Prototype Fund

The Prototype Fund will provide support to emerging initiatives that are experimental and exploratory in nature. In the field of data stewardship, there are many ideas and opportunities to positively model new methods and tools. The Prototype Fund will provide grants and facilitated peer learning and collaboration across cohorts of grantees that are building the tools -- legal, technical, and political -- to advance the field of data stewardship. We expect requests for support from established organizations and upstart initiatives, and we are open to providing financial and non-monetary forms of support based on the needs and potential of projects. Future opportunities for funding will be announced on this site.

Priorities of the Prototype Fund include:

  • Work with communities to identify promising initiatives in conjunction with the Lab’s networks of practice.
  • Support robust problem definitions trained on real impact, and seek solutions from the network.
  • Connect projects and people in the Lab's networks to tools, mentors, collaborators, and other resources beyond funding.
  • Invest in open source documentation as we actively learn by doing.
  • Test sustainability models for prototypes.

Infrastructure Fund

In order to make meaningful change in our digital world, we will need to reshape the infrastructure upon which we rely. The Infrastructure Fund will set its sights on the longer term, structural requirements to enable consumer-facing data stewardship systems. This includes supporting work from the domains of engineering and law such as data handling tooling and methods; standard contracts and governance policies; identity systems tuned to collective data governance; reusable text for large scale, repeated subject access requests; and tooling for methods like differential privacy that allow for machine learning within the confines of good data governance. We anticipate that in the course of supporting prototypes and engaging with various networks, we will identify the gaps and obstacles inherent in data systems that need to be changed to reduce friction for data stewardship work.

The Infrastructure Fund will invest in:

  • Refining specific tools and resources that can be put to use at scale, including modular building blocks for the engineering, data handling, legal and contracts, professional development and community management challenges that will be common across large proportions of implementation.
  • Identifying platform opportunities that encourage network effects in good data stewardship practices and shape the enabling architecture of data systems and platforms.

Grantees

The first cohort of grantees funded via the Prototype Fund:

SignalBoost | U.S.

Signalboost is a messaging application that provides encrypted broadcasts and hotlines to activists, organizers, and other vulnerable populations. It doesn’t rely on SMS, which is vulnerable to surveillance, and doesn’t require users to expose their phone number. With this award, Signalboost will scale and improve their app; build an open source library that allows others to build on top of the Signal protocol; work on usability and community building; and publish research on security and data stewardship.

Platform Info Exchange | U.K.

Platform Info Exchange is a nonprofit trade union for drivers whose livelihoods depend on app-based services like Uber. The organization helps gig workers access, analyze, and act on insights from their personal data collected and processed at work. With this award, Platform Info Exchange will recruit gig workers to join a class action, mass subject access request under Articles 15 & 22 of the GDPR in Europe — and, as a result, pave the way for a worker-led data trust.

Consumer Reports | U.S.

Consumer Reports is a well-known advocate for transparency and truth in the consumer marketplace that leverages its research, product development, and advocacy to advance the digital rights of consumers. This award will help Consumer Reports develop a tool inspired by the California Consumer Privacy Act to help local consumers easily see what data companies hold about them.