Civicus Nelson Mandela - Graça Machel Innovation Awards offers $5,000 prize
Civicus’ International Civil Society Week (ICSW) is a global gathering for civil society to connect, debate, and create shared solutions. This year, it will end with a celebration of people power initiatives from around the world.

The Civicus Nelson Mandela – Graça Machel Innovation Awards shall recognize seven individuals, groups, or organizations which stand out for their innovative work building people power in support of human rights and social justice for everyone.

Application deadline: September 20, 2021

Benefits of the Civicus Nelson Mandela – Graça Machel Innovation Awards

Submissions are invited under the following topics explored during the 2020 ICSW/virtual events:

One winner from each category will be selected. Each winner initiative will receive a US$5,000 prize. 

In addition, the shortlisted applicants will be featured for public endorsement on the People Power Innovation Zone in October. 

Photo credits: ICSW

About the Civicus Innovation Awards

The Nelson Mandela – Graça Machel 2021 Innovation Awards will help to make the case for the importance of people power and civil society activism in creating a more just, inclusive, and sustainable world. 

The awards will provide an important platform for learning, sharing, and building solidarity, and inspire activists, donors, and other enablers who are looking for innovative approaches and solutions to supporting people power.

Awards Selection Process

Applications will be assessed based on the selection criteria outlined below. Those applications that meet all the eligibility and selection criteria will be included in the People Power Innovation Zone database, with shortlisted applicants being featured for public endorsement in an Innovation gallery.

The 2021 Innovation Awards Selection Committee will shortlist the ideas featured on the People Power Innovation Zone based on the following selection criteria: 

  • Relevance (20%) – does the initiative clearly address and build on one of the seven seven key topics related to people power discussed during ICSW/virtual? (Applications that do not meet the ‘Relevance’ criteria will be disqualified.)
  • Innovation (20%) – does the initiative embody a new or renewed (for your context) approach, product or service that supports people power?
  • Experience (10%) – does the individual/group/organization have demonstrated experience in organizing and mobilizing people, support and resources around initiatives, actions and campaigns?
  • Relevance to context (10%) – does the initiative clearly respond to a key challenge and need in the community?
  • Constituency engagement (10%) – does the initiative clearly demonstrate meaningful engagement with community/movement members?
  • Contribution to change (10%) – does the initiative make a significant contribution to building people power?
  • Enrichment (5%) – does the individual/group/organization need greater visibility or solidarity to access financial or other support?
  • Endorsements (5%) – has the initiative received significant public/peer support?
  • Clarity (10%) – is the initiative clear and easy to understand? Is the thought process and vision well communicated?

The selection committee will moderate and identify the 2021 Innovation Awards Winners to reflect a diversity of perspectives, including:

  • Geographic – the final cohort will represent regional diversity
  • Thematic – the final cohort will focus on different topics and trends related to people power
  • Type – the final cohort will represent the diversity of civil society, e.g., smaller, less formal groups and movements, young people, traditionally excluded groups, etc.

Eligibility Criteria

The awards are open to any individual, organization or group that meets the following eligibility criteria:

  • You are 18 years or older by 1 September 2021.
  • You are able to submit an application in English, French or Spanish.
  • You are both a national and resident from the following regions: Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, Pacific.
  • You work with organizations, networks, movements or change-seeking communities at the local or national level. Both formally constituted and informal organizations or groups are eligible. 
  • You belong to the same community whose issues you are trying to address. (For example, if you work to increase youth participation in civil society, you must be a young person, or your organization/group must be youth-led.)
  • You have worked to build people power in your community for at least 2-years.
  • For individual applicants: you belong to an organization, network, movement or change-seeking community that would ultimately benefit from the Award.
  • You are not/ have not received funding from CIVICUS in the past 2 years.
  • Your work/ the proposed initiative relates directly to one of the following topics:
    • Building and sustaining social justice movements
    • Creating positive narratives for people power
    • Democratizing governance systems and processes
    • Enhancing diversity and inclusion through artivism
    • Protecting and promoting digital civic space
    • Resourcing youth-led groups and movements
    • Sustaining people power through self- and community care
  • You are currently implementing the proposed initiative.

How to Apply for the Civicus Innovation Awards

Interested candidates must follow these steps to apply for the 2021 Innovation Awards:

  1. Take the following eligibility quiz to ensure they meet the eligibility criteria: 
    1. English: https://web.civicus.org/form  
    2. French: https://web.civicus.org/formulaire  
    3. Spanish: https://web.civicus.org/formulario  
  2. Applicants who pass the eligibility quiz will immediately have access to the official online application form. Those who do not pass the quiz are not eligible to participate in the awards and cannot submit an application form. Civicus has implemented the eligibility quiz to help non-eligible candidates save time and effort. 
  3. Eligible applicants have two options
    1. Complete and submit the online application form immediately when redirected to it.
    2. Download a template of the application form (also provided after passing the quiz) to prepare their answers in advance. When ready, go back to the eligibility quiz to access the online application form, copy-paste the prepared answers, and submit the online form

***Important note: The application form must be completed and submitted online without exceptions. Civicus do not receive applications via email or any other channels. The application form template cannot be submitted as an official application by any means. 

Deadline to submit the online application form: 20 September 2021.

Shortlisted applicants will be notified via email in October.  The seven 2021 Innovation Awards Winners will be publicly announced in early November 2021. If you have any questions, please email the organizing body at [email protected].  


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