Knowledge Equity Fund
The Wikimedia Foundation Knowledge Equity Fund (the Fund) is a 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 social 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.
Knowledge equity is core to the work of free knowledge and to the Wikimedia 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 sharing, creating, and accessing all knowledge. Many of these barriers are rooted in systems of racial oppression. Due to colonization and slavery, knowledge from Black, Indigenous and racialised communities around the world have been systematically excluded and erased from the Western historical canon.
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 Knowledge Equity Fund was created in late 2020 as part of these commitments, recognizing the inextricable link between racial equity and knowledge equity. The Fund seeks to address barriers to free knowledge experienced by Black, Indigenous and oppressed/marginalized racialized communities around the world.
At the same time, we acknowledge 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/secondary sources for us to build from. The Knowledge Equity Fund is designed to provide grants to organizations outside of our movement, and, where possible, facilitate links and partnerships with organizations inside the movement. This will allow us to build a robust ecosystem of free knowledge partners working to address the barriers to knowledge equity.
The Knowledge Equity Fund is a pilot program, and we will be continuing to iterate on the structure and goals of the Fund. In January 2023 it was announced that we would move the remainder of the Fund from Tides Advocacy back into the Foundation. This will allow for increased clarity around structure, finances, and decision-making related to the Fund. This was completed in June 2023. The Fund was created in 2020 and former and ongoing grants are all given from the initial fund; to date, no additional funding has been added to the Equity Fund.
What we mean by racial equity Edit
The Knowledge Equity Fund defines racial equity as the concept and goal of achieving fairness and justice in society by addressing historical and contemporary disparities and biases rooted in racism and racialisation. It recognizes that certain racialised peoples and ethnic groups have been historically and systematically disadvantaged and oppressed, leading to unequal access to opportunities, resources, and power.
Achieving racial equity involves proactive efforts to identify and dismantle systemic barriers and structures that perpetuate inequality. It requires rectifying past and ongoing injustices and to ensure that all individuals, regardless of their racial or ethnic background, have equitable access to rights, opportunities, and outcomes.
Racial equity aims to promote consistent and sustained repair for non-White, non-US and non-Eurocentric communities and communities that continue to experience harm due to racism and and other systems of oppressions across the world. It includes authentic and intersectional, racial, ethnic and/or caste demographic representation that promotes sustained and consistent participation of people from oppressed communities around the world.
- The United Nation's International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination
- Strengthening the Fight Against Racism and Discrimination, UNESCO
- Putting Racial Equality onto the Global Human Rights Agenda, International Journal of Human Rights
- Dimensions of Racism, OHCHR and UNESCO
- Awake to Woke to Work: Building a Race Equity Culture, Equity in the Center
The Knowledge Equity Fund Committee Edit
The Knowledge Equity Fund Committee will identify, select and work with organizations that receive grants from the Knowledge Equity Fund. This committee will be made up of both Wikimedia Foundation employees and volunteers. Currently the Knowledge Equity Fund Committee includes:
Wikimedia Foundation Staff Edit
- Kassia Echavarri-Queen, Director of Community Investment, Wikimedia Foundation (KEchavarriqueen (WMF))
- Nadee Gunasena, Executive Communications Manager, Wikimedia Foundation (NGunasena_(WMF))
- Aeryn Palmer, Legal Director, Wikimedia Foundation, (Aeryn Palmer WMF)
- Jorge Vargas, Director, Regional Partnerships, Wikimedia Foundation (JVargas (WMF))
- Sandister Tei, Community Relations Specialist, Wikimedia Foundation, (STei (WMF))
- Kelly Foster, Community member (MassiveEartha)
- Emna Mizouni, Community member (Emnamizouni)
- Biyanto Rebin, Community member (Biyanto R)
- Maari Zwick-Maitreyi, Community member
- Gala Mayi Miranda, Community member (Galahmm FR Galahmm ES)
We also have one Foundation leader who is currently serving as an advisor to the Knowledge Equity Fund Committee. Advisors share their expertise in knowledge equity and in grantmaking, however they do not have voting rights on the committee.
- Vignesh Ashok, Vice President, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Wikimedia Foundation
Previous committee members include:
- Lisa Gruwell, Chief Advancement Officer, Wikimedia Foundation (Advisor)
- Tony Sebro, Deputy General Counsel, Wikimedia Foundation
- Janeen Uzzell, Chief Operating Officer, Wikimedia Foundation
- Felix Nartey, Senior Program Officer, Wikimedia Foundation
Community participation Edit
In its initial iteration, the Knowledge Equity Fund was weighted towards Foundation support. Having received feedback from community members about increased transparency and visibility into the Knowledge Equity Fund, we increased community participation and invited grantee nominations as we moved into our second round.
Recommendations and suggestions for Round 2 grantees was made through an intake form made available on Google Forms and LimeSurvey. Thank you to those that have submitted recommendations: we have received 41 suggestions that we evaluated as part of the second round.
Criteria for grantees Edit
Potential grantees must meet the following criteria: They must be a recognized nonprofit, as the Knowledge Equity Fund can not give grants to for-profit commercial entities or individuals. They must have a proven track record of impact. We are looking to learn from established organizations with a proven track record, and are not able to support organizations which are still determining how to assess their impact. The organization’s leadership should be representative of the Black, Indigenous or racialized communities they are seeking to serve.
They must align with one of five focus areas where we will concentrate our investments. Each of these areas addresses one of the persistent structural barriers that is preventing equitable access and participation in knowledge.
- Supporting scholarship & advocacy focused on free knowledge and racial equity
- Supporting media and journalism efforts focused on racialized people around the world, in order to expand reliable media sources covering these communities
- Addressing unequal internet access
- Improving digital literacy skills that impede access to knowledge
- Investing in non-traditional records of knowledge (i.e. oral histories)
Knowledge Equity Fund grants are a one-time financial grant for a one- or two-year term, so grantees must be able to sustain themselves beyond this grant. It is not intended to provide a source of ongoing funding.
Grant recipients Edit
Knowledge Equity Fund grantees are chosen by the Knowledge 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 needs 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.
First round Edit
On 08 September 2021, we announced the first round of grantees.
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.
- The 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 marginalization 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 of people of color in STEM and support non-traditional methods of storytelling.
For updates on the round one grantees’ work, and a discussion of how the Fund evolved for round two, please see our April 2023 blog and the individual reports by the grantees’, which provide specific updates on their progress.
Second round Edit
On 03 August 2023, we announced the second round of grantees. They are:
- Aliansi Masyarakat Adat Nusantara, Indonesia: The Aliansi Masyarakat Adat Nusantara, or the Alliance of the Indigenous Peoples of the Archipelago (AMAN for short), is a non-profit organization based in Indonesia that works on human rights and advocacy issues for indigenous people. They are receiving a one-year grant from the Equity Fund for $200,000 USD, and are one of the first Equity Fund grantees in Asia. AMAN will use this grant for several initiatives: firstly, to support their ongoing program to empower more indigenous people as citizen journalists so that the people reporting on issues that affect the indigenous people of the archipelago are those who most directly understand and can speak to them. Secondly, they will create an Indigenous Peoples Glossary in collaboration with indigenous journalists, for distribution to libraries and public schools. Thirdly, they will conduct research to measure public understanding about indigenous people and indigenous issues. The grant will also be used to update the AMAN website as a source and repository of information, research and journalistic articles about indigenous issues. This work will help to create more journalistic sources of information about indigenous peoples in Indonesia that can potentially be used as sources for sites including the Wikimedia projects.
- Black Cultural Archives, United Kingdom: Black Cultural Archives is a Black-led archive and heritage center that preserves and gives access to the histories of African and Caribbean people in the UK. They are the recipients of a one-year $290,000 USD grant. Their goals with this grant for the coming year include increasing research into their collections, as well as increasing the breadth of their collections for research. Another aim is to play a leading role in supporting a network of archive organizations that champion Black British history, and finally, they hope to develop programmatic work that provides access to their less traditional archive material; VHS tapes and cassettes that contain a large amount of information on Black British cultural history. This grant will be an important step in continuing to support archival work and increasing access to historical records.
“We are the nation’s home of Black British history and a beacon for Black communities at home and abroad. From heritage seekers to future leaders, school children, young people, university academic students courses, to senior academics and elders. We serve people who seek a deeper understanding of primarily British and global diasporic black history,” said Lisa Anderson, Director of the BCA. “This transformational gift will be used to advance BCA’s mission to collect, preserve and celebrate the histories of people of African and African Caribbean descent in order to inspire and give strength to society at large.”
- Create Caribbean Research Institute, Commonwealth of Dominica: Create Caribbean Research Institute is the first digital humanities center in the Caribbean. They will be receiving a $75,000 grant. The grant will be used to expand Create Caribbean’s Create and Code technology education program to enable children ages 5-16 to develop information and digital literacy as well as coding skills. The funds will support the expansion of the curriculum for the camp, development of open access resources for participants and the adoption of underserved schools to implement longer term skill building. In addition, the funds will also align with the Knowledge Equity Fund’s focus area of supporting non-traditional records of knowledge: the grant will support the development of a Caribbean oral history database focused on the themes of education, information and knowledge preservation, local community development and environmental sustainability.
- Criola, Brazil: Criola is a civil society organization, based in Rio de Janeiro, dedicated to advocating for the rights of Black women in Brazilian society. They prioritize knowledge production, research, and skills development as part of their work. They are also part of a national and international network of human rights, justice and advocacy organization focused on promoting racial equity. They will be receiving a one-year Equity Fund grant of $160,000 to enhance their research and publishing capabilities, with a specific focus on improving accessibility. Criola has over three decades of experience in human rights and advocacy, and their work with this grant will focus on knowledge production, including studies, research and surveys on the impact of racism in all areas of society, as well as courses and workshops focused on political advocacy and digital and physical security for activists.
- Data for Black Lives, United States: Data for Black Lives is a movement of activists, organizers, and scientists committed to the mission of using data to create concrete and measurable change in the lives of Black people. They will be receiving a one year grant of $100,000, which they will use to launch a Movement Scientists Fellowship. This Fellowship will match racial justice leaders with machine learning research engineers to develop data-based machine learning applications to drive change in the areas of climate, genetics, and economic justice. They will also launch a new series of educational programs, such as free and open oral histories that promote data literacy.
- Filipino American National Historical Society, United States: The Filipino American National Historical Society, or FANHS , has a mission to gather, document and share Filipino American history through its 42 community based chapters. FANHS will be receiving a one-year grant for $70,000 from the Equity Fund. This grant will support continuing and growing FANHS’ scholarship and advocacy on accurate historical representations of Filipino Americans and counter distorted and effaced ethnic history, their collection and archival of non-traditional records of knowledge such as oral histories, and their efforts to build community digital literacy skills to enhance preservation and access to Filipino American knowledge. These records have the potential to provide additional citations and sources for accessible information about Filipino American history.
- Project Multatuli, Indonesia: Project Multatuli is an organization dedicated to non-profit journalism, especially for underreported topics, ranging from indigenous people to marginalized issues. Their goal is to produce data-based, deeply researched news stories to promote inclusive journalism and amplify the voices of marginalized communities. They will receive a $50,000 grant from the Equity Fund to support three activities over the coming year: first, training with women photojournalists from other publications around the region; second, ten in-depth reports of minority and marginalized groups, shedding light on human rights abuses, and environmental issues, and other challenges they face, including five reports that center on indigenous women groups; and third, support for administrative and technical improvements of the organization’s reporting capabilities to embrace new media, to provide the public with unrestricted access to high-quality reports across different formats.
We consistently seek ideas from the Wikimedia communities for organizations that might be potential grantees in future, and welcome recommendations through this form.
Round 1 – Narrative and Financial reports Edit
In August of 2022, the Round 1 grantees shared annual reports of their work and progress with the year of funds given by the Equity Fund, from September 2021-August 2022. Although these reports are being posted several months after they were initially produced, they provide a summary of work completed by each grantee during that 12 month period.
- Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism: Narrative report • Financial report
- Borealis Racial Equity in Journalism Fund: Narrative report • Total spent: 850,000 USD (85% direct support to grantees and 15% spent on operational expenses)
- Howard University and the Institute of Intellectual Property and Social Justice: The Institute of Intellectual Property and Social Justice: TBA
- InternetLab: Narrative report • Financial report
- Media Foundation for West Africa: Narrative report • Financial report
- The SeRCH Foundation, Inc.: Narrative and financial report • Impact report
Community call after round 2 Edit
With the announcement of the Knowledge Equity Fund’s round 2 grantees, we’ve seen a lot of questions and feedback about the Knowledge Equity Fund, how the Committee works and how the work of the grantees will contribute to the projects and to the movement. To help answer these questions, the Knowledge Equity Fund Committee will host a community conversation on Friday, October 6, 2023 at 1400 UTC to hear ideas, concerns and to answer questions. The Committee would also like to hear ideas for how the fund should be used in the upcoming third round of grantmaking.
To register for this conversation, please email us at EquityFund@wikimedia.org You can also send us questions beforehand. The call will be held in English and we will have interpretation in Spanish; if you would like interpretation into other languages please let us know. If you’re not able to attend, we will also share notes and a written list of Q&A after the call.