Public Interest Technology Gets a Boost as Major Foundations Invest in 25 Universities

Press Release
Nov. 9, 2020

Washington, D.C. — In a continued push to expand a growing generation of technologists, advocates, and policymakers who use technology and technology expertise to address the most critical problems in the public interest, New America, the Ford Foundation, and the Hewlett Foundation have awarded 25 grants totaling nearly $4 million to members of the Public Interest Technology University Network (PIT-UN). The Network is a collaboration of colleges and universities that are collectively seeding the burgeoning field of public interest technology. Awards will be used to fund critical research, field building, and the development of an inclusive career pipeline for public interest technologists.

“Our work points to how important it is to make public interest technology a permanent and vital pathway in higher education,” said Anne-Marie Slaughter, President of New America. “Public interest technologists are at the forefront of societal change and progress, and our students are leading us toward a more prosperous, more just, and more collaborative future. Institutional members of the University Network are already making big changes in our world. For example, our PIT-UN practitioners and students are among the many people working on Covid-19 testing, tracing, and response. In addition, our network members are working on solving the problems of environmental social injustices. I look forward to hearing more about both topics and the solutions our 2019 grantees have come up with at the 2020 Convening panel sessions.”

“When we announced the creation of the University Network, I was thrilled to work with these wonderful institutions of higher education to advance and expand the field of public interest technology towards a more just technological future,” said Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation. “The projects supported through this most recent round of awards demonstrate just how innovative and driven the faculty, staff, and students within the University Network are in their commitment to ensuring technology is a force for public good.”

University Challenge grants are exclusively available via application to members of PIT-UN, a group of 36 institutions committed to bringing students and educators from multiple disciplines together to solve the toughest challenges our country and world face. Over the past two years, PIT-UN members have succeeded in breaking down artificial silos between technology, policy, and the social sciences and humanities. They have developed groundbreaking partnerships and research projects. Their work has contemplated and offered solutions such as the effects deploying facial recognition technology in schools, the need for nonprofit organizations to understand and respond to the ways that technology is transforming the landscape where they do their work.

The 25 universities that have been awarded grants this year include:

  • Arizona State University
  • Boston University
  • Cal Poly Corporation
  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • City University of New York
  • Columbia University
  • Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering
  • Georgetown University
  • Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Georgia State University
  • Harvard University
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Miami Dade College
  • New York University
  • Rochester Institute of Technology
  • Stanford University
  • The George Washington University
  • The University of California, Berkeley
  • The University of California, Santa Cruz
  • The University of Texas, Austin
  • The University of the South
  • The University of Michigan
  • The University of Virginia
  • The University of Washington
  • The Worcester Polytechnic Institute

A full description of projects funded is available here.

The Public Interest Technology University Network is a partnership of colleges and universities convened by New America, the Ford Foundation, and the Hewlett Foundation. The network and challenge grants are funded through the support of the Ford Foundation, Hewlett Foundation, Mastercard Impact Fund, with support from the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, Patrick J. McGovern Foundation, The Raikes Foundation, Schmidt Futures and The Siegel Family Endowment. The PIT-UN is dedicated to building the nascent field of public interest technology through curriculum development, faculty research opportunities, and experiential learning programs, in order to inspire a new generation of civic-minded technologists and policy leaders.

For more information or to set up a media interview please contact Karen Bannan or Alison Yost.