MacArthur Foundation: $100 Million, One Grant, One Social Problem

The Chicago-based John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced today that it will award $100 million in a single grant to solve one social problem facing the United States.

The 100&Change initiative will impanel a slate of expert judges to review all “valid proposals,” which will be collected until October 3, 2016. Semi-finalists will be announced in December; finalists in the summer of 2017; and then a winner shortly thereafter.

The competition is restricted to nonprofit and for-profit entities; individuals and government agencies may not apply. Two organizations or more can go in on a proposal together, and MacArthur has spelled out the rules for that very likely scenario:

A single legal entity must have the legal responsibility and authority for the use of and reporting on any grant funds and must be able to exercise in fact and law direction, control and supervision of the proposed project and the grant funds.

Organizations proposing to work together must demonstrate through a fully-executed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) or other similar agreement, executed by all parties, that all parties have agreed that a single eligible entity or organization will serve as the Grantee and will have direction, control, and supervision of the proposed project and management of all grant funds and be responsible for all reporting requirements. The fully-executed MOU or similar agreement will be required before the start of Stage 2.

Click here for more elaborate details on proposed collaborations. Competitors must register on the MacArthur Foundation’s website by Sept. 2, 2016.

In addition to forever changing the trajectory of some lucky organization, the process is sure to further the discussion about game-changer investments. Already this year, the Blue Meridian Partners, which was spun together by the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation (EMCF), announced plans to make $200 million investments in four organizations serving children and youth in the U.S.

“We believe that 100&Change can have a ripple effect beyond what a single $100 million grant enables,” said Cecilia Conrad, MacArthur’s managing director for the competition. “Clear evidence of impact can encourage other funders to invest in solvable problems more broadly, and applicants who do not receive the $100 million grant will still receive valuable feedback on and attention to their ideas.”

MacArthur is not a stranger to big commitments, general support, or the field of youth services. The foundation is in the process of winding down a long commitment to the juvenile justice field under its Models for Change Initiative, in which model states were chosen as incubators for state-level reforms. The foundation amassed a network of resource banks, advocacy groups and technical assistance providers to help export those reforms beyond the state borders.

MacArthur is probably best known for its annual fellows program, known as the “Genius Awards,” which bestows $625,000 in unrestricted money on people who are achieving and innovating in different lines of work and in the arts.

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John Kelly, Editor in Chief, The Chronicle of Social Change
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John Kelly is editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change. Reach him at