When we got the great news that the Ford Foundation had accepted our research proposal and we saw all the great projects that are in our cohort, it was time to look back to how it began.
Julia had co-founded the Prototype Fund, a funding program for freelance software developers based in Germany, in 2016. Elisa joined her in 2017, after having supported various tech projects as a freelancer or a volunteer. Katharina joined the Prototype Fund mid-2018. In summer 2018, when Ford published their call for proposals, it resonated strongly with us:
We decided to take up this chance to apply for a research budget on a topic that had been on our mind ever since the first round of the Prototype Fund. The fund supports projects from the application layer (e.g. in civic tech, data literacy, security applications) as well as digital infrastructure. While we saw quite a number of infrastructure projects applying with us, we had the vague impression that they could not play their strength in the application process. Our questions regarding audiences and reach were better suited to application-y projects than to infrastructure. We also heard from the community that our funding does not work as well for infrastructure projects: Too much talk about innovation, too much emphasis on design.
When we shared our thoughts on this with some of our grantees or other funders, they agreed – but like us, they could not quite place where exactly infrastructure projects are left behind in a funder’s logic, or how we could suit their needs better.
And that is why in 2018 in Hanover, at the very last installation of the German tech exhibition CEBIT, we (with support from Fiona and Adriana – many thanks!) created IDE: To find out how funders and community leaders can better meet the needs of digital infrastructure projects, and how those needs are distinct from projects at the application layer.