Our work

Civic Empowerment

Enabling people to shape the decisions that affect their lives, hold those in power to account, and access the services they need.

The global context

The relationship between people and governments in democratic societies is defined by a core belief that governments work on behalf of the people they serve, and that those people are able to effectively engage with their government. This relationship is never perfect but, in healthy societies, structures and systems exist to strive for continual improvement.

Recently, global trends towards more autocratic and populist leadership have inspired unprecedented levels of civic engagement, replacing traditional political apathy. Many governments have reacted by constricting civic space and blocking people’s ability to fully exercise their rights, express their views, and access the services they need. 

Digital innovation has also fuelled increased civic engagement. Technology, when combined with offline services and support, creates a powerful platform for participation in governance. However, there is now a growing backlash against technology, particularly when it favours those in power and marginalises those without access.

Against this backdrop, demand for innovative technology will likely increase as governments (and sometimes non-profit or private sector actors) take on responsibility for service delivery. It is important that these tools improve efficiency and effectiveness, without reinforcing inequalities or infringing upon privacy and individual rights.

What we do

We make investments and engage in research with the goal of ensuring that everyone, especially those who are marginalised or under-served, can participate in governance, receive the services they need, and hold those in power to account. 

We do this by funding and supporting non-profit and for-profit organisations that work in two complementary areas: those using technology to help governments deliver better services, and those helping people participate in the decisions their governments make. We fund early-stage innovations, helping organisations scale and identify opportunities for long-term sustainability. With a global remit, we actively invest in North America, Latin America, Europe, Africa, and Asia.

On the service delivery side, we invest in civic technologies and digital innovation designed to improve the quality and responsiveness of government services, while protecting individual rights and privacy. 

When it comes to public engagement, we invest in efforts combining online participation with real-world organising and campaigning. We also support campaigns that defend and amplify the voices of the marginalised.

Finally, as governments in countries across the world seek to curtail basic freedoms, we selectively use litigation, policy advocacy, and awareness-raising to fight back.

Our current priority areas include:

1

Empowering individuals through improved access to services

We will invest in civic technologies, tools, and processes that make government service delivery more effective, responsive, and fair. Our focus will be on health and human services, criminal justice, public safety, and public infrastructure. We will also support non-profit organisations which offer digital training to local governments and commission research into the risks of civic technology that fails to respect individual rights.

2

Building responsive, responsible institutions

We will enable people to better participate in governance and hold those in power to account by investing in civic technologies, campaigning tools, and methods for organisation and capacity building. We will enhance our support for campaigns that give voice to under-served groups and organisations that provide resources for political innovation.

3

Enabling a thriving ecosystem

We will support ecosystem-building activities – including hubs, community spaces, collaboratives, and funds – to create and sustain innovative civic empowerment organisations. These activities will contribute to learning, business model experimentation, policy intervention, and impact measurement frameworks, while combining digital and analogue approaches to impact.

The power of youth

DoSomething is a global movement for good. Leveraging digital technology, social media, and popular culture, the organisation engages and activates young people around causes they care about. So far, their six million members have led over 275 campaigns around the world. As their introductory video explains, this is just the start.

Inventing a brighter future

Nossas describe themselves as ‘a laboratory of activism’. Based in Brazil, they harness digital innovation to invent new ways for the public to influence politics and participate in the decisions affecting their lives. Their recent video explains how they are creating #OtherFutures.

Myanmar’s ‘creation place’

Myanmar has gone from digital isolation to having the highest smartphone penetration rate of any developing country – all in six years. Phandeeyar is a community tech hub tapping into this newfound connectivity and fostering Myanmar’s innovation ecosystem. An inspiring video released to celebrate their second birthday tells their story.
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