Monday, October 1, 2012

Case Foundation Seeking America’s Fearless Changemakers

“Finding Fearless” Campaign Aims to Recognize, Reward and Inspire Unsung Community Innovators with Bold Solutions

There’s a difference between do-gooders and changemakers, says Michael D. Smith, Senior VP of Social Innovation at the Case Foundation. He describes changemakers, individuals addressing complex social challenges, as those who make big bets, experiment early and often, make failure matter, reach beyond their bubble and let urgency conquer fear. Smith mentions individuals such as Geoffrey Canada, social activist, educator and founder of Harlem Children’s Zone as a fearless changemaker. Does this describe you or someone you know? Read on to learn more about the “Finding Fearless” campaign and enter today for a chance to win a grant and great prizes!

In 1997, Jean and Steve Case, co-founder of AOL, established the Case Foundation that invests in people and ideas that can change the world. The foundation supports initiatives that leverage new technologies and entrepreneurial approaches to drive innovation in the social sector and encourage individuals to get involved with the communities and causes they care about. In conjunction with the Foundation’s 15th anniversary, they’re searching for America’s most fearless changemakers as part of their Be Fearless initiative. A total of $650,000 in grants, software and technology prizes and outdoor adventures is at stake. In partnership with Microsoft and national outdoor retailer REI, the Foundation is looking for the unsung individuals in communities across the country that have a successful track record of tackling social challenges because their approach is bold, uncommon, experimental and unconventional.

From now until October 15th, you can nominate yourself or someone you know at

After an open nomination process, a “Fearless Academy” of judges will award the top 10 submissions $10,000 grants and the next 10, $1,000 grants. All projects will receive a $25,000 software grant from Microsoft and a $100 REI gift card. The public will then have the opportunity to vote on their favorite fearless projects to determine which ones will receive an additional $10,000 grant, an REI Adventure Trip to Bryce Canyon and more. Those voting will be eligible for prizes such as a $500 Network for Good gift card.

Smith shared with BlackGivesBack that the foundation is taking a more fearless approach to philanthropy, as challenges facing society are getting more complex. He hopes that the campaign will help the nominees get lifted up by their communities, help to share their stories, and that people will use the “Be Fearless” resources and discussion guide to host community conversations and move them from being do gooders to changemakers. You can begin by taking the “Be Fearless” pledge – over 7,000 people have signed on.

The grant recipients and prize winners will be announced on November 13th. In addition, the Case Foundation is serving as the principal partner for TEDxMidAtlantic 2012 on October 26-27 in Washington, DC that will celebrate the power of ideas to positively change the world. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit

About Michael D. Smith
SVP, Social Innovation, The Case Foundation

Michael leads the Case Foundation’s Social Innovation team, which oversees social investments, programs and partnerships. He works with senior leadership to set the programmatic direction of the Foundation and manages an investment portfolio designed to spark civic participation and promote innovation in the social sector.

Michael’s current major areas of focus include working with the Chairman and the White House to accelerate entrepreneurship through the Startup America Partnership and leading the Foundation’s efforts to tap citizen-centered solutions to social challenges, with an emphasis on open innovation.

Before joining the Case Foundation, Michael spent nearly a decade building “digital divide” organizations and held key positions at local and national organizations developing empowered youth. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Communications from Marymount University, is a frequent contributor to industry publications and gatherings and serves on the boards of Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement (PACE), and Public Allies. Visit the website at

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