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Some might see 100&Change as a peculiarly American enterprise – brash and a little loud: An award of US $100 million for the proposal that solves any problem anywhere in the world. Can this model translate well to other social challenges? To answer this, it may be useful to explain how 100&Change and other Lever for Change competitions are distinctive in the field of philanthropy.
Transparency in Evaluation
Lever for Change competitions define specific criteria and a set of rules that govern how projects are evaluated. The rules, scoring criteria and names of the evaluators are public, which ensure transparency, fairness, and a level playing field.
For grant seekers, a competition imposes the burden of completing an application without the promise of funding. However, it also creates an opportunity to think creatively about what is possible, to reach audiences that might not otherwise be accessible and to receive constructive feedback from peers, experts, and program officers. Without the opportunity to dream freely and to dream big, grant seekers may never have the opportunity to fully articulate their bold ideas.
For donors, a competition enables greater discovery of compelling solutions to significant social challenges. It allows a donor to cast a wide net and benefit from rigorous third-party evaluations and philanthropic expertise from those reviewing the proposals. However, the donor must be willing to let applicants define the specific strategy for addressing a problem and must cede some decision-making to the wisdom of the process and a panel of independent voices.
78 Proposals from Asia for 100&Change
One distinctive feature of a Lever for Change competition is the award size: A donor must commit to a minimum award of US $10 million to be paid out over five years, though a longer payout or two US $5 million awards may be possible. The award size is typically the first thing that leads to questions about the appropriateness of a Lever for Change competition for donors who want to focus on community-based organizations. US $10 million is a big grant for any organization, anywhere, but the 78 100&Change proposals from Asia illustrate that there are organizations and collaboratives in Asia with bold, innovative ideas worthy of large investment. A few examples include:
- From India, the Asia Foundation and Safetipin will help make streets safer for urban residents in 100 Indian cities through enhancements to the award-winning Safetipin app and institutionalization of the app’s data and analysis within existing city-planning processes.
- From its base in Nepal, the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development will create a network of 275 self-managing Nutrition-Smart Villages (NSV) in East and Southern Africa and the Hindu Kush Himalaya region in Asia.
- The University of Melbourne in Australia proposes an education and public health intervention to halve the number of snakebite-related deaths and disabilities across India, Myanmar and Nepal.
- From Mongolia, the Onom Foundation is partnering with the Task Force for Global Health and a team of professionals from Egypt to save a million lives from viral hepatitis and liver cancer.
These are just four examples selected from the diverse group of promising proposals that we received from Asia. Proposals were submitted from 36 countries in Asia, with NGOs from India submitting more than half of the proposals from Asia (Chart 1), and on a variety of domains, with education, health, and environment leading the field (Chart 2).
Of the 755 total proposals submitted to 100&Change, 202 were focused on solving a problem in Asia. At the conclusion of the judging process for 100&Change in early 2020, we will make the top-scoring proposals available to interested funders.
A Lever for Change competition like 100&Change stimulates creativity and mobilizes a community to focus on solving problems at scale. It also encourages collaboration; nearly a third of the 100&Change submissions from Asia involved collaborations among two or more organizations.
Among the tools in the philanthropic toolbox, a competition may be the best tool for influencing the public’s perception of a problem and the possibility of solving it. Just as awards like the Yidan Prize and LUI Che Woo Prize celebrate and draw attention to excellence in specific fields of endeavor, a competition uplifts and draws attention to the compelling work of its top-scoring applicants. To be successful, a competition may need to be a little brash and a teeny bit loud.
Earlier this year, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation launched Lever for Change, with the mission of unlocking philanthropic capital and accelerating social change around the world’s biggest social challenges. It was the success of 100&Change, the MacArthur Foundation’s breakthrough US $100 million competition, that led to Lever for Change and its model of helping donors sponsor super-sized grant competitions and find and fund the strong, vetted proposals that result. To learn more about Lever for Change, explore upcoming competitions, fund a competition or serve as a judge for a Lever for Change competition, visit leverforchange.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.