CIRA's application period for its Community Investment Program is open. As potential applicants prepare for this, we've reached out to a few individuals who can share their top tips and their insights on the kinds of projects that can address the priorities they see to build a better online Canada.
An interview with CIRA's Alyssa Moore
Alyssa Moore knows CIRA's Community Investment Program from all sides now. She was staff at a grant recipient organization, has participated on CIRA's grants review committee and now works at CIRA as our senior policy and advocacy advisor. I sat down with Alyssa to learn from her diverse experiences to get her advice for our 2019 applicants.
What Community Investment Program projects do you feel build a better online Canada?
I personally favour projects that address problems of access to the internet and projects that leverage the internet to empower Canadians.
In the 2017 funding round, National Capital Freenet organized Digital Access Day in Ottawa. The event brought together civil society, government, and industry to broaden the conversation about what it means to reliably connect to the internet, understand its uses and implications, and feel safe online. The event was such a success that the Canada Chapter of the Internet Society picked it up for 2018 and plans to continue running Digital Access Day on an annual basis.
The BC Civil Liberties Association project that developed the Electronic Devices Privacy Handbook was also a very timely and a much-needed resource for educating people on their data privacy while travelling. Privacy is top of mind for many Canadians these days, especially when you're crossing international boundaries.
A non-profit called Black Boys Code was able to scale up and expand the reach of their programming due to funding provided by the Community Investment Program in 2018. Its mission is to teach kids who wouldn't otherwise be exposed to a career path in computer science that there's a place for them to pursue work in a lucrative and rewarding field. The lack of diversity in the technology industry is often lamented, and I think much of that is due to a “pipeline problem.” I'm excited by initiatives whose goal it is to increase equality of opportunity.
As a past reviewer for CIRA's Community Investment Program, what are the key elements of a successful application?
Alignment – how well does your initiative align with the goals and funding areas of the Community Investment Program? Do you have a good grasp of the program and how your project will concretely contribute to a better online Canada? Is your proposed project addressing a real need in the community?
We looked for a well-defined project plan with clear activities and measurable outcomes. We looked at the proposed impacts of the project. Are they realistic? How many Canadians benefit, how do they benefit and what's the geographic scope?
Finally, is the overall project financially viable and is the requested funding reasonable? Did the applicant provide a sufficiently detailed budget? Are there other funding partners who are committed to making it work?
What advice would you give to this year's Community Investment Program applicants?
Make sure you read the funding restrictions on CIRA's how to apply page because applications do come in each year for activities that the Community Investment Program does not fund. There are five funding areas for 2019: infrastructure, access, digital literacy, engagement and services.
Leverage your organization's strengths or in the case of academic applications, your research strengths. Think big, but be realistic and avoid overstating the impact of your proposed project.
Something we haven't seen a lot of in years past are infrastructure projects that improve connectivity or access to the internet. This year, there will be an opportunity to obtain larger grant sums than before, so I'm hoping that will encourage more applications that focus on connectivity.
In the past five years of the program, $5.45 million has gone towards funding 130 projects. The money has been granted to organizations with deep expertise in areas important for building a better online Canada that wouldn't otherwise have the budget for the projects they envision. Alyssa said being involved with the Community Investment Program is inspiring because it can bring those initiatives to life.
If your organization has an innovative internet project that will help build a better online Canada, apply for a Community Investment Program grant at cira.ca/cip between January 15 and February 28, 2019.