Unicorn Fund

The Unicorn Fund is an experimental award program managed by MDF that supports under-resourced grassroots leaders in the United States who face attacks for expressing their ideas, telling the truth, and taking a stand on the front lines of narrative change.


This Fund has enabled us to identify, support, and celebrate advocates (including prominent journalists, activists, researchers, technologists, and others) who inspire us to take a stand and exercise courage, persistence, and bold visions that advance equity and justice and disrupt divisive toxic narratives.


Unicorn Fund awardees:

  • Are celebrated for the power and value of their work in a way that respects their personal security; 

  • Receive a monetary award, as well as skills and services, that will help them navigate the attacks they are facing; 

  • Mitigate their isolation by building community with other similarly situated researchers, journalists, organizers, technologists and advocates, as well as the broader Media Democracy Fund community 

  • Increase their digital security capacity through trainings and 1:1 support with digital security trainers.



Nominations for the 2023 Unicorn Fund closed on January 31, 2023.
Guidelines | Nomination form



Announcing the 2023 Dazzle

We invited nominations for Unicorns from December 2022 - January 2023. After review by an independent selection committee, 10 finalists were selected in June 2023:

  • Joshua Adams
  • Jordana Barton-Garcia
  • Emily Cunningham
  • Jessica Engle
  • Anika Collier Navaroli
  • Dheepa Sundaram
  • Saijai Liangpunsakul

...and three others. 

Media Democracy Fund is honored to support these brave leaders in 2023-24!

The First “Dazzle” in 2020

When launched in late 2019 via a call for nominations, the Fund was designed to support 10 to 12 Unicorns, building cohesion in the Dazzle (that’s the technical term for a group of unicorns) through a monetary award coupled with trainings, conference attendance, and a 2-3 day retreat to provide space for community learning and respite. 


Then, as MDF was narrowing down the list of nominees, COVID-19 surged in the US. Among the finalists were women of color, trans women, organizers, artists, freelance writers, and journalists. Each is an important addition to our fight for justice, and yet, they were now facing a challenging pandemic that could permanently disrupt their lives. 


Recognizing that these leaders were especially vulnerable at this moment due to their employment status, geographic location, and/or identity, MDF pivoted quickly.


First, MDF doubled the size of the cohort to issue awards to up to 28, hoping that the modest award would provide welcome support to individuals in this difficult moment. Second, MDF reorganized the supports to focus on the ways that we could best build community and provide resources to the Unicorns in these unprecedented times.

The inaugural cohort of 28 Unicorns included:

  • Renee Bracey Sherman

  • Nicole Cooke

  • I'Nasah Crockett

  • Carey Gillam

  • Viridiana Hernandez

  • Laura Kiesel

  • Juan Mancias

  • Michelle O’Brien

  • Alejandra Pablos

  • Tawana Petty

  • Ravi Ragbir

  • Mark Ravi

  • Arjun Sethi

  • Simran Jeet Singh

  • Xemi Tapepechul

  • Markasa Tucker

...and 12 others. 

The Second Dazzle of Unicorns

We invited nominations for Unicorns from December 2020 - January 2021. After review by an independent selection committee, 25 finalists were selected in April/May 2021. 

The 2021 cohort of Unicorns included:

  • Candace Avalos
  • Jasmine Banks
  • Holly Bird
  • Elizabeth Brico
  • Adrian Bonifacio
  • Smitty Buckler
  • Crystal Cavalier
  • Didi Delgado
  • Ifat Gazia
  • Napoleon Pempena
  • Qasim Rashid
  • Luke Richter
  • Clarivel Ruiz
  • Ahanu Tapepechul 
  • Sarra Tekola
  • L'Orangelis Thomas Negrón 
  • Talesha Wilson


....and eight others. 


Unicorn Fund logo