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This is an open call for proposals from community network builders and digital access advocates that will be open until 30 April 2021. The maximum amount requested per project can be USD 15,000 for individual organisations and projects working within one country, and USD 20,000 for joint submissions.

What this is about

The Local Networks 2021 Grant Programme aims to support digital inclusion activities or projects that specifically contribute towards the implementation and sustainability of new community networks (CNs), expansion and replication of existing CNs or increasing the awareness about CNs generally. Support will focus on three areas: 1) technology, innovation and development; 2) gender and women’s participation; and 3) enabling policy and regulatory frameworks. These grants are made possible through funding from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) as part of the following project: Connecting the unconnected: Supporting community networks and other community-based connectivity initiatives.

The overall objective is to support existing and emerging community-led projects and initiatives, and community network builders and digital access advocates that are linked to technological innovation and appropriation, gender and women’s participation, community-led processes, and policy-related aspects of CNs. Additionally, we are looking for ways to increase the resilience of CNs during the ongoing global pandemic and thereby strengthen critical social and physical infrastructure for communities and civil society in a sustainable way. The three primary focus areas are briefly described below. Please note that the examples given are are not exhaustive and proposals for deployments of innovative and socially relevant technologies are welcome.
Focus Area 1: Technology, Innovation and Development

Support in this category seeks to enable a more sustainable community network environment, with an emphasis on the technology and deployment models that CNs use. To create such an environment, we are interested in proposals that explore the following: a) ways to overcome technical barriers facing local community networks; b) improved access to spectrum and new technologies that make efficient use of different parts of the spectrum; c) active fostering of diversity; and d) providing approaches to increase community resilience, such as incorporating environmental sustainability (e.g. alternative energy sources or sensor networks monitoring pollution or extractive industries) or social justice perspectives.

Potential project topic areas include demonstration and testing of:

  • Long distance connectivity links for remote community networks, such as LoRa (long range), shortwave/high frequency (HF) radio and WiLD (WiFi for long distance) radio links;

  • Alternative local network/first-mile technologies such as fibre, GSM/LTE, open source in-house wireless data centre prototyping and sensor networks, as examples;

  • Local services and server implementations, especially using low-cost single board computers such as the Raspberry Pi, captive portals, non-literate services, education and learning management systems (LMS), local voice calls and audio/video streaming for local radio/TV;

  • Frugal technologies and innovation with an environmental justice lens such as reuse and repurposing of technology and the use of alternative energies and local materials;

  • Technology that supports specific local community networks with applications for people with disabilities;

  • Solutions and support for people in situations of forced or unintended migration, human rights and land rights defenders.

  • Internet and cloud services for community networks. There is a potential for shared cloud services and secure services for community networks whereby arrangements are made around sharing the cost of hosting public-facing online services, including web sites, Voice over IP Protocol (VoIP) services, off-site backups, etc.;

  • Documentation of new institutional/operating models and analytical studies that compare different approaches to operating community networks sustainably. 

Focus Area 2: Gender and Women’s Participation

Women continue to be pushed to the sidelines in digital technology under patriarchy, including in CNs. Feminists and women engaging in digital technology and CNs report that technology tends to be placed at the centre, with men tending to dominate the narrative of needs, resulting in womens’ voices being dismissed or diminished. Recent reports about the COVID-19 pandemic also indicate that women, especially ones in rural or disadvantaged economic urban spaces, are the ones most affected by this crisis.

This granting priority area aims to centre the relational aspect of CNs and specifically looks to honour the unpaid labour that women uphold, such as community-oriented practices, care responses and creative outlets in the context of COVID-19. It is also aimed to encourage broader thinking of gender and CNs through deconstructing performances of patriarchy and masculinities in the CN and digital sphere. This fund seeks to amplify the voices of women in CNs and help them to connect with each other and with other feminist initiatives. We will support projects that deconstruct social norms and creatively bypass barriers to access for women, gender-diverse and queer people. 

Funding will support women and communities who are conducting community-led or community-participatory gender analysis around CNs.
Issues identified for further exploration include:

  • COVID-19, women and CNs – CNs can address specific issues that are impacting women in the times of COVID-19. These issues include, but are not limited to, gender-based violence, digital safety and security, and safer communities;

  • Impact of CNs on women and girls – Explore CN solutions that are specific to issues that are impacting young women and girls who are confined to their homes, do not have access to online services for education or health, or are forced out of schools and are not able to access school systems and educational services because of the COVID-19 pandemic;

  • The feminist principles of CNs – We encourage projects that address the relationship of community networks to the Feminist Principles of the Internet (FPIs). Are there similarities or places where they do no not meet? How is feminism practiced in CNs?

  • Gendered CN policy and regulation – Groups looking to embed the applications of FPIs in spaces of policy and regulation;

  • Masculinities and CNs – To encourage men in CNs to take on projects that explore and address the effects of masculinities, its performances and manifestations on men, women and their communities;

  • Values of technology and CNs – Engage in the process of tech design from an embodied perspective, whether it is related to gender, the physical environment or the social environment. 

Focus Area 3: Enabling Policy and Regulatory Frameworks

Achieving acknowledgment, status and formal recognition of community networks through policy and regulatory frameworks is an essential next step in the growth of community networks. Many community networks have avoided addressing regulatory issues, which may allow them to exist cost-effectively, but can fail to establish fertile ground for others to follow, and also potentially forecloses options to access financial resources such as Universal Service Funds. Further, spectrum access regulations are often geared toward larger operators leaving community networks with very limited or expensive access to spectrum. Policy and regulation that acknowledges and empowers community networks in these areas is needed in order to enable their growth and replication beyond the pilot/pioneer stage. 

These grants will provide support to:

  • Analyse existing regional or national policy and regulatory frameworks that impact CNs in the global South;

  • Take advantage of opportunities to intervene in policy and regulatory processes, particularly during calls for input by regulators or government;

  • Public interventions (e.g. OpEds) in newspapers and other wider media to support policy and regulation work for the existing peer learning network and other CNs;

  • Community-led efforts to create alternative, locally-grounded self-regulation schemes;

  • Identification of opportunities to use Universal Service Funds and other financing instruments to support startup and expansion of CNs;

  • Identification of opportunities to use litigation or other legal tools at national or regional level to further the aims of CNs.

Grant amounts, timeline and general selection criteria

The call is open for all initiatives and projects directly working on or with existing or new community networks. The total amount available is USD 160,000 to applicants in the global South and countries listed as Official Development Assistance (ODA) recipients by the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The maximum amount requested per project can be USD 15,000 for individual organisations and projects working within one country, and USD 20,000 for joint submissions. Joint submissions will only be accepted if they include organisations from more than one country or region (i.e. Latin America, Africa, Asia) that are seeking to create partnerships, share learning, develop new technology, etc. There is additional value placed on the selection of the project if you have other sources of funding to complement these funds.  

  • Applications submission deadline: 30 April 2021

  • Project selected for funding by: 31 May 2021

  • Start date for projects: 15 June 2021

  • Maximum end date for project implementation: 15 June 2022 (maximum project length is 12 months)

Values and priorities you should consider

We would like to point out that we especially encourage applications in any of the three focus areas above to use an intersectional feminist approach or work on challenging hetero-patriarchy and cis-masculinities. In this respect, priority will be given to initiatives led by women and other socially excluded groups such as queer, trans, gender-diverse persons and sex workers. People living with disabilities, those confronting forced migration, Indigenous persons and traditional societies, as well as groups working on climate justice and protecting land rights, are also encouraged to apply, especially those groups using innovative and eco-informed models for sustainability.

Projects will be selected based on the extent to which they align with one or more of the following criteria:

  • Propose collaboration with partners in other continents/regions, or regional collaboration in the global South. Specifically, projects can propose an intention of collaboration with a partner in another country, either in co-development or implementation or replication/testing of the project;

  • Address technical and/or national regulatory barriers to the replication, expansion and sustainability of bottom-up, user-governed, small-scale network operators, co-operatives and other social purpose networks that build and operate their own physical networking infrastructure;

  • Address the intersecting issues of technology, gender power dynamics and policy, or projects that relate to the application of the feminist principles of the internet within the context of community networks;

  • Adopt the use of Free, Libre and Open-Source (FLOSS) technologies. 

  • Propose ways to use the funding as a COVID-19 response tool, working with groups and organisations to facilitate specific, local and contextual response to their communities’ realities during the pandemic.

Who can apply

This is an open call for proposals from community network builders and digital access advocates. We will consider working with partners who received previous LocNet funding in 2019 and 2020 as well as new groups who wish to expand and deepen the gender, innovation and/or policy aspects of their work with community networks. 

How to apply

Applicants should fill out the online application form addressing one or more of the three focus areas (gender, innovation and/or policy) mentioned above. Applicants can also propose other kinds of interventions that they identify and can justify within the framework of this funding support. In all cases, applicants are requested to suggest how the project is a strategic contribution to the community networks movement.

You can use this document to prepare your application before uploading to the online form. Please use the budget template for your budget. In order to avoid losing your content, it is highly recommended that you develop your proposal off-line (e.g. using the above-referenced forms), and only once you are done, copy the content into the online form. Make sure to keep your local copy as a backup. If you have difficulty using the online form, you may email your submission to: 

Deadline for Applications

Applications that are submitted after 30 April 2021 will not be considered.

If you have any questions or need clarification, please contact 

We can receive questions and requests for clarifications in English, Spanish, French and Portuguese

Useful links

Online application form.