How to Fund the Future
TL;DR: We need a modern funding infrastructure to improve the efficiency and equity of our governments. This includes a standardized application experience, centralized and accessible information, modern communication and stakeholder engagement tools, and modern tools for managing capital.
In light of the many challenges facing this ecosystem, our work at OpenGrants has focused on developing a modern infrastructure for public funding, with emphasis on four key aspects to create a comprehensive solution:
- Standardized application experience
- Centralized, accessible information
- Modern communication and stakeholder engagement tools
- Modern tools for managing capital
Standardized Application Experience
A single, universal application can reduce time spent applying for grants by 80-90%. These applications must be intelligent, dynamic and digestible. Boilerplates can be easily automated, and irrelevant assertions can be avoided with the application of simple logic.
A standard application can also intentionally support equitable experiences. Properly executed, it can increase access for underrepresented and underserved populations. The OpenGrants framework has been developed to support this process, efficiently sourcing all of the materials necessary to develop competitive applications while leveraging modern, accessible UX/UI principles.
Centralized, Accessible Information
In order to bring efficiency into the ecosystem, a single portal for collaboration and sharing information should be developed. Coordination across all federal and state agencies in the United States would be a massively slow and painful undertaking. Recognizing this barrier, and leveraging the efficiency of the private sector and the strength of public/private partnerships, our team has developed a solution that functions adjacent to the government.
Achieving the goal of increased accessibility is also possible through aggregation and standardization of data. Not only does a centralized portal make sense, but it brings a new level of functional context to critical economic data. Understanding active funding efforts would allow agencies and foundations to collaborate efficiently and avoid duplicate efforts.
Modern Communication & Stakeholder Engagement
Modern communication is critical to injecting diversity into the funding ecosystem. Currently, agencies leverage archaic list-serves as the primary means of disseminating information to stakeholders. The inherent problem with this is that they never reach or develop new stakeholder relationships. They reach the same small group of insiders, while the larger ecosystem of innovators are left in the dark.
Our work at OpenGrants has focused on making hyper-relevant connections to participants inside the ecosystem, while leveraging modern tools like blogs, webinars and podcasts to communicate and translate our insights to startup founders and other grantees. We have had incredible success connecting with accelerators and startup ecosystems whose participants are frequently aware that grants exist, but are unwilling to engage for the reasons discussed in this paper. OpenGrants has been successful in converting 90% of those conversations into active uses and grant applicants.
Modern Tools for Managing Capital
Given today’s pace of change, governments must be better at adopting modern technologies and workflows to achieve parity with private industry. This is crucial if they wish to maintain relevance as institutions. A quick scan of the financial products space reveals an entire industry that’s ripe for disruption. Startup banks with zero infrastructure, decentralized finance platforms, and smart loan products with same day or next day turnaround times have set the tone for consumers in terms of accessibility, transparency and usability of capital. Our roadmap includes the ability to develop and test, and/or partner with existing institutions, to create new mechanisms for public funding distribution.
Why Now Is The Time For Change
The world is facing unprecedented challenges. Fortunately, we have the technology to confront those challenges. We have access to some of the brightest minds in the world, who have all grown up as digital natives. These people are smart, motivated, and intuitively understand how to leverage technology to improve process and performance.
Not only is this an ideal time for change from a strategic standpoint, but the citizens are demanding it. Recent events, including a global pandemic, have highlighted how terribly unprepared and improperly equipped the government is to support the economy during challenging times. People are beginning to notice just how irrelevant and outdated the government is.
Now is the time to supercharge the economy by igniting innovation. We desperately need modern infrastructure to manage public money. A return to the glory days of publicly funded innovation—fueled by modern infrastructure and processes—would most certainly yield the next internet or smartphone. OpenGrants is here to make that happen. We will unlock billions of dollars in capital for the world’s most promising innovators.
Decline of Public Funding
Notes on Diversity Race & Gender Bias
The Administrative Burden on Grants & Innovation