Across the nation, state and local leaders are building movements for digital equity. The goal? For everyone to have access to safe online spaces, and technology that represents their needs, concerns, and dreams. This will allow people to fully participate in their communities — and in the discussions and decisions that affect our democracy. The need is especially urgent for communities of color who experience low levels of opportunities to control the narrative about their lives, and high levels of harm on digital platforms.
Democracy Fund has spent years learning where we can have the greatest impact in transforming digital media and technology to be safer and more inclusive, particularly in and for communities of color. To us, inclusion in the digital public square does not simply mean access for all. It means nurturing the conditions needed for equitable opportunities, increased leadership and representation for communities of color, and positive outcomes for all people — regardless of socioeconomic status, background, or location.
We believe that on-the-ground, place-based organizing helps communities, especially communities of color, achieve tangible progress at an impressive rate. This is why our Digital Democracy strategy focuses on increasing our investment in state and local efforts. We are focusing our support across Arizona, Michigan, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania — where leaders, many of whom are people of color and come from and represent the communities closest to these issues, are building momentum by:
- Advocating for regional digital policies to support communities of color;
- Campaigning to roll back restrictions on community broadband;
- Organizing their communities to respond to harmful tech company practices, and more.
In 2023, Democracy Fund invested $3 million in grants to support state and local leaders advancing digital equity. We believe this work is vital for an inclusive, multiracial democracy.
“It’s critical to support community-led movements for digital justice seeking to repair harms wrought by decades of policies that left behind rural communities, people living on low incomes, and communities of color,” says Erin Shields, Senior Associate, at Democracy Fund.
“State and local efforts are the backbone of national civil and human rights fights — whether it’s community broadband, digital rights, algorithmic discrimination, or state-based litigation. We are at an opportune time for US civil society to fight for a shared rights-based vision for the future of tech and broadband,” says Haneen Abu Al Neel, Program Associate, at Democracy Fund.
The 2023 State and Local Organizing Grantees
Democracy Fund is proud to announce the 2023 Digital Democracy grantees who all share a commitment to action toward community-focused media policy and tech accountability. Grantees will receive general operating support grants to support flexibility, capacity building, and sustainability for day-to-day operational needs within their organizations.
- #BlackTechFutures Research Institute, $200,000 over two years for their work in building a national network of city-based researchers and practitioners conducting research on sustainable local black tech ecosystems. The outcomes of this work are actionable policy recommendations and a national public data archive.
- Detroit Community Tech Project, $750,000 over three years to use and create technology rooted in community needs that strengthens neighbors’ connection to each other and the planet.
- Digital Equity and Opportunity Initiative, $500,000 over two years for their work to jumpstart building a lasting civic infrastructure. DEOI will provide core funding support to state broadband coalitions with broad-based community engagement that have the mobilization capacity to maximize the opportunity and drive equitable outcomes in digital access.
- Generation Justice, $200,000 over two years for their work as New Mexico’s premier youth media project to raise underrepresented voices, heal from internalized wounds, and lift narratives of hope and inspiration that build pathways to equity and leadership.
- Independence Public Media Foundation, $200,000 over two years for their work transforming the Greater Philadelphia region into a hub for community-owned media by expanding community internet that is collectively owned and managed by local communities, and strengthening community organizing for digital equity.
- Institute for Local Self-Reliance (Tribal Broadband Bootcamp), $250,000 over two years for their work toward thriving, diverse, equitable communities by building local power to fight corporate control through research, advocacy, and partnerships nationwide.
- People’s Tech Project, $600,000 over three years for their work in Pennsylvania to win a future where technology builds dignity, justice, and liberation rather than exacerbating oppression and harm in the hands of big corporations and the state.
- Petty Propolis, $200,000 over two years for their work on policy literacy and advocacy, data and digital privacy education, and racial justice and equity.
- ProgressNow New Mexico Education Fund, $300,000 over two years for their work to center justice for systemically excluded communities through partnerships, trusted digital communications, and issue-based and civic engagement campaigns.
How Democracy Fund Drives Support for Digital Equity
In addition to these state and local grants, we have made a series of multi-year investments in national leaders working to advance rights and reparations in media and technology.
We are committed to investing in organizations, leaders, and movements that promote changes in digital media and technology. These changes should be sustainable, transformative, and make digital spaces safer and more inclusive.
To guide our grantmaking, we will deepen our conversations with grant recipients and their communities. We will also build funding relationships in new regions, particularly in the South. Lastly, we will continue to invite peer funders to help us create a stronger field that values and protects everyone’s digital experiences and rights.
*Please Note: Democracy Fund does not accept unsolicited business plans, proposals, or personal requests. For more information on our work and grantees, sign up for updates. For general inquiries, contact email@example.com.