Open competition with $6000 in awards

Where, as a society and an economy, are we going?  It turns out, we rarely ask that bigger question.  And yet, we probably should.  As one student of current affairs put it, “At present we are stealing the future, selling it in the present, and calling it gross domestic product.”

How to clarify / understand / or visualize this central dilemma of our time: the economic imperative to grow; the survival imperative to stop growing?

We are requesting submissions of artistic representations that both clarify and dramatize the many shortcomings and dangers of dominant national and global obsessions with growth.  Submissions can be in any format or artistic platform (film, video, photography, graphics, words, etc.), but should be geared toward clarity and easy comprehension. This call is for finished projects, not for proposals.

A committee consisting of scholars, students, political practitioners, and documentarians will award a $4,000 award for the first prize, and $1,000 for the second prize.  We will also award a $1,000 Reader’s Choice Award (to be determined by online votes between Oct. 3 and Oct. 17). Winners will be notified no later than Nov. 1.  All the winners will be invited to a public award ceremony at Duke University.  The first prize winner will also be featured at an event at the Duke Center for Documentary Studies. 

The work of the prize winners will be featured in a variety of venues, as they will make up one of the pillars of an ongoing multi-year research and advocacy project on finding alternative ways of thinking about economic activities and goals.


  • 50% originality and creativity of the concept proposed in the video or artwork
  • 50% effectiveness and clarity of communication and mode of presentation

While this call is in no way limited to any region or culture (as GDP-growth based economies are a global phenomenon), we also encourage, as members of NC-based institutions, submissions that are specific to North Carolina.


Applicants interested in further background information, please visit, or, at any point, contact Dirk Philipsen at for reading materials, data, and general research on the broader question of causes and consequences of economic growth.


Submissions to are due at 11:59 pm Oct. 2, 2016. 
Submission are open to everyone.



How do we know, as people or nations or international communities, that we’re on the right track?

How do we measure performance?  What track are we on?  What do we know? 

The answers are both simple and incredibly complex.  But the answers matter a great deal, for people and societies tend to pay attention to what they measure; or, if they don’t measure/count it, they tend to ignore it.

Today, people around the world use many measures of performance and success – unemployment, divorce rates, life expectancy, literacy, investment rates, carbon footprint, happiness – you name it. Indeed, taken together, we likely know far more than ever before about where we are, and how we’re doing.

And yet, most of these measures have little impact on politics, laws, regulations, economic policy – in short, on how we organize our lives; what we work for; what we value.

Except for one.  It turns out, we have one measure, one indicator of performance, that is far more influential in politics and policy than all the others combined.  Not only that, every major country around the world uses it.  Indeed, its growth is generally seen as essential for wellbeing and prosperity, even progress itself.

That measure is GDP, or Gross Domestic Product.  What does it measure?  The short answer: output.  What does that mean?  All the goods and services produced for, and exchanged in, the market. Pretty much everything that comes with a price tag. 

But, in some ways it’s even more interesting to look at what it does not measure.  To start with, it doesn’t count any of the work people do outside of their official jobs (family, religious organizations, home, black market, hobbies, etc.).  So it values work you get paid for, and ignores work you don’t get paid for.  Strangely, it also doesn’t count capital – that is, anything other than financial capital. The resources (water, oil, minerals etc) in the ground – no. The things that keep us alive (fresh air, clean water, rich soil) – no. What about our “social capital” – the health of our communities, families, networks? No. Does it give us a sense as to what we’ll leave behind for future generations?  Sadly: no. But, surely, it provides some insight into our basic welfare and happiness?  Again, no.

If we thought of the economy as a computer (with endless different uses and programs), GDP is its operating system.  All other things are both defined by it, and secondary to it – political parties, meaning of work, the urgency to address inequality or ecological destruction or disappearing jobs. First and foremost, we are told, we need to grow.  Which means: grow GDP. The reining global assumption is: progress and development depend on this kind of growth. 

The real question is: Who do we want to be? What do we value? What is purpose and direction of our common journey?


Submit your entries at Entries can consist of a video or a static visual medium, including but not limited to an infographic, painting, 3D sculpture, etc. All entries must be digital, and consist of a scanned image or photograph in the case of non-digital or 3D artwork. 

  • Upload your contest entry as specified:
    • Video: Videos must be uploaded to YouTube and a link provided. Videos must be no more than 5 minutes in length in a format that YouTube will accept.  
    • Artwork: Artwork must be uploaded to DropBox and a link provided. Still visuals must be a digital file, but can be created in any medium that can be photographed and shared in a single file. Images must be at least 300 dpi and 8 inches wide, in JPG or PNG format. Files should not exceed 30 mb in size.
  • All work must be the sole effort of the entrant. 
  • Entrants will retain copyright in their work, but each Entrant grants to Duke University and the NC Justice Center a non-exclusive, worldwide, perpetual, assignable, royalty-free license to publish, reproduce, distribute, display, perform, create derivative works, transmit or disseminate the works in all media or platforms whether now known or hereafter invented.
  • No copyrighted materials (music, images, etc.) may be used for this contest unless you own the copyright or have a license to use the material for this contest. Written permission must be obtained and provided upon request for all copyrighted materials.
  • All information presented in the video or artwork must be cited, giving credit to the original source. A list of data sources and research already vetted by the committee is available here
  • Do not include third parties, including but not limited to minors, celebrities and friends who have not expressly authorized the entrants to display their image, likeness or voice in any submitted video or still media or otherwise use such image, likeness or voice.
  • Entrants must be at least 18 years of age. 


As part of growth-based economies, we may find ourselves passengers on a train racing toward the cliff (rising inequality; resource depletion; climate change; species extinction, etc.).  Train conductors, meanwhile, maintain that the primary solution to all of our problems is speeding up the train (or growing GDP). 

We invite submissions of artistic renderings of what may well be the central dilemma of our time – the economic imperative to grow; the survival imperative to stop growing. 

Submissions due to at 11:59 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016, for awards totalling $6,000 (for details go to ). This competition is open to all.

Meaghan Li