11.Mar 2021

Your diverse project applications in 2020

Preparing means looking back to learn before moving forward and trying to improve. This is why we systematically evaluated the project applications submitted in spring 2020 for the first funding round of the Prototype Fund. The first funding cycle came to an end with the Demo Day on 2 March at 5.30pm and the second funding round starts on 7 April 2021.

At Opendata.ch and Stiftung Mercator Switzerland, we value transparency and we therefore want to share our findings about the applications received. We started with few expectations about how many applications we would receive and from whom. We were surprised and impressed by the number, quality, and diversity of the projects and the project teams. Our own evaluation identifies some room for improvement – but hey, who doesn’t have that? We already thank you for supporting us to perform at least as well in 2021.

Who wanted to prototype in 2020?

In total, 63 project applications were submitted. The creativity and breath of the ideas were impressive. Figure 1 shows that projects addressed all dimensions of the policy cycle. A majority of projects sought to enable digital democration participation by providing information  (19.5%), which allows citizens and residents to exchange information on specific problems and to understand individual needs or major patterns and trends, and to better informing citizens and residents (16.7%). Tools for proposing ideas (12.4%), taking decisions (11.4%) and other activities (11.4%) were also prominently represented. Each project could tick up to four dimensions to situate their project in the policy cycle.

Figure 1: Project applications in spring 2020 according to  the Policy Cycle. Project applicants could choose 1-4 categories .

We aimed for a diverse mix of innovative project ideas as well as for diverse teams. We are convinced that having a (almost) 360° perspective of the challenge tackled is important for the design of a relevant and useful tool for democratic participation. Our impression was that many teams and especially those on the short list of the jury were highly interdisciplinary although we cannot prove it quantitatively. Other aspects of diversity can be more readily described. For example, Team size ranged from one to six with half of applications having four or more team members with most teams consisting of five members (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Distribution of team size

We present further key figures in Table 1. The average age of the members in a given team was 35. The youngest team had an average age of 25 while the most experienced one was about 55. Most project teams requested close to 100,000 CHF, the maximum amount available per project. Although we were open to funding some smaller projects, we did not receive many such applications.

Table 1: Characteristics of project applicants and projects submitted in 2020

Regarding gender and geographical diversity, we did decently but there is still room for improvement. We received one third of applications from a female project lead but almost three-quarter of applying team members were male. The French-speaking Swiss (Romands) were also underrepresented relative to their population share in Switzerland (22.8%) with 10% as main applicants (i.e. submitting applicant) and representing 13% of all applicants. Figure 3 shows that applicants live all across Switzerland and even abroad at the time of application. A high share of applicants is based in Zurich. Note that the data is available for a subsample of applicants only. 

Figure 3: Canton or country of residence of applicants at the time of application

Our goal was also to signal openness to non-Swiss citizens which do not have the right to vote in most municipalities and cantons. We succeeded in this endeavor: one fifth of all Prototype Fund applicants did not hold Swiss citizenship.

Who got selected for prototyping?

The five winning projects were at least as diverse as the pool of project applications. Together, their projects cover most dimensions of the policy cycle. The selected teams were highly interdisciplinary, and, except for one, of mixed gender. Age-wise, the team members ranged from recent design graduates and ETH students to experienced IT professionals and pedagogues.

One team was made up from people living in different French-speaking cantons while the other four teams worked in their respective home offices scattered over several Swiss German cantons. Some people spoke neither German nor French nor did they hold the Swiss citizenship but were increasingly fascinated by Swiss democracy.

Will you be prototyping from September 2021?                           

In 2021, we aim again for innovative and high-quality applications from diverse teams from all over Switzerland. We will make special efforts to make the Prototype Fund better known in French-speaking Switzerland, to promote the program among female activists and techies, and aim to receive at least one application from the Ticino in this second funding round.

We look forward to your application! Applications will open at the end of March. Do not hesitate to contact us with your questions.