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Digital Media Challenge Offers $100,000 in Prizes For Fresh Ideas on Democracy
MacArthur Foundation

February, 2013


Today marks the launch of a new digital media challenge that seeks to start a national conversation on ideas and solutions to improve American democracy, with cash prizes for the most fresh and creative submissions.  

Looking@Democracy is a national competition offering a total of $100,000 in prize money for short, provocative media submissions designed to spark a national conversation about why government is important to our lives, or how individuals and communities can come together to strengthen American democracy. Launching today, February 4, 2013, the challenge will award $25,000 for First Place along with significant prizes for 2nd and 3rd place as well as categories and awards for People’s Choice and Emerging Artists.

Examples of welcome submissions would be addressing a critical topic that is absent from the national debate, looking at data and exploring the stories behind them, or highlighting an aspect about democracy taking place on a local level. By making submissions in any digital format welcome, the challenge hopes to engage with independent media makers, investigative reporters, students, graphic designers and artists - anyone with creative ideas to help engage Americans and shift the political discussion in a fresh and engaging way.

Looking@Democracy is a project of the Illinois Humanities Council (IHC), with support from the MacArthur Foundation. Through new initiatives and past work, the two organizations have shown their commitment in providing platforms for more people to understand and participate in the democratic system through creative means.

...MacArthur seeks to stimulate discussion about the future of the Republic and invests in promising ideas to help enhance democratic ideals, institutions, and practices. 

 “Given our perception that the political system has failed to adequately address major issues confronting the nation, MacArthur seeks to stimulate discussion about the future of the Republic and invests in promising ideas to help enhance democratic ideals, institutions, and practices,” said MacArthur President Robert Gallucci.  “This new public competition is all about engaging citizens and encouraging them to apply their creative talents and offer their ideas to strengthen American democracy.”  

“So much of our information today is shared electronically, whether it be through videos, podcasts, graphic art, or even through mobile phone apps,” said Kristina Valaitis, Executive Director of the Illinois Humanities Council. “With Looking@Democracy, we hope to harness the potential of digital media to welcome new voices and start conversations about real, reasonable ways to improve our nation, our communities, and our lives.” 

A panel of expert judges from media and non-profits will judge the submissions, which include Maria Hinojosa of Public Radio’s Latino USA, Filmmaker Byron Hurt (Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes) and Ian Inaba, film director (American Blackout) and Executive Director of the Citizen Engagement Laboratory.

Looking@Democracy submissions will be accepting submissions today through April 30, 2013. View full challenge rules and sumbission information.   

About the Judges

Kevin Coval: Kevin Coval is an author and co-founder & artistic director of Louder Than a Bomb: The Chicago Teen Poetry Festival.   

Maria Hinojosa: María Hinojosa is the founder of Futuro Media Group and anchor and executive producer of Latino USA, and has been listed as one of the 100 most influential Latinos in the United States by Hispanic Business Magazine three times.  

Byron Hurt: Byron Hurt is an award-winning documentary filmmaker (Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes, Soulf Food Junkies), a published writer, and activist.

Ian Inaba: Ian Inaba is an award-winning director (American Blackout), author (True Lies) and Executive Director of the Citizen Engagement Laboratory.   

Wendy Levy: Wendy Levy is a co-founder of Sparkwise and media advisor with the Sundance Institute.

Learn more about the Illinois Humanities Council.


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