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Everyone knows that the national political system in Washington has been mired in stalemate more often than not over the past 20 years.
But it's a mistake to conclude from that deadlock that America has lost its capacity for self-renewal or its willingness to confront its toughest challenges. The U.S. still is producing dynamic and innovative responses to its greatest needs, from creating jobs and helping families balance work and home to improving education, providing new paths to home ownership, and revitalizing troubled neighborhoods.
What's changed is the focal point of the action. The best thinking is no longer coalescing on Pennsylvania Avenue. It's emerging on Main Streets across the country—in red states and blue states, in large cities and small towns, in corner offices and start-up lofts.
Although often overshadowed by the stalemate in national politics, the U.S. today is living through a golden age of grassroots initiative and innovation. Driven by frustration with the national stalemate, enabled by new communications technology, and inspired by an ethos of direct action, a new generation of problem-solvers in non-profit organizations, businesses, and local governments—as well as those working independently—are pursuing their own ideas outside of any formal institution and are forging new answers for old challenges.
And now, we want you to help us find the best of them.
For more than a year, the Next Economy project, a joint effort by The Atlantic and National Journal sponsored by Allstate, has been profiling grassroots innovators in communities around the country. (You can see some of the organizations and individuals we have profiled here.) Today, we are announcing The Renewal Awards, a national contest that raises to a new level our effort to identify and celebrate these pragmatic problem-solvers.
With The Renewal Awards, we will reward the very best grassroots innovators who are making progress on the country's toughest problems. We are looking for public-private partnerships mobilizing local resources in new ways; the companies determined to produce not only profits, but also progress in their communities; the non-profits that combine compassion with an unshakeable commitment to results; and the local governments reinventing the way they deliver services.
Every week, the journalists at National Journal and The Atlantic are profiling programs, partnerships, companies, and individuals who embody this new thinking. Now we're asking you to help us cast a wider net by submitting your own nominations for The Renewal Awards. We want you to tell us: What is the one thing happening in your hometown that America needs to know about?
We will accepting public nominations starting today through Sept. 14. To nominate a program or individual for The Renewal Awards, please go to www.RenewalAwards.com and follow the instructions. Shortly after the public nomination period is closed, a group of Atlantic Media editors will evaluate the public's nominations, and the programs identified by our own reporting to produce a list of 25 semifinalists. At that point, we will select six winners through a combination of online public voting and the decisions of a panel of judges that will include representatives from Atlantic Media, Allstate, and independent outside experts chosen by Atlantic Media.
The Renewal Awards winners will each receive a $10,000 grant to advance their work and join us for a national summit on local innovation to be held in Des Moines, Iowa in January 2016—just before the Iowa caucuses officially kick off the 2016 presidential race.
In this challenging century, the tests facing American can sometimes seem daunting. But the creativity and commitment of America's innovators in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors remains an inexhaustible resource. Every day, ordinary Americans are lighting candles against all forms of darkness. We ask you to join us in shining a spotlight of recognition onto them.
—Ronald Brownstein, Editorial Director for Strategic Partnerships, Atlantic Media.
This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal and part of our Next Economy coverage.
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