Disability x Tech Fund launch
Ford Foundation and Borealis Philanthropy
Spitfire partnered with the Ford Foundation and Borealis Philanthropy early in 2023 to support the launch of the Disability x Tech Fund, a first-of-its-kind collaborative approach to funding the intersection of disability rights, justice and technology. Spitfire developed an earned media strategy and launch plan to raise the profile of the inaugural grantees; position Ford and Borealis as leaders in addressing this critical intersection of technology and disability inclusion; and influence peer funders, disability rights groups and tech organizations to engage in this intersection holistically. Our partnership resulted in announcement coverage in The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Inside Philanthropy, Nonprofit Quarterly and The Hill.
Technology touches nearly every aspect of our lives and has the potential to benefit us all, but it can only work for everyone if we are all represented in its development. Yet, people with disabilities are excluded from the creation process and siloed as end users of technologies created without their input. As a result, technologies not only fail to effectively meet the needs of people with disabilities or end up excluding them all together, but they can also exacerbate inequities and further marginalize disabled people, especially those who are multiply marginalized. The Disability x Tech Fund was created to address many of the day’s most pressing technology issues, dismantle inequitable power dynamics within the tech sector, and serve as a philanthropic model for investing in the leadership and expertise of people with disabilities.
This included the development of core messaging and talking points that would help thread the needle on the intersection of three important issues that, despite being deeply related, are often siloed from one another: disability, technology and justice. We also created tailored media outreach, identifying the right reporters, using an exclusive strategy to prime an outlet with the best reach among our core audiences for the launch, and tailoring follow-up pitching efforts to connect a wide array of reporters with fund leadership and grantees across a wide range of related issues, including civil rights, privacy surveillance, arts and culture, and mental health. We also create tailored launch toolkits to support grantee partners and validators in amplifying news of the launch.
In the weeks and months following the launch, Spitfire kept our finger on the pulse of emerging news trends and on the lookout for opportunities to continue amplifying this important announcement. As emerging generative artificial intelligence tool, ChatGPT, began to dominate headlines, Spitfire helped key national reporters connect with grantee experts on the subject to ensure media coverage included and reflected diverse perspectives, including those of people with disabilities. Next, as states began implementing Medicaid Redetermination in 2023, unwinding an important Medicaid provision that ensured continuous health care coverage throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Spitfire acted fast to connect reporters with experts from the fund to help make sense of the wide-reaching implications. We pulled together a press briefing, connecting the media to experts working at the intersection of Medicaid health care benefits, disability justice and technology for a discussion about the dire implications of Medicaid Redetermination for people with disabilities. The briefing covered how the emerging uses of predictive algorithms are exacerbating the risks for loss of coverage for people with disabilities. The briefing garnered attention from influential national media outlets including POLITICO, Associated Press and The Washington Post.
We are proud to have supported Ford and Borealis in their work to develop a strong narrative and case for supporting and prioritizing the expertise of disability leaders working at the intersection of disability rights, justice and technology justice.