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 enables us to identify, support, and celebrate advocates (including prominent journalists, activists, artists, 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 artists, journalists, organizers, and advocates, as well as the broader Media Democracy Fund community;
Expand their community through fellowship retreats, field convenings, and other travel delegation opportunities, as appropriate and possible; and
Increase their digital security capacity through trainings and 1:1 support with digital security trainers.
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 includes:
Renee Bracey Sherman
Simran Jeet Singh
...and 12 others.
The Next Dazzle of Unicorns
We invited nominations for Unicorns from December 18, 2020 - January 31, 2021. After review by an independent selection committee, finalists will be selected in April/May 2021.