Meet 8 teams competing for $100 million and a chance to change the world

Managing Director of the MacArthur Foundation Cecilia Conrad speaks at the Novus Summit at the United Nations on July 17, 2016 in New York City.
J. Countess | Getty Images

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

Family in Malawi Sarah Gavinala with her husband Witinesi and their son Bashil outside their home in Zomba, Malawi. Sarah was recently diagnosed with HIV when she was expecting her youngest son Bashil. Initially terrified by her diagnosis, she sought support from an "Expert Client," a person living with HIV who has taken a leadership role at the health center she visits. The expert client helped her come to terms with her diagnosis and helped her understand the treatment and how she could continue her life as normal. Expert Clients run support groups, counseling sessions, help with record keeping, and alleviate the work load of overtaxed healthcare workers. The clients are part of the CRS run IMPACT project generously funded by the American people through USAID.
John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Himalayan Cataract: Eliminating needless blindness in Nepal, Ethiopia, and Ghana

Co-founders Drs. Sanduk Ruit and Geoff Tabin examine a cataract patient in Dolakha, Nepal while trainees look on. Eye Camp in Dolkha a mountain region of eastern Nepal. Organised by Himalayan Cataract Project, Tilganga Institute of Opthalamology Kathmandu featuring the work of Dr Geoff Tabin, Dr Sanduk Ruit and their team.
John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Human Diagnosis Project: Providing virtual access to specialist medical care for underserved U.S. patients

Ariel Skelley | Getty Images

HarvestPlus: Eliminating hidden hunger in Africa by fortifying staple crops

Elevanie, Rwanda Bean Farmer
John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Internet Archive: Providing libraries and learners free digital access to four million books

Lan Zhu, a scanner at the Internet Archive, digitizing books on the Tabletop Scribe, the scanner they designed to process millions of books around the world.
John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Sesame Workshop and International Rescue Committee: Educating children displaced by conflict and persecution

John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Rice University: Improving newborn survival in Africa

John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

The Carter Center: Eliminating river blindness in Nigeria

John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

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.
Cecilia Conrad
managing director and VP of the MacArthur Foundation

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.

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