Knight News Challenge

The Knight News Challenge accelerates media innovation by funding breakthrough ideas in news and information. Winners receive a share of $5 million in funding and support from Knight’s network of influential peers and advisors to help advance their ideas. The first round of 2013, which opens in February, will invite innovators from all disciplines to focus on tools for open government. In 2012, three challenge rounds, each focused on an emerging trend, drew more than 2,500 entries.

Challenge 1 - on NETWORKS: Winners were announced June 18.

Challenge 2 - on DATA: Winners were announced Sept. 20.

Challenge 3 – on MOBILE: Winners were announced Jan. 17.

Anyone, anywhere can apply for the challenge - whether for-profit start-ups or non-profit ventures. For more information on a variety of topics - from guidelines for for-profits, on intellectual property licensing, open source software and more - visit our FAQ.

Elva: bringing together citizens and decision makers to resolve local issues

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1. What is your project? [1 sentence]

Elva is a mobile platform that empowers teams of citizens to jointly map and report local issues they care about (such as environmental degradation, elections or human rights violations) and to share their regular, in-depth analysis with decision makers to jointly develop an effective and locally appropriate response. 

2. How will your project use mobile tools and approaches? [2 sentences]

Citizens will use a dumbphone or smartphone to submit in-depth weekly SMS or web questionnaires about the chosen issue to a central Elva phone number, after which their reports are automatically aggregated and presented online in accessible data visualisations and maps so that they can be shared with decision makers for joint analysis and response. Moreover, Elva also functions as a communications hub that allows the participating citizens to send free text messages to (groups of) their peers and to receive frequent project updates.

3. Who will use it and why? [1 sentence]

Elva will be used by NGOs and teams of citizens in developing countries as well as industrialised countries to map and analyse local issues they care about (such as elections, environmental degradation, security developments, etc.) and to share their community-driven analysis with decision makers to jointly develop an accountable and context-sensitive response. 

4. Please list three ways they would learn about your project.

The Elva project team aims to maximise the use of the Elva platform by making it open source and sharing it freely with NGOs and citizen networks in the Caucasus and other parts of the world. We will therefore implement a strong outreach and advocacy campaign to share our software, experiences and lessons learnt with other NGOs through attending conferences, publishing online articles and distributing project updates via our network of contacts. Secondly, we will inform local communities about the project through organising regional presentations of ongoing Elva projects. Thirdly, as Elva will be open source and fully customisable, we will publish the source code on Github and Sourceforge, so that the open source community can contribute to it and can further distribute the platform among interested NGOs.

5. What connections have you made, or will you make, with others [communities, organizations or networks] about your project? [2 sentences]

Elva was developed in cooperation with a dedicated group of over 300 citizens from Georgia, who are either using the platform to report about local security developments (they reported over 850 different incidents since September 2011) or to monitor the local pre-election process in the run-up to the upcoming parliamentary elections. Elva was built in cooperation with the Caucasus Research Resource Centers and Saferworld and with support from UNDP, and we will soon reach out to communities and organisations in other locations to support them in setting up their own community project with Elva.

6. What part of the project have you already built? [1-2 sentences, feel free to include links]

We have developed a first version of the online Elva platform that aggregates, analyses and visualises all incoming SMS and web questionnaires submitted by citizens (see image above). This version however still lacks a dedicated mobile application, and needs to be completed  with added functionalities and an improved user interface.

7. What does success for your project look like? [1-2 sentences]

Marginalised groups of citizens, who usually remain excluded from decision making processes, are now listened to and have cooperated with policy makers to actively improve their communities.

8. What resources do you need to succeed? [1-2 sentences]

We will need $265,000 to realise our goals. These funds will be used to build the mobile Elva application, to further develop the online data overview and to provide support to NGOs and citizen networks who seek to start their own Elva project.    

Additional details:
Please list who is on your team: Oskars Tūns and Mahdi Mahmoudy
Expected number of months to complete project: 18 months
Estimated Project Cost: $265,000
Name: Jonne Catshoek
Email address:
Organization [if applicable]: Elva
City: Tbilisi
Country: Georgia
How did you learn about the contest? Through our partner organisation.