Competition like no other rewards meaningful change in a very meaningful way

It is a competition like no other. It may be the largest single prize awarded by a foundation.

What could you do with $100 million? The MacArthur Foundation in Chicago asked that question of anyone-for-profit or non profit, private or public institutions. The board wanted to see what people came up with, and what $100 million looks like when it comes to solving critical social problems.

There were 1900 applicants from over 70 countries.

Now the pool is down to eight.

From curing blindness and bio-fortifying crops to the ridding of hidden hunger and reworking how orphanages operate, these are just a few of the enormous ideas that come from one simple challenge.

“We created a single grant of $100 million that either solves a problem or takes a big slice out of a problem or unlocks the resources required to solve a problem," says the foundation’s Cecilia Conrad.

The foundation recently decided to change its focus by giving more money to one group for a larger impact - an impact in the form of tens of millions of dollars over 5-6 years.

Some potential winners include a group of doctors giving digital advice to the uninsured and putting patients in touch with much needed specialists and a university trying to improve newborn survival in Africa.

Even the Sesame Workshop are trying to help children devastated and displaced by conflict and persecution in foreign countries like Syria.

Surgery for cataracts in Nepal is already happening. The doctors have made the procedure just $25 per patient. They are training locals on how to perform it. And the results speak for themselves - their vision fully corrected in under 24 hours.

The criteria to apply was simple.  The solution to the social problem has to be:

  • Meaningful.
  • Verifiable, there needs to be evidence it would work.
  • Feasible.
  • Durable, with a long lasting impact - maybe even a permanent fix or cure.

“We acknowledge that we don't know everything,” Conrad says. “And where we're open to (the idea that) here's a place where a focused amount of resources could have a real impact.”

For the next five to six months, the semi-finalists will perfect their presentations before the group goes to five. In December, a winner will be selected, the grant will be given and that's when the work really begins.

For more information and to see all the video submissions from the finalist, log on to the MacArthur Foundation’s website.