The Community Prototype Fund supports the rapid development of innovative, viable and open Internet freedom technology prototypes that serve the immediate needs of the Internet freedom and human rights communities. Through short-term support, technologists and activists can bring to life nascent ideas that help advance inclusive and safe access to global communications networks, counteract censorship and surveillance, and mitigate digital security threats to Internet freedom, specifically in repressive environments.
Setting the stage
The Community Prototype Fund (CPF) is designed to empower the community of activists, technologists and frontline human rights defenders by providing seed funding for the initial development of ground-breaking technologies and applied research. The CPF will connect folks with good ideas to researchers, designers, and developers eager to contribute their energy and talents to such projects, which should generally focus on addressing technological and political developments affecting global Internet freedom.
How it works
When submitting an idea to the CPF, applicants note whether they are proposing to work on the project themselves or if the submission is purely an idea (that is, something that you think someone else should be working on). Eligible ideas are then posted for discussion with the wider OTF community, consisting of current and former fellows and projects, the Advisory Council, and OTF staff. This model is designed is to ensure more transparency in our awarding process, help foster collaboration between technologists and activists, and to encourage more projects that serve the immediate needs of the community. Successful applicants are awarded monetary support up to $6,000 for a duration of less than 12 weeks. The primary focus of all CPF applications should be for solutions that directly affect individuals living in the most repressive environments.
Please note that this announcement does not constitute a formal Request for Proposals: OTF will invite select organizations that submit concept notes to expand on their ideas via a full proposal separately.
Ideal applications for this fund would include:
- Exploratory research into novel approaches to address specific needs of Internet users in repressive environments.
- Short-term low-cost efforts focused on testing a clear set of assumptions or to prove particular concepts.
- Executing ideas that come from and are grounded in the realities of activists on the ground.
- Enhancing open and collaborative approaches that enrich the community of open source Internet freedom projects.
Problems addressed by the Community Prototype Fund:
- Lack of funding available for ground-breaking Internet freedom proof-of-concepts, feasibility studies, and early stage exploratory researches.
- Bridging the gap between the technology community's capacity and the needs of activists on the ground.
- Rapidly bringing good ideas from the community into working, viable prototypes that can be built upon into successful projects
Criteria and the Application Process
Relevant to mission
Proposals should exhibit originality, substance, and relevance to the fund's mission as stated above. The work plan should adhere to the program overview and guidelines described above.
Ability to achieve objectives
Objectives should be ambitious, yet measurable and achievable within the boundaries of the proposed funding. You should not include items that require additional funding beyond the life of the effort. For complete proposals, applicants will have to provide a weekly timeline of project activities.
Applicant’s record and capacity
OTF will consider the past performance of prior OTF funding recipients and the demonstrated potential of new applicants. Proposed personnel and institutional resources should be adequate and appropriate to achieve the project’s objectives.
Submitting an idea is always the first step to getting the process started. Ideas without makers will be posted publicly, where makers can then view them and apply to carry them forward. Ideas with makers are posted publicly for review by the OTF community. The OTF community is comprised of former and current OTF-supported fellows and projects, Advisory Council members, and OTF staff. If your concept note is accepted, you will be invited to submit a full proposal. All proposals are reviewed by the OTF team. Proposals are also reviewed by an independent Advisory Council comprised of global experts who are well-known free expression defenders, technologists, academics, and other types of experts who have a deep knowledge of the intersection between human rights and technology. Advisory Council members voluntarily review and provide feedback to the OTF team on all proposals accepted for OTF funding.
For a full rundown of desired project criteria and the application process, head here.
When are requests for concept notes made?
Community Prototype Fund concept notes are accepted on a rolling basis.
You can stay up to date on all OTF submission deadlines and open submissions windows for other potential funders by joining the OTF-announce mailing list. To join, please send a message via this page with subscribe in the subject line.
All eligible CPF applications are reviewed by the OTF community; selected applications are also then reviewed by OTF’s independent Advisory Council review panel.
OTF awards are performance-based contracts (see an example template here) signed directly with the applicant. Payment is issued on completion of stated objectives, activities, and deliverables per a schedule outlined in the contract. OTF reserves the right to award less or more than the funds requested as deemed in the best interest of OTF’s priorities.
Applications that request more than the award ceiling of $6,000 may be deemed technically ineligible.
Application Requirements, Submission, and Deadlines
Project and Budget Periods
OTF’s Community Prototype Fund awards are generally 1 to 12 weeks in duration. From time to time, OTF may consider requests to extend existing contracts beyond previously agreed upon durations. Any such decision will be subject to availability of funds, satisfactory progress of the applicants, and a determination that continued funding would be in the best interest of program priorities.
Monitoring & Evaluation
Successful applicants selected by OTF are paired with an OTF program manager who oversees all project monitoring and evaluation for the duration of the awarded contract lifecycle. Monitoring and evaluation assessments are largely based on predetermined and agreed upon metrics, deliverables, and goals as laid out by the applicant in the project proposal workplan.
As described above, because payment is dispersed at regular intervals upon completion of stated contractual goals, successful applicants can expect regular contact with their OTF project manager. Monitoring consists of compulsory reports and also phone, email, or in-person discussions and consultations as needed.
Ideal applicants are proposing efforts within the scope of this fund and OTF’s mission, values, and principles. In addition, the following criteria must be met:
- Individuals of all ages irrespective of nationality, residency, creed, gender, or other factors, with the exception that OTF is not able to support applicants within countries that the United States has trade restrictions or export sanctions as determined by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC);
- Non-profit organization/non-government organization, including U.S.-based NGO, PIO, or foreign NGO;
- Non-profit university or research institution in any country;
- For-profit organization or business in any country;
- Consortia of multiple people or organizations with one individual or organization designated as the lead applicant;
- Have demonstrated experience administering successful projects, preferably targeting the requested program area, or similarly challenging program environments where OTF reserves the right to request additional background information on organizations;
- Ideal applicants should not duplicate or simply add to efforts supported by other USG funding programs;
- Ideal applicants must not reflect any type of support for any member, affiliate, or representative of a designated terrorist organization, whether or not elected members of government.
A Commitment to Diversity
OTF prioritizes projects coming from individuals or organizations who are new to the internet freedom community. This allows us to empower a new pool of technology and development talent that may not have been otherwise supported.