Today, the Wikimedia Foundation is announcing the first round of grantees for the Knowledge Equity Fund, a pilot program created by the Wikimedia Foundation in June 2020 to address the barriers to free knowledge experienced by Black, Indigenous, and communities of color around the world. The Equity Fund is a new approach to support external organizations that are working at the intersection of racial equity and free knowledge in ways to increase access to knowledge for all.
In order to achieve the movement’s vision of a world in which all people can freely participate in the sum of all knowledge, we must work towards knowledge equity, one of the two core pillars of the movement’s strategic direction. Knowledge equity is about welcoming the knowledge and communities that have been excluded by historical structures of power and privilege, structures that are often directly connected to systems of racial oppression.
However, the work of addressing racial injustice is not something that our movement alone can solve. Our projects can only do so much when, for example, academic and mass media representation of marginalized communities remains insufficient, which in turn limits citations and primary sources for us to build from. The Equity Fund will help us to build a robust ecosystem of free knowledge partners working to address the barriers to knowledge equity.
The Equity Fund complements existing grants programs such as the new grants funding strategy. With this new strategy, Wikimedia Community Funds are available for individual volunteers and affiliates within our movement in a variety of areas. The Wikimedia Foundation also provides grants for external organizations that have a direct tie to our movement and are working to support underrepresented communities under the Wikimedia Alliances Fund. The Equity Fund will target organizations that are working towards racial equity but who are not yet working directly with the free knowledge movement.
In order to identify grantee organizations, we assembled a Committee of Wikimedia Foundation staff and community members to manage the fund. Over the past several months, the Committee has been meeting weekly to define the scope of the Equity Fund, ensure that the work will be representative of the global nature of our movement, and discuss and select potential grantees for our first round of funding. Each grantee was required to align to one or more of five areas of focus that were identified as areas that are most beneficial to the larger ecosystem of open knowledge.
Today, we are announcing the inaugural round of grants from the Equity Fund. We have chosen six grantees across the Middle East, Africa, and North and South America that focus on issues of access, education, and equity within the regions they support. Each grantee supports an established organization with a track record of success in their field. Each is also new to the Wikimedia movement, and we are excited by the prospects of closer collaboration with groups throughout the free knowledge movement.
These grantees are:
Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism : The Arab Reporters in Journalism (ARIJ) is a nonprofit investigative journalism organization based in Jordan. ARIJ has built an expansive network of journalists across the Middle East and North Africa and has supported over 650 investigative projects on topics ranging from threats to freedom of expression, to systemic patterns of bias and discrimination. This grant will support ARIJ’s continued work in training and coaching media on how to report on issues of equity and institutional accountability, with dedicated workshops that tackle the skills, tools, and knowledge required for Arab journalists to address racial inequity in the region. Through their work, ARIJ will continue to grow the breadth of investigative journalism about inequity throughout the Arab World based on journalistic principles of facts, research, and multiple sources.
Borealis Racial Equity in Journalism Fund: Borealis is a philanthropic intermediary that takes a community-led approach to addressing injustices and driving transformative change across the United States. This grant will be provided to their Racial Equity in Journalism Fund, which invests in local news organizations led by people of color that have built long-standing relationships and trust with the diverse communities they serve. With this investment, Borealis will invest in local community-based journalism with a focus on improving how communities of color are represented and reported on throughout the media. Through this work, they will increase the amount of citable articles about leaders of color and community issues and further knowledge equity.
Howard University and the Institute of Intellectual Property and Social Justice: The Institute of Intellectual Property and Social Justice (IIPSJ) is a nonprofit organization that was established to promote social justice in the field of intellectual property law. IIPSJ is led by professors from and graduates of the Howard University School of Law (HUSL), the oldest historically black college or university law school in the United States and a leading institution in civil rights and social justice advocacy. IIPSJ advocates for equity and inclusion throughout the intellectual property (IP) ecosystem, including shaping IP law, policies, and initiatives to promote awareness of IP protections and possibilities among communities of color. With this grant, IIPSJ will create a two-year fellowship at HUSL led by a Wikimedia Race and Knowledge Equity Fellow to explore how systemic racism and injustice impacts how marginalized communities can participate in free knowledge (including in the intellectual property ecosystem), recommendations to address these gaps in knowledge, and how knowledge can be used to advance racial equity and empowerment.
InternetLab: InternetLab is a nonprofit think tank focused on internet policy and research around critical digital issues of inclusivity and equal rights, based in São Paulo, Brazil. With this grant, InternetLab will create a two-year fellowship led by a Wikimedia Race and Knowledge Equity Fellow that will produce scholarly writings and publications, as well as educational programming on the intersection between racial equity and free knowledge in Brazil. The Fellow will conduct research on topics including what barriers impact the participation of Black and Indigenous peoples in online knowledge, and identify national and local policy solutions across the fields of intellectual property, access to technologies, education and research, affirmative action, funding and incentives, among others. This fellowship will expand the available research about how racial inequity has impacted communities of color in Brazil.
Media Foundation for West Africa: The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) is a non-governmental organization dedicated to protecting and defending the right to freedom of expression, particularly for media and human rights defenders, throughout the 16 countries in West Africa. This grant will support the MFWA’s continued work to protect the public’s right to access information and advocacy for equitable policies throughout the region. MFWA will promote investigative journalism on issues of equity and injustice as part of their focus on freedom of expression and access to information. The grant will also support the organization’s press freedom and independent journalism advocacy to help build a favorable and enabling environment for in-depth investigative reporting that encourages transparency and accountability — the lack of which often result in injustices and marginalisation of the poor, underrepresented, and minority groups.
The SeRCH Foundation: The STEM en Route to Change Foundation (SeRCH Foundation) is a non-profit organization based in the United States that focuses on the intersection of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) as a tool for social justice. This grant will be used to support their flagship program, #VanguardSTEM, which asserts the value of non-traditional knowledge alongside technical expertise and uses storytelling as a means of cultural production to amplify the contributions of Black, Indigenous, women of color and non-binary people of color in STEM fields. With this investment, #VanguardSTEM will grow their collection of featured BIPOC STEM creatives, adding multimedia to each profile to enhance the storytelling capacity. This collection of open and freely licensed audio, video, and written content about women and non-binary innovators and inventors of color will expand the repository of rich content in the Commons centering the experiences and expertise people of color in STEM and support non-traditional methods of storytelling.
Our work does not end with the selection of these grantees. We will be doing check-ins with each grantee over the course of the next 12 months to see how their work is progressing. Each grantee is expected to share their impact annually through a read-out of activities completed throughout the year. This will vary based on each grantee – for some, it may be producing original research and written materials; for others, it may be training journalists on addressing issues of racial equity and producing media focused on communities that have been underrepresented in traditional media sources.
Moving forward, the Equity Fund will provide one more round of grants in the Wikimedia Foundation’s fiscal year, likely in early 2022. Our plan is to identify, evaluate, and select these grantees among ideas from the Wikimedia movement, and we welcome recommendations through this form. (If you have already submitted suggestions, thank you!) We will be exploring options for new grantees over the next six months.
We will also be looking at the gaps we have in terms of capacity, awareness and skills on the Equity Fund Committee, and opening it up to additional community members to get involved working with the Committee on choosing future grantees. Our goal is to create a fund that is more participatory and more inclusive of the communities that we wish to impact with this work. We will be sharing more about ways to get involved with the Committee as we approach our next round of funding.