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$100 Million to Solve a Critical Problem of Our Time

30 June 2016 at 10:56 am
Wendy Williams
Can $100 million change the world? The MacArthur Foundation believes so.

Wendy Williams | 30 June 2016 at 10:56 am


$100 Million to Solve a Critical Problem of Our Time
30 June 2016 at 10:56 am

Can $100 million change the world? The MacArthur Foundation believes so.

American dollars

The foundation, one of the largest philanthropic funders in the US, has launched a new competition offering a massive US$100 million (A$134 million) grant to fund a single proposal that promises real and measurable progress in solving a critical problem of our time.

The Foundation’s competition, 100&Change, is open to organisations working in any field, anywhere, who have a proposal that can help solve a critical problem affecting “people, places or the planet”.

According to the brief, applicants must identify both the problem they are trying to solve, as well as their proposed solution. Proposals must be “meaningful, verifiable, durable, and feasible”.

MacArthur President Julia Stasch said solving society’s most pressing problems wasn’t easy, but they believed it could be done.

“Potential solutions may go unnoticed or under resourced and are waiting to be brought to scale,” Stasch said.

“Every three years, we plan to award $100 million to help make one of these solutions a reality.

“Through 100&Change, we want to inspire, encourage, and support other people’s ideas, here in our hometown Chicago, across the nation and around the world, about how to address major challenges and enable real progress toward a solution.”

According to the competition website some problems can’t be solved by grants of the size that foundations typically provide, which is what inspired them to offer such a large grant.

“By funding at a level far above what’s typical in philanthropy, we can address problems and support solutions that are radically different in scale, scope, and complexity,” the website said.

“$100 million is a large enough sum to focus on a serious problem and its solution in a meaningful and lasting way.”

Each valid proposal will be reviewed by a panel of expert judges from a variety of fields, and evaluated according to a strict set of criteria designed to favor proposals that maximise measurable impact in their chosen areas.

MacArthur’s managing director, Cecilia Conrad, who is leading the competition, said they believed 100&Change could have a ripple effect beyond the $100 million grant.

“Setting audacious goals is inspiring,” said Conrad.

“Clear evidence of impact can encourage other funders to invest in solvable problems more broadly, and applicants who do not receive the $100 million grant will still receive valuable feedback on and attention to their ideas.”

100&Change will consider applications from around the world, and both Not for Profit and for-profit organisations can apply, subject to eligibility rules.

Applicants must register on the website by 2 September 2016 with proposals accepted until 3 October 2016.

By December, the foundation will pick up to 10 semi-finalists who will then receive support to help refine their proposal, including an extensive study to see whether their plan will actually have the impact they predicted.

MacArthur’s board of directors will select finalists in the summer of 2017, who will then present their solutions during a live event, after which the board will make the final decision.  

Wendy Williams  |  Editor  |  @WendyAnWilliams

Wendy Williams is a journalist specialising in the not-for-profit sector and broader social economy. She has been the editor of Pro Bono News since 2018.

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