Wikimedia Foundation Announces First Grant Recipients of New $4.5 Million Equity Fund to Close Knowledge Gaps and Promote Racial Equity

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New Equity Fund announces grants to six organizations based in Brazil, Ghana, Jordan, and the United States that address barriers to free knowledge

8 September 2021 — Today, the Wikimedia Foundation, the global nonprofit organization that supports Wikipedia and other free knowledge projects, announced six inaugural grants as part of the newly launched Knowledge Equity Fund, an effort to close knowledge gaps and address racial inequities in its projects. The first round of grants will be given to six global nonprofit organizations: Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (ARIJ), the Borealis Philanthropy Racial Equity in Journalism Fund, Howard University School of Law and the Institute for Intellectual Property and Social Justice (IIPSJ), InternetLab, STEM en Route to Change (SeRCH) Foundation, and the Media Foundation of West Africa. 

“As a movement dedicated to the sum of all knowledge, we must take a more active role in breaking down the barriers to knowledge that have disproportionately impacted communities of color throughout history,” said Lisa Gruwell, Chief Advancement Officer at the Wikimedia Foundation and an advisor on the Equity Fund Committee. “Racism has skewed the historical record and continues to deny communities of color access to knowledge as a human right. Through the Equity Fund, we are thrilled to support organizations working directly to address these inequities, so that the work of free knowledge can finally reflect the world’s rich diversity.”

The Equity Fund is a $4.5 million fund created by the Wikimedia Foundation to advance more equitable, inclusive representation in Wikimedia projects, including Wikipedia. Through the fund, the Foundation will build a robust ecosystem of institutional partners working at the intersection of free knowledge and racial justice. The Equity Fund extends the Foundation’s explicit goal to support communities that have been left out by structures of power and privilege. It was conceptualized in June 2020, in the wake of global protests about police brutality and racial injustice in the United States. 

The first grant recipients of the Equity Fund are:

  • Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (ARIJ), Jordan ($250,000): To provide a one-year investment to expand the investigative journalism ecosystem in 16 countries in the Middle East. With our support, ARIJ will expand the training and support they provide for Arab journalists around racial equity and accessibility, and advocate for increased coverage of marginalized communities throughout the region.
  • Borealis Philanthropy’s Racial Equity in Journalism Fund, United States ($250,000): To provide a one-year investment to support US-based journalism organizations led by and for people of color, helping expand news and public affairs coverage in communities of color. Through the Racial Justice in Journalism fund, we will seek to increase media coverage and, subsequently, source citations for Wikimedia projects about issues and leaders that impact diverse communities.
  • Howard University School of Law and the Institute for Intellectual Property and Social Justice (IIPSJ), United States ($260,000): To create a two-year Wikimedia Race and Knowledge Equity Fellowship to produce white papers and academic research exploring how free knowledge can be used to advance racial equity and socio-economic empowerment throughout the intellectual property landscape. This Fellowship would also develop recommendations to address gaps in the free knowledge ecosystem that exacerbate systemic racism and block progress to advance racial equity.  
  • InternetLab, Brazil ($200,000): To create a two-year Wikimedia Race and Knowledge Equity Fellowship to research the impact of systemic racism and digital access for African descendants in Brazil, explore the most pressing barriers to the participation of Black people in knowledge online, and identify how racial inequality is reflected in the availability of online content in Portuguese and in Brazil.  The Fellowship will work to identify how national and local policies create barriers related to online knowledge, and potential policy solutions to address intellectual property, access, and education among others.
  • Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), Ghana ($150,000): To provide a one-year investment to support MFWA’s work providing journalist training and advocacy for journalist rights. With this grant, MFWA will expand their work to cover racial equity through funding for investigative journalism, promoting and protecting freedom of expression and digital rights in the region.  
  • STEM en Route to Change (SeRCH) Foundation, United States ($250,000): To provide a two-year investment to the SeRCH Foundation to support the expansion of their signature program, #VanguardSTEM, which amplifies the voices of Black, Indigenous, women of color and non-binary people of color in STEM fields. The SeRCH Foundation will leverage cultural production, including multimedia storytelling, to advance non-traditional forms of knowledge creation, to build freely licensed and open rich media content about STEM leaders of color, and address inequitable representation throughout scientific fields.

Racial equity is directly tied to our movement’s focus on knowledge equity, part of our long-term strategy for 2030. Knowledge equity is defined as supporting the knowledge and communities that have been excluded by historical structures of power and privilege. Many of the barriers that prevent people from accessing and contributing to knowledge are rooted in systems of racial oppression. Due to colonization and slavery, knowledge from Black and Indigenous communities, along with other historically marginalized groups, has been systematically excluded and erased from the historical canon. The Equity Fund will directly address the barriers to free knowledge experienced by Black, Indigenous, and communities of color around the world. Investments from the Equity Fund will address one or more of five focus areas: 

  • Supporting scholarship & advocacy focused on free knowledge and racial equity; 
  • Expanding media and journalism efforts focused on people of color around the world; 
  • Addressing unequal internet access; 
  • Improving digital literacy skills that impede access to knowledge; 
  • Investing in non-traditional records of knowledge such as oral histories. 

Grant recipients are chosen based on their past record of impact, their alignment to Wikimedia’s vision of access to knowledge, and their potential to benefit free knowledge. Following this first round of grantees, the Equity Fund will continue to look for additional grantees that align to our goals of addressing racial inequities in free knowledge through subsequent rounds of funding. The next round will likely take place in the next year.

About the Wikimedia Foundation

The Wikimedia Foundation is the nonprofit organization that operates Wikipedia and the other Wikimedia free knowledge projects. Our vision is a world in which every single human can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. We believe that everyone has the potential to contribute something to our shared knowledge, and that everyone should be able to access that knowledge freely. We host Wikipedia and the Wikimedia projects, build software experiences for reading, contributing, and sharing Wikimedia content, support the volunteer communities and partners who make Wikimedia possible, and advocate for policies that enable Wikimedia and free knowledge to thrive. 

The Wikimedia Foundation is a charitable, not-for-profit organization that relies on donations. We receive donations from millions of individuals around the world, with an average donation of about $15. We also receive donations through institutional grants and gifts. The Wikimedia Foundation is a United States 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization with offices in San Francisco, California, USA.

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