, author
Cecilia A. Conrad
Senior Advisor, Collaborative Philanthropy and Fellows and CEO of Lever for Change, Lever for Change

Cecilia Conrad, Managing Director of 100&Change, discusses the Wise Head Panel and the diverse range of perspectives the external judges brought to evaluating proposals.

The 100&Change Wise Head Panel evaluation is sandwiched between the Peer-to-Peer review, in which each applicant scores five proposals submitted by other applicants within the same domain, and the technical review by a specialist whose expertise is matched to the project. The Wise Head Panel both provides a big picture perspective on the four evaluation criteria and mitigates against the conservatism of specialist reviews. Our Wise Head Panel of external judges leverages the wisdom of the crowd but avoids the pitfall of becoming a popularity contest.

Not everyone is comfortable reviewing proposals across multiple domains. Yet that is what we asked each judge to do. We asked members of the 100&Change Wise Head Panel to review proposals from a wide array of fields of endeavor, involving work all over the globe. We asked the judges to score each application based solely on our four criteria: impactful, evidence-based, feasible, and durable, setting aside any biases that they might have. And we asked them to provide constructive feedback on each application.

We assembled an extraordinary group of nearly 300 leaders, thinkers, and experts, from different sectors, fields, and geographies.

We assembled an extraordinary group of nearly 300 leaders, thinkers, and experts, from different sectors, fields, and geographies for the Wise Head Panel—individuals who were willing to volunteer a minimum of six to eight hours to help us identify promising solutions. About half of the judges on the 2019 panel also served as judges in the inaugural 100&Change competition.

The largest group of these judges, 44 percent, work in the nonprofit sector while another 20 percent are academics. We intentionally recruited program officers from other foundations to serve on the panel because they are skilled at providing critiques and because we hope, in the process of reviewing the proposals, they will discover an organization or project that they might want to fund in the future.




We were also intentional about constructing a panel that is diverse on many dimensions. We surveyed the judges on the 2019 panel to collect detailed information on their fields of expertise, countries of origin, and other demographic characteristics. Almost all (98.9 percent) of the judges responded to the survey. 

Over half (62 percent) of the 2019 panel identify as female, 36 percent identify as male, and the remaining 2 percent either identify as gender nonbinary, nonconforming, or preferred not to state.


The 2019 panel is racially and ethnically diverse as well. Using U.S.-based categories, 17 percent self-identify as African, African-American, or Black; 10.5 percent self-identify as Asian or Asian-American; 6.9 percent as Latinx; 3 percent as Middle Eastern or North African; and 0.7 percent as an Indigenous person of the Americas. 

We were less successful in recruiting judges from the disability community. Less than 2 percent of our judges self-identified as a person with a disability. We need to work harder both to identify potential external judges from the disability community and to assess the design of the judging process with respect to accessibility.   

We would like the make-up of the Wise Head Panel to align more closely with the make-up of the pool of submissions.




The 2019 Wise Head Panel offers a more global perspective than the first round of the competition. Only 13 percent of the judges in the 2017 competition were based outside the United States. By contrast, on the 2019 panel, 20 percent of judges work for organizations with headquarters outside of the U.S., 25 percent report non-U.S. citizenship or country of origin, and 40 percent report geographic expertise outside of North America. These percentages are an improvement compared to the inaugural 100&Change competition, but we need to work harder to recruit more non-U.S. judges. We would like the make-up of the Wise Head Panel to align more closely with the make-up of the pool of submissions. In 2019, 47 percent of lead applicants were organizations based outside of the U.S. 

The 2019 survey also allowed us to understand more fully the wide range of subject matter expertise among the judges. The panel includes expertise in all 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Perhaps one day we can bring all of this brainpower together in one place, along with all of the teams who submitted proposals. What a conversation that would be. Until then, the next best thing we can offer are reflections from the judges based on their experience reviewing applications. We look forward to sharing thoughts from our panel of wise heads in an upcoming blog post.