Core Infrastructure Fund

The Core Infrastructure Fund supports the ‘building block’ technologies, infrastructures, and communities relied upon by digital security and circumvention tools strengthening internet freedom, digital security, and the overall health of the internet.
Next deadline: 
2017-11-01

Setting the stage

The Core Infrastructure Fund (CIF) strives to uphold and increase capacity for individuals, organizations, and companies working to fortify the foundational components of demonstrably important technology relied upon by people in repressive countries.

Ideal applications are: open in nature, collaborative, promote a broader understanding of existing challenges and limitations, are preemptive in approach, and/or exist at the core of the internet’s ecosystem. Common applicants come from the community of developers and organizers working on open-source projects recognized as critical dependencies of one or more active platforms or tools strengthening internet freedom and digital security.

Ideal applications for this fund focus on supporting:

  • Key developers or organizers so they can work full time on crucial core efforts in need of additional support;
  • New developers or organizers focused on improving security standards, quality assurance, and best practices within core infrastructure projects;
  • Developers, authors, or organizers drafting or promoting digital security and civil society needs within standards and protocols;
  • Specific outcomes, such as the necessary maintenance and upgrades to existing open source projects (database, hosting, or other tool migration; rewriting test suites; major new features);
  • Efforts that make existing projects more accessible and easier to contribute to (ex. documentation, tool migration, refactoring code, testing);
  • Efforts that develop new or evolve existing organizational and governance structures and sustainability models beyond work-for-hire;
  • Efforts that increase the understanding and awareness of relevant actors in this space, their roles, and how they contribute to maintaining the internet’s core ecosystem;
  • Code audits or best practice assessments that identify weaknesses and improvements;
  • Computing and testing infrastructure or services needed by a project;
  • Travel, logistical, and facilitation for project members to gather face-to-face and host community events; and,
  • Travel and logistics for key members of a project to attend important annual knowledge-sharing events.

If you feel your effort fits within the goals of this fund, but is not explicitly listed above, apply!

Problems addressed by the Core Infrastructure Fund:

  • Many open source software technologies critical to digital security are underfunded and under-resourced.
  • Core developers consistently face a severe lack of resources that would allow them to improve what is essentially the backbone of the entire internet.
  • Lack of maintenance of essential structural internet components leads to exploited vulnerabilities, such as happened in 2014 with the Heartbleed bug exploiting a vulnerability in the OpenSSL cryptographic protocol.
  • Lack of funding leaves critical security infrastructure more susceptible to degradation and ultimately therefore more open to exploitation with widespread impact, such as happened with a vulnerability in crypto library Libgcrypt affecting GNU Privacy Guard [GPG] and all its implementations.
Example projects

For an idea of the types of efforts OTF supports through the Core Infrastructure Fund, here are a few previously supported projects:

Criteria and the application process

Criteria

Relevant to mission: Proposals should exhibit originality, substance, and relevance to the funds stated mission 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 this grant. For complete proposals, applicants will have to provide a monthly timeline of project activities.

Applicant’s record and capacity: OTF will consider the past performance of prior recipients and the demonstrated potential of new applicants. Proposed personnel and institutional resources should be adequate and appropriate to achieve the project’s objectives.

Application Process

Submitting a concept note is always the first step to getting the process started. If your concept note is accepted, you will be invited to submit a full proposal.

For a full rundown of desired project criteria and the application process, head here.

When are requests for applications made?

Core Infrastructure Fund concept notes are accepted on a rolling basis, with submission rounds closing every two months. For the next upcoming batch deadline, see the header at the top of this page.

To stay up to date on this and other OTF funding opportunities, sign up to join the OTF-announce mailing list.

Review panel

All CIF applications are reviewed by the OTF team; selected applications are also then reviewed by OTF’s independent Advisory Council review panel. CIF proposals are reviewed by specific AC members who bring with them a deep knowledge of and experience with core internet technologies.

Members of the CIF Advisory Council review panel are:

Award information

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 $300,000 or less than the award floor of $5,000 may be deemed technically ineligible.

Application requirements, submission, and deadlines

Project and Budget Periods

OTF awards are generally 6 to 18 months 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 monthly reports and also phone, email, or in-person discussions and consultations as needed.

Eligibility

Ideal applicants are proposing efforts within the scope of this fund and OTF’s mission, values, and principles. In addition, ideal applicants meet one or more of the following:

  • 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 and are requesting less than $300,000 for efforts with a duration less than 12 months. This allows us to empower a new pool of technology and development talent that may not have been otherwise supported.

Other requests

Next deadline: 
2017-11-01
The Internet Freedom Fund is OTF's primary way to support projects and people working on open and accessible technology-centric projects that promote human rights, internet freedom, open societies, and help advance inclusive and safe access to global communications networks for at-risk users including journalists, human rights defenders, civil society activists, and every-day people living within repressive environments who wish to speak freely online.
Next deadline: 
Ongoing
The Rapid Response Fund aims to facilitate the digital emergency response community to resolve threats in a timely and comprehensive manner for individuals, communities, and organizations whose free expression has recently been repressed. To resolve digital emergencies, OTF offers both direct financial support as well as technical services from trusted partners to high-risk people and organizations, such as bloggers, cyber activists, journalists, and human rights defenders.