A 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.

Seven years ago, we set out to do something bold and different, launching the first round of 100&Change. Now, we are launching the third cycle to help address another of the world’s most critical issues.

By funding 100&Change at a level far above what is typical in philanthropy, we seek 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.

The first and second rounds of 100&Change offered opportunities for learning. An evaluation of the selection process from the inaugural competition informed changes to the selection process for the 2020 award recipient.

In the second round, we created an organizational readiness tool to help potential applicants determine their readiness to compete in 100&Change. We added a participatory review process, where applicants within the same domain scored and provided feedback on each other’s proposals.

Proposals experienced a drop in the number of applications compared to the inaugural competition, 755 in 2021 vs. 1,904 in 2017 due to the introduction of the organizational readiness tool and participatory review before the Wise Head review. We believe that the new organizational readiness tool helped eliminate projects that were not a good fit for 100&Change, and we will continue to use it.

For the third round of the competition, we revisited the application criteria to align with MacArthur’s Just Imperative, which is grounded in our value of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. As a result, we have added “just” as a criterion. In doing so, we sought to frame the five criteria as a whole, so any applicant can see their project reflected. We ask applicants to demonstrate a commitment to equity, inclusion, and accessibility and provide a solution that benefits different populations equitably. We believe there is no topic that is exempt or excluded from these commitments, and so this criterion is not a barrier to entry.

These changes are intended to provide an enhanced level of feedback and ensure that all applicants benefit at each stage of the competition.

Lever for Change was born of the success of the MacArthur’s 100&Change competition, which awarded its first $100 million grant in 2017 and leveraged an additional $511 million to date in funding, thus spurring the philanthropic sector to rethink its approach to achieving impact at scale.

Founded in 2019 as a nonprofit affiliate of the MacArthur Foundation with the goal of driving $1 billion in philanthropic funding to bold solutions by 2023, Lever for Change has influenced more than $2.2 billion in awards and provided support to more than 175 organizations to date.

Lever for Change is dedicated to tackling the world’s biggest problems—including issues like racial inequity, gender inequality, lack of access to economic opportunity, and climate change. By matching donors with problem solvers—through customized challenges and tailored funding opportunities—Lever for Change helps to find and fund bold, effective solutions to accelerate social change.

What is unique about 100&Change is its focus on problems and their solutions, and the requirement that proposals address both. It is also unique because no single field or problem area is designated, unlike most prizes and challenges, and proposals from all sectors and anywhere in the world are encouraged.

Working with philanthropic and nonprofit partners and others, Lever for Change is creating new infrastructure to allow willing and interested funders to explore ideas excluded from consideration by “invite only” policies regarding proposals.

The openness and transparency of the 100&Change application process are also distinctive. Applicants know exactly what they are being scored on, and every applicant receives meaningful feedback on their proposal from the Wise Head Panel. The process provides vital feedback—and useful public visibility—to applicants, even if they do not ultimately receive the grant.

We considered three different models.

The first was a crowdsourcing model. We liked the idea of people proposing which problems to solve and having a crowd vote whether a proposal is meaningful or compelling. But we did not want 100&Change to turn into a popularity contest.

The second approach was the specialists’ panel model, where we would define a field of work and then identify experts to evaluate applications. There was a sense, however, that experts in a certain field tend to struggle with new ideas that come from outside of their discipline.

What we realized is crowds provide a way to take more risks and innovate. And the wisdom of experts is important. So we decided to create a crowd of wise experts. We refer to them as our Wise Head Panel. We will randomly assign proposals to them and ask them to score proposals based on their broad knowledge. Each application that advances past Participatory Review will be reviewed by a minimum of five Wise Heads.

Since the inaugural round of 100&Change, we have worked with an evaluation panel of 699 Wise Heads, including thinkers, visionaries, and experts in fields that included education, public health, impact investing, technology, the sciences, the arts, and human rights.

We will ask them to determine whether projects are impactful, evidence-based, feasible, durable, and just.

  • Impactful: Does the proposal describe an urgent problem worth solving, and will the solution have a transformative impact? Is the proposal sufficiently ambitious either in its progress toward a solution; the size and number of communities served; the size of the geography served; or intensity of impact on a small but vulnerable population or geography?
  • Evidence-based: Does the proposal present evidence that the solution or its critical components have previously yielded practical and concrete results? Does the evidence suggest that the solution can be adapted to other contexts, such as expanding to new populations or geographies, or to reach a greater number of people over time, and still retain its effectiveness?
  • Feasible: Does the team have skills, capacity, relationships, and experience to deliver its proposal? Do the budget and plans represent a realistic understanding for successful implementation? Does the mitigation plan address changes in key personnel and political, market, or social environments? Is community input incorporated throughout design, implementation, and evaluation?
  • Durable: Will the solution have a sustained impact? Does the solution either expect to solve a problem in five years or create a pathway to solving the problem over time? Will the project elicit support from other sources—private, philanthropic, or public? Has the team advanced a clear, cogent, and compelling vision for the future?
  • Just: Has the team demonstrated a commitment to equity, inclusion, and accessibility in the ideation and design of the solution and in its staffing and operations? Will the solution benefit different populations equitably—particularly historically marginalized people or populations with the greatest needs, both human and nonhuman?

The Wise Heads will score criteria on a 1-5 scale. We do not want to disadvantage a proposal that is assigned to a judge who tends to give low scores or tip the scale in favor of a proposal that has a judge who tends to score high. Scores will be statistically normalized to ensure that no matter which judges are assigned to an applicant, each proposal will be given equal consideration.

Yes—keeping in mind the feedback and comments received from the Wise Head Panel on any prior submission. Applicants should also review changes to the scoring rubric.

Journalists with additional questions should contact MacArthur Communications at 312.516.1547 or email Ambar Mentor-Truppa.