The Water Consciousness Challenge, the first prize offered under The New Arizona Prize banner, sought the best digital strategy for raising consciousness about our water future.
While the Arizona Community Foundation continues to award traditional grants, the organization made a commitment to host philanthropic prize competitions designed to attract new thinking and innovation. Through these open, fair and transparent competitions, ACF can deploy a portion of its philanthropic resources to generate innovative solutions to our state’s challenges.
Over the course of a year, experts representing political, policy, business, nonprofit, entrepreneurial, and academic interests were convened to help shape the first of The New Arizona Prize challenges. We asked them to identify an issue of significant importance that would trigger widespread engagement from residents and others—including some who might not typically participate. Together, we agreed that the sustainability of Arizona’s water future needed broad attention and investment.
The challenges begin
Offering a prize of $100,000, the Water Consciousness Challenge sought the best digital strategy for raising consciousness about our water future. Check out the website for The New Arizona Prize: Water Consciousness Challenge and see how it laid important groundwork for the second challenge, which would inspire the development of products, services and businesses to address the issue of water scarcity and create solutions. The second challenge is described on The New Arizona Prize: Water Innovation Challenge website.
The Beyond the Mirage team: Meg Hagyard, Dave Bogner, Craig Boesewetter, Cody Sheehy, Kerry Schwartz, JD Gibbs, Susanna Eden, John Booth and Sharon Megdal; along with Phil Boas, representing Republic Media and Jacky Alling, ACF Chief Philanthropy Officer.
Extensive coverage of this collaborative endeavor was featured in The Arizona Republic on Sunday, September 28, 2014, beginning with a front-page story and continuing in the Viewpoints section with an editorial by Linda Valdez, a My Turn column by Steve Seleznow, ACF's president and CEO, and an "AZ I See It" column by Michael Lacey, Director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources. Longtime water expert Grady Gammage Jr. was interviewed live by The Republic's EJ Montini.
Beyond the Mirage takes the prize
Each of five finalist teams pitched their digital media strategies to the Water Consciousness Challenge Selection Committee during the final award ceremony held in April 2015.
Beyond the Mirage, a team of water experts, videographers and social media marketers, was announced as the winner of The New Arizona Prize: Water Consciousness Challenge and they used the $100,000 prize to promote water consciousness by making every Arizonan a water documentarian.
At the core of their digital media strategy is an interactive web platform and a bank of short video clips with an abundance of information about the water resources of the Southwest. Users are able to pick any of these clips and arrange them into a mini-documentary of their own creation and then share them on social media.
Visit beyondthemirage.org to learn more about Beyond the Mirage and create your own story.
Representatives of the organizations responsible for the Water Consciousness Challenge were on stage during the final award ceremony to announce the winning team. They are: Jerry Hirsch, President of the Lodestar Charitable Foundation; Hal Tashman, Founder of the Tashman Fund; Steve Seleznow, President & CEO of the Arizona Community Foundation; Thom Reilly, Director of the Morrison Institute for Public Policy at ASU; and Phil Boas, Editorial Page Editor at The Arizona Republic.
The benefits of competing
All of the teams who participated in the Water Consciousness Challenge benefited from the feedback and expertise of the 30-plus evaluators and judges who represent a variety of organizations. The other four finalist teams, each of which received a $5,000 grant from the Arizona Community Foundation, presented the following strategies to engage students, businesses, city planners and community leaders in building water consciousness:
- WATER IS LIFE proposed a plan to build a coalition to promote water consciousness through social media, surveys and educational events.
- The Decision Center for a Desert City at Arizona State University proposed a plan to engage middle and high school students with a water resource simulation tool to explore various change scenarios and their impact.
- Creating Actionable Water Consciousness proposed a plan to engage city planners using an online tool that would allow them to run development scenarios as they plan for their cities’ futures.
- The Support Our Schools AZ Collaborative proposed a “Pledge to Preserve” campaign that would provide educational materials for the classroom and gather data on how school districts’ water use changes.