Giving Compass’ Take:
• The Knight Foundation, along with the Rita Allen Foundation, commissioned a report to understand civic tech business models and examine opportunities that are successful in advancing civic participation and engagement.
• How can donors learn from these results and create partnerships that promote civic tech and participation?
• Read about the untapped potential of civic technology.
Though technology has transformed our lives as consumers, its impact on our lives as citizens has been limited. But over the past decade, there has been a surge of interest and activity in leveraging technology to empower residents and strengthen civil society. What began as a series of ad hoc efforts and “hackathons” has developed into a broader “civic tech” community of companies, nonprofits, funders and governments.
We at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Rita Allen Foundation have observed the growth of this field firsthand as funders supporting a range of tech organizations (mostly nonprofits but, in the case of Knight, a few for-profits) advancing open government, voting and civic participation, among other related fields.
But despite the activity and investment in civic tech, very few startups in the space have been able to sustain and scale their work. The field has struggled to translate prototypes, pilots and products into full-fledged organizations equipped with the capital and business models necessary to expand their operations and impact. Even the best-known organizations face very real sustainability challenges. Conversations with our grantees, peer funders and other practitioners in the segment have reinforced this reality that the lack of viable and proven business models has constrained the growth of civic tech’s impact.
We commissioned this research to develop a more nuanced understanding of civic tech business models. The research captured the perspectives of startup leaders (for-profits and nonprofits), funders (foundations, venture capitalists and angel investors) and other key stakeholders on the challenges of sustainability, promising examples of success, and opportunities. It builds upon Knight’s report on “The Emergence of Civic Tech” and aligns with New Media Ventures’ recent “Making Money for Impact” report about revenue models.
Read the full article about civic engagement at the Knight Foundation.
Civil Society is a complex topic, and others found these selections from the Impact Giving archive from Giving Compass to be good resources.
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