Stephanie Strom reported yesterday in the New York Times:
In a first, a major foundation is offering the public a direct role in deciding who should receive some of its money, a process typically shrouded in mystery. … The foundation is asking individuals and small local nonprofit groups to send ideas for improving their communities. A group of judges will select 100 of the submissions received by Aug. 8 and ask for a more formal proposal. … Another panel of judges will then select 20 finalists, who will receive $10,000 each. And in November, the public can vote on those proposals, and the four that receive the most votes will get an additional $25,000.
Strom was most interested in the process, which is innovative. But the substance of the grant competition is equally important. Case is looking for “citizen-centered” work, as defined in a key paper by Cindy Gibson. Citizen-centered projects start with broad-based, open-ended deliberations about what should be done. People are not mobilized or persuaded to do what leaders or experts think. Citizen-centered projects go beyond deliberation and discussion to include direct action, from which people learn and then improve their discussions.
Cindy Gibson also has a new blog, Citizen Post, “the one-stop place for all things citizen-centered–the way democracy should be.” Although it officially launches this week, it already has a series of thoughtful posts.