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.

Whisper - A platform to enable on-the ground intelligence gathering

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1. What is your project? [1 sentence]

Whisper enables collection of accurate, ground-level information by reporters and researchers by creating communication channels via mobile phones with people who would otherwise be inaccessible.

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

Whisper enables journalists and researchers to listen at scale by giving them the tools to efficiently build panels of informants based on demographics, geography, or experience; send out simple surveys to collect data about experiences and needs; visualize patterns of needs and experiences using maps and filtering tools; and follow up with small, targeted groups of informants for interviews, to gather further information.

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

Journalists and design researchers have a need for easy-to-use, DIY engagement tools that connect them to people via mobile phones to gather ground-level information that can provide a more accurate and empathetic understanding of issues and experiences.

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

Via partnerships with international journalistic consortia
Via Human Centered Design Connect,’s global network of human-centered designers
Via partnerships with Ashoka, Ushahidi and Voice of America

5. What connections have you made, or will you make, with others [communities, organizations or networks] about your project? [2 sentences]
I have received early support and buy-in from, Ushahidi, Ashoka, Voice of America and the Mail & Guardian. I have also enlisted the founders of SeeClickFix and Motribe, and the technical lead at Ashoka, as technical advisors.

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

The project will initially use open source software developed by Ushahidi and Frontline SMS to create the communications platform and visualization framework.

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

I would expect a successful platform to have, within a year, at least 1,000 paying users engaging hundreds of thousands of on-the-ground sources on an ongoing basis. I also expect the platform to put simple customer research tools into the hands of many professionals who could otherwise not afford it.

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

More than anything, we need to determine the most effective mix of incentives that will motivate citizens around the world to use their mobile phones to share information with journalists and design researchers. This will take a great deal of experimentation, and we a small group of fervent “earlyvangelists” to help us refine our understanding of what motivates people to share via mobile.

Additional details:
Please list who is on your team:

Andrew Haeg - Veteran journalist, former Knight Fellow, co-founded and led product development for PIN, a crowdsourcing platform used by 70 U.S. newsrooms and the Mail and Guardian.

Dale Zak - Developed iOS and Windows Mobile app for Ushahidi, open-source plugins for the FrontlineSMS messaging system, and coordinated many technology for social good projects.

PJ Onori - Former director of user experience at SeaBright, and former Adaptive Path designer. Worked with the United Nations on the Global Pulse project which uses data and analytics to arrive at a “better understanding of changes in human well-being.”

Expected number of months to complete project:
Estimated Project Cost: $250k
Name: Andrew Haeg
Twitter: @andrewhaeg
Email address:
Organization [if applicable]:
City: St. Paul, MN
Country: USA
How did you learn about the contest? I’ve entered it before and am up-to-speed on all of Knight’s funding opportunities.

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