The Cook Family Foundation is seeking grant proposals to help promote civic engagement and community spirit. We know that in Shiawassee County we can work together to accomplish good things for our community: feeding our neighbors in need, educating our children, building a playground, cleaning up a river, starting or supporting a local business, or putting on a play or art show.
Partisanship and ideological differences are making it hard for people to come together for the greater good. A year without public gatherings, a divisive election, and lingering racism have furthered challenged our country and our community. When a protest on January 6 turned into an assault on our nation’s Capitol, the danger to our democracy became clear. How now do we rebuild faith in our system of government and bridge our partisan differences? If we want to do great things in our community we need to be able overcome our divisions and find ways to work together.
A functioning, inclusive, democratic society depends on many things, none of which we should take for granted. We are looking for creative ways to help our local nonprofits, civic organizations, schools and local governments rebuild democracy at the local level and strengthen our community. We are looking to promote citizenship, among those of voting age as well as our youth, who are future participants in democracy.
The best projects will engage people, make them think or learn anew, foster conversation, and renew commitment to our many democratic institutions. Of course, the project should avoid partisanship or political posturing. If the initiative furthers the mission of a local nonprofit (all of which make our community stronger), that’s even better. And as always, we find our most successful grants are ones that involve collaboration and/or leverage funds from outside the community.
Here are some ideas, and possible goals, for projects, but we are open to your initiative:
History of Democracy – our community has an active electorate that has mirrored national attitudes. In 1948, local voters went for Owosso native Thomas E. Dewey, who lost to Harry Truman in the Presidential election. But since then, voters in Shiawassee County have voted for the winning presidential candidate in 16 out 18 elections. What does our history tell us about democracy? What lessons can we learn from presidential elections as well as local candidates who championed bi-partisan problem solving? Goal: a wider appreciation of our long history of involvement in the democratic system
Democracy in Action (Civic Engagement) – our constitutional democracy presumes active, informed voters participating in local, state and national elections. Without faith in the results of elections, citizens will be less likely to vote and our democracy will not function as designed. How do we ensure that citizens know how elections work, and can have confidence in the outcome of elections? How can we help them be aware and effective voters? Goal: Informed voters having confidence in the electoral system and engaged in democracy
Access to Democracy – one of the founding, and evolving, principles of American democracy is full participation of all citizens in the system. It has taken over 200 years, but more and more citizens are now active in our democracy, including former slaves, women, and other groups who were originally excluded from the franchise. How do we increase access to the electoral process for all Americans? How do we encourage, educate, and celebrate voters? Goal: Involvement and support for voter participation efforts
Rights and Responsibilities – The US Constitution and its amendments have, from the beginning, articulated inviolate rights. Efforts by citizens to more fully claim these rights have advanced our democracy, but have also engendered resistance and controversy. How do we exercise our rights, but in a way that reflects our responsibilities as citizens at the same time? Goal: Expand our constitutional knowledge to support democracy and civil society
Non-Violence and the Rule of Law – the history of political protest in the US and elsewhere has been intertwined with a commitment to non-violence. How do we advance political and social goals without harming others or spurring violence? How do we advance the rule of law as an alternative to the raw exercise of power? Goal: Support for legitimate efforts to achieve social goals without resorting to conflict
Community Conversations – after a year of isolation and division, how can we begin to come together again and have productive conversations? It is particularly important to have conversations across party lines, about difficult topics, and that lead to positive change. Goal: Foster healthy conversations, build relationships, and strengthen the community
If you have an idea, please write a short statement outlining your proposal, your goals for the community, and your partners. Please send to [email protected] and we will get back to you within 7 days to schedule a conversation.