One Of These Four Ideas Is Going To Win $100 Million From The MacArthur Foundation

The MacArthur Foundations 100&Change contest has narrowed its focus to four organizations, from children’s programming for refugees to neonatal health in the developing world.

One Of These Four Ideas Is Going To Win $100 Million From The MacArthur Foundation
[Illustration: TonTectonix/iStock]

In June 2016, the MacArthur Foundation launched a sort of XPRIZE for philanthropy. The global competition, called 100&Change promised $100 million to whatever group could come up with the best solution to improve humanity.


Perhaps the most ambitious component: MacArthur let contestants define what the world’s most vexing problems were, in hopes that the process could expose the organization to issues it might otherwise have overlooked.

The competition received more than 1,900 proposals, which led to a field of 801 formal contestants. Among the criteria that were considered, concepts needed to “solve a critical problem affecting people, places, or the planet” and be “meaningful, verifiable, durable, and feasible” which meant having some proof of concept or evidence that the idea could actually work, plus a timeline for how to scale.

After being narrowed to eight semi-finalists earlier this year, the foundation just announced the top four finalists, including a video about the scope and breadth of their combined missions.

The four finalists include Catholic Relief Services, which seeks to remake how developing world orphanages operate by transitioning to a more family-centric style of care. That includes working in Guatemala, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Lebanon, and Moldova.

HarvestPlus expects to address hard-to-spot nutrition and hunger problems and boost farmer incomes by enabling them to grow bio-fortified crops in Africa. The goal is to reach 100 million people across 17 countries within the next five years.

The Rice 360 Institute for Global Health has proposed a fleet of neo-natal care tech that’s adaptable to “low-resource settings,” according to a press release, which should dramatically increase newborn survival rates in those areas. The project’s Newborn Essential Solutions and Technologies group would handle the design and distribution mechanics with the aim to save a half million newborns annually, and more as the pipeline develops.


Finally, a partnership between Sesame Workshop and the International Rescue Committee plans to use the Sesame Street‘s proven formula for education to promote learning among refugee children in a way that also reduces the toxic stress they may be dealing with after fleeing violent and war-torn regions in Iraq and Syria. The idea is to provide a more nurturing and educational environment to boost these children’s life potential.

For the next round of the competition, which starts later this month, the foundation plans to begin hosting a weekly discussion series online where the public can ask its own questions about each proposal. In December, the finalists will share the fine-tuned versions of each vision via a final presentation that will be publicly live-streamed. After that, the board of directors will announce the winner.

At that point, though, even the runner-ups might have honed their pitches enough to attract major funding from other sources. That’s something MacArthur’s very public process seems to endorse. The group has even created its own database and map for the top 200 scoring proposals, a trove of potentially life changing concepts for would-be collaborators and investors.

About the author

Ben Paynter is a senior writer at Fast Company covering social impact, the future of philanthropy, and innovative food companies. His work has appeared in Wired, Bloomberg Businessweek, and the New York Times, among other places.