In 2007, the Case Foundation launched its first public grants program, the Make It Your Own Awards (MIYO), which challenged people from all walks of life to discuss what matters most to them, decide what kind of community they want and take action together. With nearly 5,000 applicants and more than 15,000 voters, the program involved the public in nearly every aspect of decision-making and used the latest web 2.0 tools to empower applicants to raise funds and supporters.
Since the program officially ended in 2009, grantees have been working in their communities to implement their projects. But did they finish? And what did they learn? Equally important, what did we learn from this entire process? To find out, we commissioned Peter Levine, Ph.D., Peter Deitz, and Cynthia Gibson, Ph.D., to design and conduct this research.
Of specific interest to us was whether the MIYO process, grants and other benefits to the applicants had positive effects and, especially, had helped to support high-quality citizen-centered work that would not have occurred without the MIYO initiative. The data collected in this evaluation has also had the additional benefit of providing an unprecedented picture of citizen-centered efforts occurring in America—information that had previously been difficult to obtain and that will be of considerable use to the field.
In 2007, the New York Times recognized the Case Foundation as the first grant maker to let the public play a role in deciding how to spend grant dollars. The Make It Your Own Awards™ was inspired by a novel approach to civic engagement, which suggested a need to place citizens at the center of creating change by combining meaningful dialog with collective, hands-on action.
The Make It Your Own Awards (MIYO) challenged people from all walks of life to discuss what matters most to them, decide what kind of community they want, and then take action together. With more than 4,600 applicants, the program drew a diverse set of both individuals and small community based organizations, many of whom had never applied for foundation funding to support their work. What’s more, the program involved the public in nearly every aspect of the decision-making process and design – and as one of the first grant programs decided by public vote, more than 15,000 votes were cast to help name the Top 20 projects. MIYO was also an opportunity to help all 4,600+ applicants understand the latest (at the time) social media tools to help empower them to raise funds and rally supporters whether or not they were successful in receiving funding from the Foundation.