A Time of Change, a Time of Opportunity

Amber French, MDF Executive Director
April 29, 2024


After ten years with Media Democracy Fund, and six as Executive Director (including serving as co-Executive Director with amalia deloney), I have decided to leave my position, opening up the leadership of MDF to new voices and fresh ideas, and moving on to explore new exciting opportunities of my own. As I reflect on the past decade, I am filled with pride and appreciation for how MDF has consistently and unapologetically risen to meet the moment, across a range of issues, challenges, and opportunities. My last day at MDF will be May 17, 2024.


I am so thankful for the opportunity this role has given me to learn from and partner with countless brilliant and inspiring leaders, advocates, and scholars advancing justice and equity within our ever-evolving digital society. I am also deeply grateful to the more than 40 funding partners who have directly supported MDF’s work during my tenure, and the hundreds of philanthropic institutions and colleagues who have collaborated and partnered with MDF to grow the tech and social justice ecosystem. 


More than anything, it has been a true honor to work alongside the Media Democracy Fund team. It has been a privilege and a joy to collaborate with the immensely talented individuals, including current and former staff, and partners, whose leadership has been instrumental to every victory and path-breaking idea the organization has developed. When I joined MDF as Deputy Director in January 2014, my purpose was to galvanize philanthropic resources and support campaign coordination for what became the historic 2015 US Net Neutrality victory, and subsequent victory in the European Union. I’d like to congratulate US public interest advocates on last week’s FCC vote to restore the protections we won nearly ten years ago. This is a reminder of how long our fights for media justice and digital civil rights can be, and how the work for a free and open internet is still vital.


The MDF team has made so many contributions it’s difficult to hold them all in one letter, but I’d like to share just one demonstrative example. Building on our early victories with Net Neutrality, and long-standing investments in place-based and national digital equity efforts, MDF and our grantee partners were instrumental to the successful public interest advocacy efforts to win broadband and digital equity provisions in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Today, MDF’s newest program, the Digital Equity and Opportunity Initiative (DEOI), is building digital civic infrastructure in the US South, capitalizing upon these once-in-a-generation federal investment opportunities.


Beginning in 2017, MDF also led development of field-wide strategies to address “digital threats to democracy,” which included the creation of a widely-adopted framework for platform harms and accountability strategies, and seeding support for dozens of organizations and projects in the US, Europe, and other regions. This work also led to the creation of the most recent field of advocate-led misinformation research, and development of a framework for identifying and dismantling online racialized disinformation through the Disinfo Defense League (DDL), which launched in 2020 in response to intersecting public health, voter suppression and racial justice crises. 


MDF has also served as the strategic and management partner to the NetGain Partnership since 2018. Through the COVID-19 pandemic, MDF led rapid response and strategy development on behalf of NetGain, ensuring cohesion and highest-level coordination among some of the most influential foundations in the world. MDF, on behalf of NetGain, is also leading a set of new finance-focused strategies for philanthropy to uphold a rights-respecting tech ecosystem, leveraging all the tools foundations have within their reach to mitigate harm. As a result of our work, there are new public interest sectors, and more effective strategies across civil society and philanthropy.

Leadership development and work to support social movement leaders has been central to many strategies the MDF team has innovated as well. A broad and vibrant global network of talented individuals proudly call themselves alumni of fellowship and award programs the MDF team has catalyzed, led, and managed.


Unlike other funders in the ecosystem, MDF is a nonprofit without an endowment. The team works hard to raise the organization’s budget each year. Over my tenure, MDF’s funding has grown by 400%, and we have redistributed more than $40 million to advance our mission. Last year alone, MDF secured more than $9 million for work at the forefront of movements for tech, media and racial justice.

Media Democracy Fund has never been stronger, and the team is well-positioned to continue its incredible work without any interruption.


As for my next steps, I have accepted a leadership role with an inspiring new project in the US democracy ecosystem, which will be announced soon. I’m excited about what’s to come, for the movement and for MDF. This community is powerful and inspiring, and I feel fortunate to have been in it with you all.


In solidarity,