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Lydia Long of Old Town Abilene selected as a semi-finalist

By Floyd Miller



Washington, D.C.: The Case Foundation recently announced that Lydia Long from Abilene, TX was selected among the Top100 breakthrough ideas for the Make It Your Own Awards, a new grants program that aims to increase and strengthen citizen involvement in communities and introduce a more inclusive and innovative approach to foundation grant making. The Top 100 ideas {{more}} were selected from 4,641 applications received from every state in the country, an encouraging sign that people across the United States want to engage their communities in action. Projects were evaluated not only on their subject matter, but on the strength of the idea as an example of citizen-centered change. The Old Town Abilene Neighborhood Association hopes to nurture friendships and revitalize the neighborhood by creating parks. We want to purchase vacant lots to create pocket parks in our neighborhood. There is no safe place for children to play or neighbors to gather for a picnic or visit. We would like to plant trees, a garden and have a small playground to help rebuild community and friendships. Our project website is: The Top 100, whose online fundraising efforts will be jump-started with $100 from the Case Foundation, will now have an opportunity to refine their application and collaborate with others to begin promoting their idea in public. Each will also receive coaching from a community engagement professional hired by the Case Foundation to help further improve and develop applicant ideas and the logistics around getting them implemented.In February 2008, the Top 20 finalists will be selected by a panel of judges and awarded $10,000 grants. Then the online community will select four ideas that will each receive an additional $25,000 grant.“Response to this program has been wonderful and we hope it’s an indicator that now, more than ever, people want to work together, discuss together, and act together to develop solutions to challenges facing their communities,” Case Foundation Social Investment Manager Michael Smith said. “Now, we will begin to work directly with our 100 semifinalists to refine and promote their ideas so they can realize their projects’ full potential.”The applications represent the stories of people across the country who are interested in working with others in their communities. Many of these stories come from people who are new to the grant seeking process—56 percent of those participating said this was the first time they had submitted an online grant application. Applications came from all 50 states; nearly 40 percent were from minorities; and 38 percent were from individuals aged 25 to 44, while 10 percent were from 14- to 24-year-olds. One-quarter of all applications came from people older than 55.The Make it Your Own initiative was also designed to show people how using online tools can help make their ideas a reality. All applicants now have a webpage detailing their project and a customized online fundraising tool, commonly called a “widget,” based on their application. The widget and webpage will allow them to promote their project, spread their idea across the Internet, fundraise in support of their effort, and recruit others who share their passion. The full list of the Top 100, along with more information about Citizen Centered engagement, can be found on the Case Foundation website at ** The following are some of the criteria used to judge the citizen centered attributes and approaches of the Make It Your Own Awards Top 100. What Do Citizen-Centered Approaches Look Like? They focus primarily on culture change, rather than short-term outcomes, issues, or victories. They provide opportunities for people to form and promote their own decisions, build capacities for self-government, and promote open-ended civic processes. They are pluralistic and nonpartisan. They help to transcend ideological silos. They get beyond the debate over whether service or political action is more important. They’re not just about talking. They do not replace politics or other democratic processes.

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