“Hello Prototype Fund” / Image: OKF
Eileen Wagner is content manager of Code for Germany and the Prototype Fund at the Open Knowledge Foundation. She is interested in promoting civic tech in Germany and talking about all things open. Her background is in logic and philosophy, and her super power is writing nerdy jokes on Twitter.
After a year of endless proposal writing, the Open Knowledge Foundation is thrilled – in fact, ecstatic – to announce the launch of its new program, the Prototype Fund. Having worked in the field of open data and civic tech in Germany for over five years, we know how hard it is to procure long-term funding for projects that do not fit into the traditional non-profit sector or don’t have a fully fledged business model. We have brought together a truly awesome community of civic hackers through Code for Germany, Jugend hackt, and Coding da Vinci, and yet a lot of projects cannot be continued because they are mostly run by volunteers who have day jobs.
Though Germany has a reputation for good public funding - we’re currently counting 23 billion every year for research and education alone – very little of that goes to tech-for-good projects. The reasons for this are manifold, but the biggest hurdle is no doubt the intricate and time-consuming ways in which people are asked to apply for public funding. This is something we wanted to change. And so, inspired by the work of the Knight Foundation and with the support and good will of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, we launched the Prototype Fund.
The Prototype Fund adjusts its application process to the needs of the community. Developers, hackers, and creatives now only have to answer seven quick questions about their idea, which they could implement within six months with a grant of up to 30.000€. We are especially looking for projects in civic tech, data literacy, and data security. Importantly, they have to be made publicly available under an open source license. We fund both novel ideas that can be developed as an open source prototype and existing FOSS projects that would like to add a feature or module. In addition to financial support, we also offer mentoring and coaching from experts in the field, and will connect the applicants with each other to further exchange and collaboration.
This is the first program of its kind in Germany. We’d be lying if we said that we’re confident everything will go swimmingly. This is why we are truly amazed and bedazzled by the overwhelming response to our launch. (Follow us on Twitter to see some of the awesome reactions.) Now it is up to us – and to you! – to demonstrate that public funding can make a difference for our community, and for society at large.