Announcing a new grant to Sunlight from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation


Sunlight is very proud to share the news that the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation will award us $4 million over the next three years to increase our ability to make more government data more accessible, especially on the state and local level. With this new support, we will focus more on making more government data accessible to more and more people — not just journalists and experts. This new funding from the Knight Foundation will go a long way toward giving us more resources to make online government transparency a reality, enabling us to continue to build tools to bring that data to the public and share with the growing open government community lessons learned from our work.

As Michael Maness, vice president for journalism and media innovation at Knight Foundation described Knight’s grant in their press release: “Sunlight’s work will help improve access to government data, but also create a standard for turning that data into valuable information.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

This grant shows Knight’s commitment to support the open government movement, and lets Sunlight serve as a cornerstone in the Knight Foundation’s open government grant-making. The funding covers four main activities of our work in supporting the open data ecosystem:

  1. Improve data sets and tools The grant will allow Sunlight to improve the interoperability, usability and expand how we gather and use data around legislative committee activity in Congress, state spending records and local government proceedings, just to name a few.
  2. Strengthen partnerships From established groups to regional organizations and other nonprofits and media outlets, Sunlight will build partnerships with these key actors and conduct trainings and provide hands-on expertise in how to nurture open government activities at the municipal level.
  3. Build knowledge base The grant gives Sunlight the ability to develop a team of designers, software developers, journalists and policy experts to evaluate the successes and failures of practices and tools within the field of open government data.
  4. Share best practices Through this grant, Sunlight will share the best practices and human-centered design lessons learned from this work and set priorities for the opengov community.

In short, Knight’s support will empower Sunlight to expand our data offerings and make them as accessible as possible, while broadening our scope and ability to address new problems. At the same time, Knight’s funding will enable us to more effectively evaluate, analyze and share instructive successes and failures within the open data community so we can all strengthen our work and make the best uses of the open data ecosystem.

We’re thrilled Knight is committed to supporting our role in growing and fostering the open government community, especially since we know first-hand how supporting our open data ecosystem is a continuous and substantial process. Web scrapers break, servers crash, crucial pieces of data must be manually collected, and all of it must be inspected, tested, verified and amended on an ongoing basis. And beyond maintaining the reliability of the data, it’s just as crucial for us at Sunlight to ensure the community has a reliable way to keep channels of communication and knowledge-sharing open, including through our regular contact answering questions and offering assistance, but also by conducting trainings, speaking at conferences and meetups and finding new ways to support and grow the community of open government data users. So, be on the look-out for updates on our blog about how you can get involved.

This is the third grant we’ve received from the Knight Foundation; previous funding supported our series of National Data Apps, including our popular Sitegeist mobile app that allows users to instantly access public data about the neighborhood they’re in at that moment. This new grant builds on our success, primarily through creating Sitegeist, in applying principles of human-centered design to make government data accessible to the general public. Sitegeist, which Sunlight created in consultation with design firm IDEO, has been downloaded more than 84,000 times (thanks, users!) and nominated for two Webby Awards for excellence on the Internet.

These funds are the second-largest foundation grant received by Sunlight since our founding in 2006. A list of all our donors is available on our site here.

We look forward to embarking on this important work and hope you will join us in strengthening the bonds between all who work in open government: from policy makers and data providers to civic hackers, government reformers and newcomers.