These "Badges for Lifelong Learning" are a multi-million-dollar project of the MacArthur Foundation, which funded the three-year-long, multi-researcher Digital Youth Project that resulted in the MIT Press book Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out: Kids Living and Learning with New Media. "To create prototypes of these alternative credentials, MacArthur has started … a competition that will culminate in March 2012, when the foundation will award a total of $2 million to several dozen winners," the Times reports. Collaborators include the US Departments of Education and Veterans Affairs, NASA, Intel, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. "MacArthur has also given $1 million to the nonprofit Mozilla Foundation to develop a common standard or protocol for the badges." Because these credentials need to work everywhere online, regardless of browser, device, or site used. This is a budding trend worth watching, I think. It's also model grantmaking – helping to build out the infrastructure for civic engagement in today's participatory media environment.