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Citizen-Centered Awards from Case    

Do you have big dreams for your community? The Case Foundation is launching a pilot grants program that could turn these dreams into reality. NCDD is listed as a Partner on the Case Foundation website since we will be doing our best to inform the dialogue & deliberation community about this opportunity - and since Case recognizes the importance of your work and encourages you to apply!

The Make It Your Own Awards™, a new initiative from the Case Foundation that launches on June 26, 2007, is about giving grants, tools, and recognition to people who are coming together to discuss what matters, form solutions, and take action. Twenty semi-finalists will each receive $10,000 grants to start bringing their ideas to life. Four final grant recipients will then be chosen by the public using an online voting system (!). These finalists will each be awarded an additional $25,000 grant.

The Make It Your Own Awards came about in response to research showing that many people feel disconnected from public leaders and institutions and don’t believe they have the power to make a real difference in their community. These findings were the reason for a paper released by the Case Foundation last fall, Citizens at the Center: A New Approach to Civic Engagement, which suggests that if people are actually going to become and stay engaged in their communities, one thing has to happen first: they must have more chances to connect with one another (including those with whom they might disagree), and figure out how they can work together for the common good.

This kind of “citizen-centered” approach represents a subtle, yet powerful, shift that encourages people to create new spaces where they can come together, become connected to each other, and make a difference as a community working toward a common vision and real action.

All applicants are welcome, ages 14 and up. Application materials will not be available on the Case Foundation website until June 26th, but you can go to their site now to learn more and sign up for email updates. Note that the application deadline is August 8th.

On May 15th, NCDD announced on our blog that the Case Foundation was searching for people to serve as external reviewers for the first phase of this new grantmaking effort focused on igniting citizen-centered community work across the country (view the blog post). The Case Foundation is demonstrating the citizen-centered approach it is promoting (and that Cynthia Gibson wrote about in her noteworthy article Citizens at the Center) by involving people outside the foundation in every part of the process, starting with reviewing Letters of Intent (LOIs).

NCDD is keeping our eye on these developments closely, for several reasons (and you should, too!)…

  • First, not only is the Case Foundation launching a new grants program that acknowledges the importance of process in obtaining a sustainable outcome, they’re doing it in a daring, innovative way - sharing power in a way that foundations seldom do. If the process works out well, perhaps other foundations will try similar experiments.
  • Second, Gibson’s Citizens at the Center paper can and should be used to bring attention to the importance of public dialogue and deliberation - especially in the larger “civic engagement” community. Gibson asserts in her paper that “public service” is a more powerful frame around which to rally Americans for democratic renewal than “civic engagement” and the encouragement of public deliberation should be at the center of renewal efforts. Gibson feels that deliberation-linked-to-action should be the heart of civic engagement, rather than the common frame of voting and/or service.
  • And third, Gibson’s paper is part of the impetis behind an exciting new collaborative initiative called “The November 5th Coalition,” which NCDD is involved in. The Coalition aims to turn the 2008 election into deliberation and debate about how we can collectively mobilize the energies and talents of the whole society to address our challenges — how we can shift from expert-directed government to shared and democratic governance.

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