[T]he money and the secret selection process aren’t the most novel things about the MacArthur Fellowship. The most novel thing is that it is really, really hard to game. Sure, going to an Ivy League institution helps. Solving an intractable global problem doesn’t hurt. But fellows have been community workers and artists, chroniclers of small stories and scholars doing the slow work of math, science and the humanities. There are not many awards that invest in and confer legitimacy on people from all walks of life. There are even fewer still that look so widely for people who are thinking about our world in divergent ways. The MacArthur Fellowship is unique in that way. When you select for that kind of meaningful diversity, you don’t choose geniuses. You grow them.

Tressie McMillan Cottom, “What a MacArthur Foundation ‘Genius Grant’ Gave Me”