8 Private Initiatives That Are Making Local Governments More Efficient and Valuable

The Knight Foundation is funding individuals and private businesses that want to make government better.

Grants are one of the best ways to spur innovation in the government. By funding private businesses and providing them with the tools they need to be successful, such as open data, governments can deliver better services while boosting the local economy.

The Knight Foundation, a nonprofit organization focused on funding initiatives that promote sustainable communities, has been active in this space since 1940:

To help sustain healthy communities in a democracy, Knight aims to increase the ability of individuals to engage in change. Knight fosters initiatives that develop in people a strong sense of belonging and caring, timely access to relevant information, the ability to understand that information, and the motivation, opportunity and skills to take sustainable action on a range of issues throughout their lives.

The foundation recently “awarded $3.2 million in grants to eight organizations (out of 821 applicants) who promised to provide ‘new tools and approaches to improve the way people and governments interact,’” according to Nonprofit Quarterly.

Here are the projects that received funding, along with the amount they will be receiving:

Outline: A public policy simulator that lets citizens visualize the impact of policies on their local and state economies, using state-of-the-art models developed by economists. Unspecified amount.

Civic Insight: Providing up-to-date information on vacant properties so that communities can more easily find ways to make tangible improvements to local spaces. $220,000

OpenCounter: Making it easier for residents to register and create new businesses by building open source software that governments can use to simplify the process. $450,000

Open Gov for the Rest of Us: Providing residents in low-income neighborhoods in Chicago with the tools to access and demand better data around issues important to them—from housing to education. $350,000

Oyez Project: Making state and appellate court documents freely available and useful to journalists, scholars and the public, by providing straightforward summaries of decisions, free audio recordings and more. $600,000

Procure.io: Making government- contract bidding more transparent by simplifying the way smaller companies bid on government contracts. $460,000

GitMachines: Supporting government innovation by creating tools and servers that meet government regulations, so that developers can easily build and adopt new technology. $500,000

Plan in a Box: Making it easier to discover information about local planning projects, by creating a tool that governments and contractors can use to easily create websites with updates that allows public input into the process. $620,000

Read more on Nonprofit Quarterly.

Jul 05 2013