Knight Prototype Fund to invest up to $1M in spreading facts

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False information or, say, “alternative facts” spread quickly. The Knight Foundation announced Monday that it’s investing up to $1 million toward projects developing and testing early-stage ideas to combat misinformation.

The foundation will give $50,000 grants to U.S.-based for-profit and nonprofit organizations, as well as a broad range of professionals, including technologists, journalists, designers, teachers, researchers and others.

Working alongside Democracy Fund and the Rita Allen Foundation, Knight seeks ideas on “topics ranging from, but not limited to, the role of algorithms in news consumption, methods for separating facts from fiction, building bridges across ideological divides and strategies for ensuring journalism organizations are authentic to the communities they serve,” according to a statement.

Each grant includes a two-day training session on building and developing ideas through prototyping.

Knight is running the call through the Knight Prototype Fund, which has invested nearly $9 million in 255 projects since 2012. The fund focuses on quickly developing and testing early-stage ideas, which tend to be risky investments. According to a new report on the Prototype Fund, only a handful of projects have gained traction since completing the grant period. Most hadn’t launched a live product or attracted users outside of private testing within six months after the grant period.

In the past Knight has made general calls for the fund, but with this request for proposals it’s making several changes by shifting to a themed approach, increasing award amounts from $35,000 to $50,000 and extending the grant period from six to nine months. It’s also adding new training opportunities and ways for grantees to share what they learn.

“We believe that informed and engaged communities are indispensable to a healthy American democracy,” Jennifer Preston, Knight Foundation VP for journalism, said in a statement. “Yet we are losing our ability to foster civic dialogue based on shared facts, due to the spread of misinformation, siloed news consumption, low levels of trust in media and the impact of technology on how we consume news and information.”

The deadline to submit ideas is April 3, 2017 at 5 p.m. ET. Winners will be announced in June.

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