Knowledge Equity Fund

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The Wikimedia Foundation Knowledge Equity Fund is a new US$4.5 million fund created by the Wikimedia Foundation in 2020, to provide grants to external organizations that support knowledge equity by addressing the racial inequities preventing access and participation in free knowledge.

This pilot initiative is rooted in our strategic direction, where Knowledge Equity emerged in 2017 as one of two key pillars of focus in order for us to achieve our vision for 2030. Knowledge equity acknowledges that we can’t achieve free knowledge if there are societal or economic barriers that prevent some people’s ability to share and contribute to knowledge. With this focused fund, we will invest in organizations working to address systems of racial bias and inequality around the world, with the goal of creating a more inclusive, representative future for free knowledge.

History[edit]

In June 2020, the murder of George Floyd in the United States (US) led to protests against racial injustice in more than 60 countries around the world. In the wake of these continued global protests, the Wikimedia Foundation made several explicit commitments to advance racial justice through increased support and investment as a Foundation, as a part of our movement’s larger commitment to knowledge equity. The Equity Fund was created in late 2020 as part of these commitments, with an explicit focus on addressing barriers to free knowledge experienced by Black, Indigenous and communities of color around the world.

Knowledge equity is core to the work of free knowledge and to our movement. In order to invite in the knowledge and communities that have been left out by structures of power and privilege, we must break down the obstacles that are preventing the ability of all people to participate in all knowledge.

We decided to focus on racial equity because it is a pervasive problem that is inextricably linked to the work of knowledge equity. Many of the barriers that prevent people from accessing and contributing to free knowledge are rooted in systems of racial oppression. Due to colonization and slavery, knowledge from Black, Indigenous and communities of colour around the world have been systematically excluded and erased from the historical canon.

At the same time, we recognize this is work that we as a movement cannot do alone. Our projects can only do so much when, for example, academic and mass media representation of marginalized communities remains insufficient, which in turn limits citations and primary sources for us to build from. The Equity Fund is designed to provide grants to organizations outside of our movement. This will allow us to build a robust ecosystem of free knowledge partners working to address the barriers to knowledge equity. This fund is a pilot program, and we will be continuing to iterate on the structure and goals of the fund.

What we mean by racial equity[edit]

The Wikimedia Foundation defines racial equity as shifting away from Eurocentricity, White-male-imperialist-patriarchal supremacy, superiority, power and privilege to create an environment that is inclusive and reflects the experiences of communities of color worldwide. These modes of privilege mentioned above function as setting the dominant social, political, legal, policy-oriented, and cultural norms around the world.

Racial equity means acknowledging explicit and implicit affirmative actions for White people and groups with privilege related to skin color are created systemically through institutional power, dominance, and control.

Racial equity aims to promote consistent and sustained repair for non-White, non-US and Eurocentric communities and communities that continue to experience harm due to racism and caste-based upon colorism.

Racial equity includes authentic and intersectional, racial, ethnic and/or color demographic representation that promotes sustained and consistent participation of people from oppressed communities based on skin color.

Additional Resources

The Equity Fund Committee[edit]

The Equity Fund Committee will identify and work with organizations that receive grants from the Equity Fund. This committee will be made up of both Wikimedia Foundation employees and volunteers. Currently the Equity Fund Committee includes:

  • Kassia Echavarri-Queen, Director of Community Investment, Wikimedia Foundation (KEchavarriqueen (WMF))
  • Kelly Foster, Community member (MassiveEartha)
  • Nadee Gunasena, Executive Communications Manager, Wikimedia Foundation (NGunasena_(WMF))
  • Emna Mizouni, Community member (Emnamizouni)
  • Felix Nartey, Senior Program Officer, Campaigns, Wikimedia Foundation (FNartey (WMF))
  • Tony Sebro, Deputy General Counsel, Wikimedia Foundation (TSebro (WMF))
  • Jorge Vargas, Senior Manager, Regional Partnerships, Wikimedia Foundation (JVargas (WMF))

We also have two Foundation and movement leaders who are currently serving as advisors to the Equity Fund Committee. These advisors share their expertise in knowledge equity and in grantmaking as we are launching the Equity Fund.

  • Janeen Uzzell, former Chief Operating Officer, Wikimedia Foundation
  • Lisa Gruwell, Chief Advancement Officer, Wikimedia Foundation

Community participation[edit]

The current structure of the Equity Fund is weighted towards Foundation support. The fund was originally launched as a rapid response to the protests for Black lives happening around the world in 2020. We created a pilot program, with a goal of being fast and efficient in providing grants of support. The actual timeline for the Equity Fund has been slower as we’ve been navigating the operational and logistical issues of creating a new type of fund. As we launch, there are two community members on the Committee. Our goal is to involve more community members in this pilot program, and we will be opening this up for more people to get involved in future rounds of funding. At the moment, we are looking to the movement to recommend organizations that qualify for funding from the Equity Fund and could become impactful partners. If you have a recommendation, please fill out this form (hosted by Google) with details.

Areas of Funding[edit]

The Equity Fund Committee has selected five focus areas where we will focus our investments. Each of these areas addresses one of the persistent structural barriers that is preventing equitable access and participation in knowledge.

  1. Supporting scholarship & advocacy focused on free knowledge and racial equity
  2. Supporting media and journalism efforts focused on people of color around the world, in order to expand reliable media sources covering these communities
  3. Addressing unequal internet access
  4. Improving digital literacy skills that impede access to knowledge
  5. Investing in non-traditional records of knowledge (i.e. oral histories)

Grant recipients[edit]

On 08 September 2021, we announced the first round of grantees for the Equity Fund. These grantees were chosen by the Equity Fund Committee based on an evaluation of their existing programmatic work and how it furthers racial equity in the context of free knowledge. Each grantee also needed to meet specific criteria, such as being a recognized nonprofit, establishing a proven track record of impact, and having a financial model that is not dependent on a grant from the Wikimedia Foundation.

The grantees are:

  • Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (US$250,000): The Arab Reporters in Journalism (ARIJ) is a nonprofit investigative journalism organization based in Jordan. ARIJ has built an expansive network of journalists across the Middle East and North Africa and has supported over 650 investigative projects on topics ranging from threats to freedom of expression, to systemic patterns of bias and discrimination. This grant will support ARIJ’s continued work in training and coaching media on how to report on issues of equity and institutional accountability, with dedicated workshops that tackle the skills, tools, and knowledge required for Arab journalists to address racial inequity in the region. Through their work, ARIJ will continue to grow the breadth of investigative journalism about inequity throughout the Arab World based on journalistic principles of facts, research, and multiple sources.
  • Borealis Racial Equity in Journalism Fund (US$250,000): Borealis is a philanthropic intermediary that takes a community-led approach to addressing injustices and driving transformative change across the United States. This grant will be provided to their Racial Equity in Journalism Fund, which invests in local news organizations led by people of color that have built long-standing relationships and trust with the diverse communities they serve. With this investment, Borealis will invest in local community-based journalism with a focus on improving how communities of color are represented and reported on throughout the media. Through this work, they will increase the amount of citable articles about leaders of color and community issues and further knowledge equity.
  • Howard University and the Institute of Intellectual Property and Social Justice: The Institute of Intellectual Property and Social Justice (US$260,000) (IIPSJ) is a nonprofit organization that was established to promote social justice in the field of intellectual property law. IIPSJ is led by professors from and graduates of the Howard University School of Law (HUSL), the oldest historically black college or university law school in the United States and a leading institution in civil rights and social justice advocacy. IIPSJ advocates for equity and inclusion throughout the intellectual property (IP) ecosystem, including shaping IP law, policies, and initiatives to promote awareness of IP protections and possibilities among communities of color. With this grant, IIPSJ will create a two-year fellowship at HUSL led by a Wikimedia Race and Knowledge Equity Fellow to explore how systemic racism and injustice impacts how marginalized communities can participate in free knowledge (including in the intellectual property ecosystem), recommendations to address these gaps in knowledge, and how knowledge can be used to advance racial equity and empowerment.
  • InternetLab (US$200,000): InternetLab is a nonprofit think tank focused on internet policy and research around critical digital issues of inclusivity and equal rights, based in São Paulo, Brazil. With this grant, InternetLab will create a two-year fellowship led by a Wikimedia Race and Knowledge Equity Fellow that will produce scholarly writings and publications, as well as educational programming on the intersection between racial equity and free knowledge in Brazil. The Fellow will conduct research on topics including what barriers impact the participation of Black and Indigenous peoples in online knowledge, and identify national and local policy solutions across the fields of intellectual property, access to technologies, education and research, affirmative action, funding and incentives, among others. This fellowship will expand the available research about how racial inequity has impacted communities of color in Brazil.
  • Media Foundation for West Africa (US$150,000): The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) is a non-governmental organization dedicated to protecting and defending the right to freedom of expression, particularly for media and human rights defenders, throughout the 16 countries in West Africa. This grant will support the MFWA’s continued work to protect the public’s right to access information and advocacy for equitable policies throughout the region. MFWA will promote investigative journalism on issues of equity and injustice as part of their focus on freedom of expression and access to information. The grant will also support the organization’s press freedom and independent journalism advocacy to help build a favorable and enabling environment for in-depth investigative reporting that encourages transparency and accountability — the lack of which often result in injustices and marginalisation of the poor, underrepresented, and minority groups.
  • The SeRCH Foundation, Inc. (US$250,000): The STEM en Route to Change Foundation (SeRCH Foundation) is a non-profit organization based in the United States that focuses on the intersection of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) as a tool for social justice. This grant will be used to support their flagship program, #VanguardSTEM, which asserts the value of non-traditional knowledge alongside technical expertise and uses storytelling as a means of cultural production to amplify the contributions of Black, Indigenous, women of color and non-binary people of color in STEM fields. With this investment, #VanguardSTEM will grow their collection of featured BIPOC STEM creatives, adding multimedia to each profile to enhance the storytelling capacity. This collection of open and freely licensed audio, video, and written content about women and non-binary innovators and inventors of color will expand the repository of rich content in the Commons centering the experiences and expertise people of color in STEM and support non-traditional methods of storytelling.

Moving forward, the Equity Fund will provide one more round of grants in the Wikimedia Foundation’s fiscal year, likely in early 2022. Our plan is to select these grantees among ideas from the Wikimedia movement, and welcome recommendations through this form.

For more information[edit]

Detail about the Wikimedia Foundation's Knowledge Equity Fund to provide grants for racial equity and free knowledge.

Office Hours: We hosted two Office Hours sessions on Monday 14 June, at 0100 UTC and 1500 UTC. We had no attendees for the first session, and had 3 volunteers attend at different times during the later session. We received three questions. Each of these questions is now listed on the FAQ.

  • 1. How can volunteers know if some of the work they are doing around knowledge equity could qualify for a grant from the Equity Fund?
  • 2. Is the actual legal agreement with Tides Advocacy going to be made public?
  • 3. Are there legally-binding reporting requirements, regarding where money in the fund is going?

For additional information, we will be monitoring this Meta page to answer questions. You can also reach the Equity Fund Committee at equityfund@wikimedia.org