MacArthur Foundation’s 100&Change Competition

3 November 2017 | By Cause4 staff

100&Change is a MacArthur Foundation competition for a $100 million grant to fund a single proposal that promises real and measurable progress in solving a critical problem of our time, in any problem area.

From nearly 2,000 applications, four finalists have been selected, and are due to present their solutions at a live event in December 2017.

The four finalists are:


1. Catholic Relief Services: a campaign to change how society cares for children
in orphanages

Millions of children around the world live in orphanages. Research suggests that up to 90% of these orphans have a living parent, many of whom would prefer to care for their children if they had the resources to do so. The problem is that children are placed in orphanages primarily because of poverty and an inability to access basic services.

The project, Changing the Way We Care, will transform orphanages into family service providers. It will identify and develop social skills and outreach to support children and families to stay together.

The project plans to initially work in seven developing countries, hoping that their impact will influence other countries, regional political bodies and funders to build a global momentum to support family-based care.

2. HarvestPlus: a proposal to eliminate hidden hunger in Africa by fortifying staple crops [2]

‘Hidden Hunger’ is a deficiency of vitamins and minerals in diets that are essential to health, and can cause blindness, stunting, disease and death. More than 2 billion people are thought to be at risk from hidden hunger due to their diets.

HarvestPlus will use ‘biofortification’, to create naturally nutrient-rich varieties of staple crops, relieving the problems of hidden hunger. The biofortified crops have the same cost, yield, growing and cooking requirements as non-biofortified crops.

It plans to scale its crops, initially in 17 priority countries in Africa, before reaching 100 million people in Africa by 2022 and 1 billion people globally by 2030.

3. Rice 360å¡ Institute for Global Health (Rice University): improving newborn survival in Africa [3]

1.1 million newborns die each year in Africa alone, mostly from preventable causes. Hospital care can reduce newborn deaths by 75%, but many African hospitals lack the life-saving technologies.

The project, the Newborn Essential Solutions Technologies (NEST) will:

  • Offer affordable technologies for quality and comprehensive newborn care.
  • Ensure demand for its technologies through affordable delivery.
  • Educate a pipeline of clinicians and biomedical innovators who can lead systems to improve newborn health.

Predictions suggest that NEST will save 500,000 newborns every year at a cost of only $1.48 per birth.

4. Sesame Workshop and the International Rescue Committee: educating children displaced by conflict and resolution [4]

The Sesame Workshop is responding to the Syrian refugee crisis, a defining humanitarian issue that is causing most Syrian children to miss out on opportunities to learn and play. These children are at risk of ‘toxic stress’, which disrupts a child’s brain development, increasing the likelihood that they suffer from poor health and struggle to find employment in adult life.

The project, Sesame Seeds, will use proven techniques to measurably transform children’s learning and social-emotional skills to mitigate the effects of toxic stress. The project will incorporate mass media, caregiving in homes and a learning programme delivered in community and NGO centres and government preschools.

It anticipates that it can serve 1.5 million of the most vulnerable children.


These are all exceptional charitable projects – but what can the Charity Sector learn about fundraising from such a competition? Is it right for a funder to focus such a large amount of money in this way?

  1. Be Ambitious

Most charities will never apply for grants anywhere near as big as $100 million (an average grant for a children/youth charity in the UK is £25,000)[5], but that doesn’t mean that their projects aren’t significant. Instead, the 100&Change competition should encourage the Charity Sector to be ambitious with its projects, whatever the size. If there are real problems to be addressed, and you’re in the best position to address them, then never be afraid to have bold plans!

  1. Be Clear About the Problem and the Solution

Charitable projects that attract the most support will have a clearly defined problem and solution, and the finalists of the 100&Change are no exception. When you’re asking people for money, make sure they know why they should donate their money and what difference their donation will make. Organisational purpose should be driven by need.

  1. Really Focus on the Judging Criteria

All four finalists might be exceptional in their own right, but they’ve also managed to reach the final stage thanks to their clear focus on the Foundation’s judging criteria, to be: meaningful, verifiable, feasible and durable. Of course, applications need to meet key funding criteria – but what strikes me with these applications is just how focused they are. At a glance, anybody can understand exactly what they are aiming to achieve.


Do you think that philanthropic competitions like 100&Change are a good thing, and do you think we can learn anything from them?

We’d love to hear your thoughts! Please comment below or Tweet us @OfficialCause4






[5] p.16

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"The course was informative, enjoyable, covering plenty of ground in just one day without feeling rushed at all. It came at a crucial time in our planning and thinking as a development team and was a very welcome pause for thought. Michelle was a brilliant facilitator and it was a real benefit to hear about her experiences across the sector."

Jane Reynolds, Development Manager, Manchester International Festival

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