Oakland Wiki: Funding, Grants, and More

The OaklandWiki is a part of the LocalWiki network, a non-profit grassroots organization, funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, along with Wikihow, Davis Bike Coalition plus 400 other individual sponsors. At this point, it's difficult to gauge the level of funding for each individual wiki. From my understanding, LocalWiki accepts the funding from the aforementioned sources and uses the funds to make the local wikis, like Oakland's, happen.

Recently, LocalWiki acknowledged the difficulties in building cities' wiki pages on its platform. The concerns included: 1). not every city has a project; 2). many city projects cannot maintain or keep a server, as each city needs to maintain one for itself; 3). city's feel they need a robust group of contributors to make the project work; 4). the LocalWiki API needs works as it's not shareable; 5). SEO-friendly content is difficult because each project from the cities that adopted the LocalWiki platform operate under different domain names and on different serves; 6). mobile applications are a must; 7). and isolated areas need help starting up a LocalWiki.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has offered ongoing support to LocalWiki, whereby the organization is going to be embarking on a new project that aims to address these problems, scale up the platform and ultimately make it easier for anyone, anywhere to contribute and learn about his or her surroundings.

It's difficult to say how this will affect the Oakland wiki going forward. However, since it's operating under this LocalWiki umbrella it's likely there will be some effects.

However, in the past, Code for America has provided small, modest funds to the OaklandWiki. Code for America ran a campaign called, Race for Reuse, to foster civic engagement within cities by creating civic engagement apps across the country. The city of Oakland collaborated with Code for America and received funds, or a "care package", as it was called in the discussion boards, to help OaklandWiki get denizens of the city engaged through the app.

Prior to OaklandWiki's participation in the Race for Reuse, Marina sent out an email, stating:

"We also have the opportunity to be a part of Code for America Race 4 Reuse (http://brigade.codeforamerica.org/pages/race-for-reuse). As part of the race, we may be able to secure funding for publicity and if we hit a certain number of users by Thanksgiving, we win money to throw a party (that's right, an editing party! ;))"

In subsequent posts, a Code for America program fellow, sent as email citing the funds it could allocate to help OaklandWiki with funding for the civic app built.

"Dear Racers,

Congratulations! You have all made it to the starting line of the Race for Reuse.

Your friendly competitors: civic minded technologists and organizers in 22 other cities.

Over the next five weeks, it’s your challenge to take your civic app and get it into the hands of your friends and neighbors to make a real impact in your city. Hit key metrics of success by 12/8 -- metrics which we’ll work out with you) -- and you’ll win a year of free hosting.

Please read this note thoroughly (it's the longest one we'll send, promise) to learn about the final preparations for your race, the milestones of the competition, and next steps. For this phase of the R4R campaign, we’re asking you to market your apps through a public event and ongoing media outreach. Not to worry, we’re backing you up with a budget and resources to help you out.

Who are we? If you don’t know us, we’re Kevin and Jack of the Code for America Brigade. Think of us as your remote support team and long distance cheerleaders.

To start, we’ve put together a care package of resources to help you along the way:

Civic App Care Package Campaign budget ($200): The centerpiece of the engagement campaign will be a local event you host in your community, which we’re asking every city to host on - or as close to - December 1. We’ll be providing some budget and resources to help you out, and offer more details when we connect individually in the coming weeks. Event ($150): Food, snack, etc -- whatever you need to make the event run. Printing/Materials ($50): Schwag to help spread the word (expect some templates, etc, in your inbox soon) Civic App marketing webinar, media kit, and guides: Over the next few weeks, expect to receive a handful of detailed resources on how to get your app out there. And mark your calendars: on Tuesday, November 13th, at 10am, we’ll be hosting a webinar featuring best practicing on civic app marketing. Visibility from National Campaign: The benefit of tying together the work being done in these 20+ cities is that we can lend a national platform for outreach. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be blogging, pushing out releases, etc, all summing to the big final push on December 1 -- the coordinated national event.

Ready, Set, Go!

The Brigade Team"

In addition, I've learned OaklandWiki helps other civic organizations within the community secure funds or at least point them in the correct direction. Some OaklandWiki contributors are active within the community, as its integral to OaklandWiki's mission. For example, the Oakland Public Library needed digitization and OaklandWiki discussed helping the library meets these needs according to previous meeting notes:

"Oakland Public Library Digitization The library would be down, but they don't have any money! If we propose a project and find a source of funding and human resource, they would be down. We would want to talk to Sharon (outreach librarian) and finance librarian about what we would need. There are many grants available. We should investigate the options (ex: Internet Archive digitization program) and broach the librarians with a project plan. Also, the Friends of the Oakland History Room may be a source of funding."

Therefore, the organization receives funding from different sources, not corporations, to achieve its goals. As seen in previous message boards, OaklandWiki, when confronted with funding, especially from Code for America, the organization operates under its thumb. For example, a conversation played out whereby a contributor said he would front the money but then the benevolent dictator explained Code for America wanted to use the funds in hopes of aligning with its other publicity moves around the same time.

"I will advance Oakland Wiki the $150 tomorrow for midday food or other necessities. And also, not that it's available within 24h, but I can also advance the shwag money." - Max Klein

Marina in response to Max Klein:

"Hi Max,

Thank you for the generous offer, but after speaking briefly with Jack from Code for America, I think the program wants us to use the money for an event on or close to Dec. 1st to coordinate with events that they will be having in other parts of the country. I've asked him how flexible that date is (because Oakland's city camp, where we will be having an Oakland Wiki session, will be on Dec. 1), but for this event today, it seems unlikely that we will be able to get CfA money.

That being said, it would be nice to recommend a lunch place for people, maybe something close to the West Oakland Library? Anyone have any suggestions (why do I feel like a taco truck would be ideal?).

Aside from Code for America, OaklandWiki's core contributors play an active role in securing funding/grants for projects and publicity. When looking at LocalWiki as a whole, OaklandWiki utilizes its platform, but secures additional funds and thus showcases other supporters and cities looking to join the LocalWiki network that it's possible to gain the finances needed to further projects along. Ultimately, similar to Seattle's LocalWiki, OaklandWiki becomes a success story for LocalWiki, as it participates and secures more funding.