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Awarding Innovation: An Assessment of the MacArthur Foundation’s Digital Media and Learning Competition


In 2013, the MacArthur Foundation engaged Informing Change to evaluate one component of its Digital Media and Learning (DML) Initiative—the DML Competition—which identifies innovators and invests in prototypes of games, mobile phone applications, virtual worlds, social networks, digital badge platforms and more in support of connected learning. Informing Change assessed the Competition’s goals, processes, and impacts on awardees, awarded projects, the DML landscape and the Foundation using a mixed-methods evaluation design.

Through our evaluation, we found that participation in the Competition has left lasting impressions on awardees in how they think about DML and its relationship to their work. Most awardees continued some part of their project work after the Competition ended, and some finalists have made progress on their proposed projects despite not receiving a Competition award. The Competition, along with the rest of the DML Initiative, has made considerable progress in identifying and shaping the DML landscape: It has spurred national conversation around hot topics in the DML landscape, connected learning to a variety of audiences, and produced some important examples of the framework in action and its potential impact.

In addition to our evaluation, we produced the following video, which highlights key findings of the evaluation through the stories of two DML competition winners, Youth Radio and Mobile Movement.