Cecilia A. Conrad

Setting audacious goals is inspiring. Meeting them requires significant resources.

When the MacArthur Foundation designed the 100&Change competition, we set out to do something bold and different. Our aspiration was to award one $100 million grant to a proposal that will make measurable progress toward solving a serious problem.

Most foundation grants are closer to $100,000 than $100 million. By funding 100&Change at a level far above what is typical in philanthropy, we sought to address problems and support solutions that are radically different in scale, scope and complexity.

We believe $100 million can enable real progress toward a meaningful and lasting solution to a critical problem of our time. That was always our intent, and that is the reason why proposals with budgets well below $100 million did not make it through the administrative review process. Out of the 1904 proposals we received, 463 were rejected because they were too small in scale.

The competition was not designed as a route to apply for funding for incremental projects. The $100 million budget was required so judges could assess whether proposals were meaningful, verifiable, feasible, and durable.

Many projects may be worthy of funding at the lower level requested through targeted grantmaking programs at MacArthur and other foundations. Therefore, our engagement with these 100&Change applicants does not end here. This is just the beginning of our conversation. We anticipate sharing executive summaries of every proposal with other funders, in the hope that applicants may find other support to make their ideas a reality.

We were excited to see so many creative, thoughtful, and potentially impactful ideas. We hope such robust participation in 100&Change inspires the broader public to believe change can happen and solutions are possible. We believe the proposal we ultimately select will make significant progress toward solving a one of society’s biggest problems.

This post was first published on the MacArthur Foundation website.

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