a map of conversations that charts questions, ideas, and pros and cons.

Mapquery by Quartz (Project lead: Keith Collins | New York): Making the creation of geographic maps easier and more accessible by creating a system for finding, merging and refining geographic data.

Municipal Financial Index by Centro de Investigación y Política Pública (Project lead: Arnaldo Cruz | San Juan, Puerto Rico): Providing people with straightforward information on municipal finances through an interactive user-friendly graphic interface that people can use to assess the fiscal condition and spending priorities of their city.

OpenStreetMap Data Quality Analysis Tool by Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team United States Inc. (Project lead: Blake Girardot | Washington, D.C.): Helping journalists, humanitarians, academics, government officials and others determine the quality of data in the OpenStreetMap database for a user-defined area, depending on the topic of interest.

Pteraform by Simiary (Project lead: Ben Adams | Santa Barbara, Calif.): Helping users learn more about places around the world and how a particular topic varies geographically through an open platform that uses an interactive world map to chart search results. The project is a follow-up to Frankenplace.

@Stake by The Engagement Lab at Emerson College (Project lead: Eric Gordon | Boston): Helping community and group decision-making processes through a role-playing game that fosters democracy, empathy, and creative problem solving for civic issues.

Street Quality Identification Device (SQUID) by Argo Labs (Project lead: Varun Adibhatla | New York): Helping city agencies make better decisions on street maintenance by creating a low-cost sensor platform that collects and analyzes data through street surface imagery.

Together We Listen by New York Public Library and The Moth (Project lead: Alexandra Kelly and Michael Guerra | New York): Making digital audio collections from libraries and public media organizations more accessible by combining the auto-transcription services of Pop Up Archive with a community engagement model that will involve the public in updating and enriching these collections.