May 4, 1998

Web Development Fund Announces Grant Recipients

The Web Development Fund, a nonprofit group dedicated to financing Web sites, will announce on Monday the first group of projects it has decided to support. More than $150,000 in grants will be distributed to nine projects, which cover topics from the complex issue of suicide to a "cultural museum" exploring the effect of the cold war.

From "After Suicide."

"This is the first glimpse at what we hope the Web Development Fund is going to become," said Marc Weiss, the creator of the fund, which is supported by grants from the Ford Foundation, private family foundations and the PBS network.

"Some [of the projects] are about community building, some are about advanced technical capabilities. You have things that are quite personal and things that are more public issue. It gives a good snapshot of the direction we hope to head."

When he announced the program in September, Weiss said he felt it was a critical time to encourage thoughtful works in the new medium, both to "catalyze new perspectives" as well as encourage "new relationships between people."

Weiss is also the founder of the POV documentary series that appears on PBS, and he set up a financing process similar to that of grant-makers in the independent film world. Culled from over 500 submissions, four of the projects will receive complete financing, while the other five will receive partial grants.

But the amount of money that will be dispersed is "laughable" by commercial standards, Weiss said. "This is not about money for anyone," he added. "In most cases people are putting in as much with their services as they are with cash."

Project producers range from people with vast technology experience, like Peggy Weil, an experienced multimedia producer and designer whose project is titled "Convince Your Computer You're Human," to those who are experts in non-technical fields, like Carlos Walker, an officer at the Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress, whose project is about post-war Central America.

From "Working Stiff."

The most important criterion for the panel of judges, Weiss said, was that everyone selected for a grant was "absolutely driven to do these sites."

Jennifer Vogel, the new media editor at Stern Publishing, said she had been thinking about her project -- an online magazine addressing workplace issues -- for years, but the idea remained dormant until she heard about the Web Development Fund grants.

"It was such a great thing," she said. "If it hadn't been around, who knows what would have happened." Her site, titled "Working Stiff," will be one of the first financed projects to roll-out, with a launch date in June.

The next round of proposals will be solicited sometime this summer, Weiss said.

Fully Financed Sites Partially Financed Sites

Adoption: A Gathering
A meeting place for those touched by adoption.

The Dark Museum
A Cold War museum exploring American culture since 1946.

After Suicide
An interactive forum for suicide survivors.

Working Stiff
A place to exchange information and perspectives on workplace issues.

Convince Your Computer You're Human
A site that explores the blurred lines between humans and machines.

Cataclysm: Glimpses of the End of the World
An interactive theater piece examining humanity at the turn of the millennium.

Teen Screen
An online discussion of teen-agers' attitudes toward cultural and economic differences.

Post War Central America
A site that looks at issues facing Central America in the wake of the Arias Peace Plan and NAFTA.

Related Sites
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Lisa Napoli at welcomes your comments and suggestions.

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