Do you work or volunteer with a community group or nonprofit organization with an idea to make San Diego better?

See if your fellow residents share your enthusiasm by submitting a proposal for this year’s Idea Tournament at Politifest.

Politifest is Voice of San Diego’s outdoor civics festival coming up Aug. 9 at Liberty Station, and this year’s theme is “Live, Work, Learn.” We’re encouraging tournament participants to focus on concepts that will spur economic growth, enrich community development or create innovative education programs. The winning group will receive a $2,500 cash grant along with a customized consulting package from Mission Edge San Diego to help with IT, accounting, human resources and other office needs. Get the details here.

We checked in with last year’s winner, the San Diego Community Garden Network, which beat out 25 other groups with its creative plan to build a living laboratory in an urban garden.

It took a lot of hard work and planning to turn an empty lot behind Chula Vista’s Gracia y Paz Covenant Church into a lush garden filled with blooming apricot, raspberry, olive and apple trees. Now the space features mosaic paintings by Marco Castillo and member-owned garden plots.

The group overcame setbacks with low membership and irrigation issues, but their work doesn’t stop there. In a three-month course called “Eco-Technology and Urban Agriculture,” they set out to introduce students to technology-driven and traditional gardening techniques to become better stewards for the environment.

For example, throughout the garden, members set up QR codes linked to various sites like the garden blog, Google Maps latitudes and gardener biographies. The class is also creating a time-lapse video to study the garden’s changes over time.

“The garden is itself a living demonstration of practical means of diversifying our food supply, one that is open to the public to visit and learn from,” course facilitator Rosero Lecusay said. “Through the integration of our course with daily garden activities, garden members have gained experience in becoming digitally empowered spokespeople for the value of their garden.”

Funding from the Idea Tournament helped make that happen. Voice of San Diego will accept submissions for this year’s tournament through July 4. VOSD members will be able to vote on the proposals July 14 -25. You must be a VOSD member by July 14 to be eligible to vote. The five organizations that receive the most votes will present their ideas to a panel of judges at Politifest on Aug. 9. The Idea Tournament is presented by SDG&E.

Sofie Casillas

Sofie is the Development Specialist at Voice of San Diego. She manages the Partner Voices initiative. You can reach her by email at

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