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MacArthur Foundation is about to make one $100M grant. Here’s where else that money could go

Ideas to change the world. December 20, 2017 Category: FeaturedFundingMedium
It’s not often that research centers get to ask, “How could $100 million change the world?”

But the Center for High Impact Philanthropy (CHIP), Penn’s School of Social Policy and Practice research hub that helps donors and philanthropists make better funding choices, did just that.

The MacArthur Foundation will announce today the winners of its 100&Change Competition, which provides a $100 million grant to a proposal that shows measurable success at solving a critical issue in today’s society.

To accompany the announcement, CHIP published a guide, “Bold Ideas for Philanthropists to Drive Social Change,” that highlighted its 11 “best bets,” aka ideas and organizations that were not semifinalists for the grant competition but are doing especially impactful work.

Analysts from CHIP looked at nearly 200 applications that were not semifinalists and eventually narrowed that list to 81 and then 11 applications.

For each round of narrowing the list, analysts examined the clarity of their social impact goal and whether their positive impact was possible.

“From there, we did a deeper dive and looked at the evidence behind their solution, why they thought it would work, what was the track record of the team and applying that same lens of impact, but in a more rigorous manner,” said Anne Ferola, CHIP’s director of education and strategic partnerships.

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The guide includes a one-page profile of each of the proposals, which range from global disease research to education programs for incarcerated individuals. The applicants are organized in the guide by issue area or by their geographic location to make it easier for donors to find an idea they could support.

Philly homelessness nonprofit Project HOME is one of the 11 listed.

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Ferola said this project was a bit different from how CHIP normally operates. Usually, it analyzes ways philanthropists can better contribute to orgs working in issues areas such as public health in the developing world.

“This was really looking at solutions from all across a very wide range of issue areas,” Ferola said. “MacArthur didn’t limit the topics. They really left it up to the applicants to choose the area that they wanted to submit their application in.”

One of those untapped issues areas included a project to eradicate landmines and explosive remnants of war. Ferola said it was something analysts had been previously aware of, but never had the opportunity to research.

“It was eye opening to kind of understand the scope of that problem and how many people’s lives could be positively affected if it were able to be solved,” Ferola said.

Ferola said she hopes the guide draws attention to the other projects that were not semifinalists and that with the excitement around the MacArthur announcement, people are willing to support these projects.

And although she wants CHIP to take on similar projects in the future, Ferola doesn’t want to take away from its general focus on accessible philanthropy.

“I think it’s also important to remember that one of the things we look at is impact at every level, so as exciting as this [MacArthur grant] is,” she said, “there are also opportunities in our work for donors who have $10 or $2.”

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