It's no secret that it takes a lot less work to complain about a problem than actually fix it. But the Knight Foundation isn't letting Miami nonprofits off the hook so easily. The foundation plans to award $25,000 to a Miami nonprofit who can make the case that they'll use the money to solve a local problem that particularly bothers them.
The "Solve This Miami!" competition is part of "The Power of Design 2014: Complaints," a multidisciplinary event scheduled for March, administered by the Wolfsonian-Florida International University, and funded by the foundation. Noting that "complaints are the starting point for solutions," curators encourage nonprofits to get angry and gripe freely — as long as they bring solutions to the table.
The application process is simple. Nonprofits must articulate, in 300 words or less, how they'll use the $25,000 to fix a problem that currently afflicts Miami-Dade County. That's it. Submissions will be assessed by journalists at the Miami Herald and a field of "community judges" who will whittle the field to five finalists. These five proposals will then be posted online at MiamiHerald.com and will include a "video pitch" from the submitting nonprofit. The winner will be chosen by the community at large via an online vote.
Now, we know what you're thinking. How will the committee decide what solutions are best? All we're told is that submissions will be "judged on the basis of practicality and impact." That said, we'd also encourage nonprofits to keep the idea of "design" in mind. A more thorough read of the press release on the foundation's site quotes Cathy Leff, director of Wolfsonian-Florida International University, as saying: "Design itself is a problem-solving process that often originates with a state of dissatisfaction." Certain pieces of modern art, for example, are responses to rampant industrialization. Classic novels address acute economic issues. Musical compositions respond to social injustice. So nonprofits may want to contextualize their complaint and solution within a larger framework.
If our interpretation sounds a bit overwrought, bear in mind that the foundation and curators want to go even further. By framing these solutions with an eye towards design, planners will use the competiton as a springboard for "provocative talks, group discussions, performances, and exhibitions."
Ultimately, this competition is a classic bad news/good news piece. The bad news? Unfortunately, it reminds us that all US cities have seemingly unlimited amount of problems. The good news? By tapping into nonprofit ingenuity, the Knight Foundation is tangibly solving problems utilizing a model that can be emulated elsewhere.