Today, the MacArthur Foundation announced eight semi-finalists who are contending for a single $100 million grant.
The MacArthur Foundation is most famous for discovering and awarding "geniuses," or as they prefer to call them, "fellows." Authors like Ta-Nehisi Coates, playwrights like Lin-Manuel Miranda, scientists like Dianne Newman and civil rights advocates like Mary L. Bonauto have all won the annual $625,000 fellowship.
The Foundation's newest competition 100&Change drew 7,069 registrants and 1,904 proposals from organizations around the globe seeking to address the critical problems of our time. Their proposals were evaluated by a panel of expert judges on four criteria: Meaningfulness, verifiability, durability and feasibility.
The following eight institutions are still in the running for the $100 million prize:
Catholic Relief Services: Changing how society cares for children in orphanages
Himalayan Cataract: Eliminating needless blindness in Nepal, Ethiopia, and Ghana
Human Diagnosis Project: Providing virtual access to specialist medical care for underserved U.S. patients
HarvestPlus: Eliminating hidden hunger in Africa by fortifying staple crops
Internet Archive: Providing libraries and learners free digital access to four million books
Sesame Workshop and International Rescue Committee: Educating children displaced by conflict and persecution
Rice University: Improving newborn survival in Africa
The Carter Center: Eliminating river blindness in Nigeria
Cecilia Conrad, Managing Director and Vice President of the MacArthur Foundation, is excited to "have identified eight projects that are going to implement solutions that will have a real impact on peoples' lives."
The next challenge for these teams is to work on scaling their proposals. "Evidence that a solution works on a small scale does not mean that this is risk-free. Scaling involves risk," says Conrad.
In order to help teams navigate this difficult process, she says, the MacArthur Foundation is providing mentorship and technical support "with the hope that at the end of this process, all eight teams will have developed strong scalability plans that, even if they don't proceed in our competition, they can take to other funders."
"This is not about individuals. These are teams."
According to Conrad, this unique challenge has highlighted the importance of teamwork and collaboration. "One of the important things to remember here is that, unlike fellows, this is not about individuals. These are teams," she says. "You will find examples of collaboration across many of these groups."
One example is the collaboration between the Sesame Workshop and the International Rescue Committee. These two very different organizations plan to work together to provide refugee children with multi-media content to meet key educational and developmental needs.
In September, the MacArthur Board is expected to narrow the eight teams down to five and on December 11th, the remaining finalists will present their proposals in a live event. Only then will one team be awarded the $100 million prize.