Recently, the Knight Foundation issued a report that looked at the investment money that has flowed into some 102 civic tech projects over the past few years. Specifically, they examined six points on projects and companies across various sectors that had actual civic outcomes built in:

  • How much money is being invested in civic tech projects?

  • What are the different clusters of civic tech innovation?

  • How does investment vary across these clusters of innovation?

  • Which organizations are attracting the most investment?

  • Who is investing in civic tech?

  • What is the balance of private and philanthropic investment?

Using various search terms and proprietary software, a network map of civic tech projects was created. Upon close examination, two top-level themes — Open Government and Community Action — emerged and were identified with color coding. Open Government projects centered around transparency, involvement, and accessibilty, while the Community Action initiatives focused on just that — citizen-based community action.

A breakdown of those two categories into more detail yielded 11 specific areas of civic tech innovation (with examples of each):

Open Government

  1. Data Access & Transparency — Socrata, Placr

  2. Data Utility — Alert ID, My Society

  3. Public Decision Making — Localocracy, Our Say

  4. Resident Feedback — SeeClickFix, PublicStuff

  5. Visualization & Mapping — Azavea, PublicEngines

  6. Voting — TurboVote, Votizen

Community Action

  1. Civic Crowdfunding —, Citizinvestor

  2. Community Organizing —, Bang the Table

  3. Information Crowdsourcing — Waze, NoiseTube

  4. Neighborhood Forums — NextDoor, Front Porch Forum

  5. Peer-to-Peer Sharing — Acts of Sharing, Lyft

The civic tech space has grown from 16 companies in 2000 to 121 in 2012. Out of all the projects in the space that were analyzed by the Knight Foundation, those in the Peer-to-Peer Sharing cluster saw the fastest growth rates, particularly between 2009 and 2012, as well as the biggest inflow of investment dollars — $234 million (of $431 million total). 

Within each cluster, a dominant market leader generally raked in the bulk of the money which caused investment inequality in the space. For instance, within the P2P niche, the highly visible Airbnb grabbed $118.6 million out of the total $234 million investment kitty — 84 percent of which came from private sources. 

The Knight Foundation concluded that the market is fairly wide open for private, corporation, and foundation investors looking to enter. In particular, the clusters that encompass civic engagement and democratic participation — Public Decision Making, Resident Feedback, and Voting — are currently the newest and least funded areas. A small, smart investment could jumpstart a big break out project.


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Kelly McCartney


Kelly McCartney |

Having won prestigious literary competitions in both grade school and junior high, I attended college with a Scripps Howard Foundation scholarship, earned a BA in Journalism, and interned at Entertainment

Things I share: I seek. I write. I think. I roam. I listen. I care. I wonder. I help. I flirt. I try. I dream. I grow.