Lever for Change Announces the Economic Opportunity Challenge

Lever for Change is excited to announce the Economic Opportunity Challenge, a competition for a $10 million grant to improve economic opportunity for low-income individuals within the United States.


Chicago, October 15, 2019 Lever for Change, an affiliate of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, today announced the Economic Opportunity Challenge, a competition for a $10 million grant to improve economic opportunity for low-income individuals within the United States. Proposals must identify a specific barrier and offer a solution to overcome that barrier. Applications will be accepted online from October 15, 2019 to February 18, 2020. 

The Economic Opportunity Challenge is open to individual organizations or to teams with operating budgets of at least $1 million.  Applicants may partner with individuals, government agencies, universities and colleges, but the lead applicant must be a U.S.-based registered nonprofit organization.

“Over 40 percent of children born in the bottom quintile of the income distribution will remain in the bottom as adults,” said Cecilia Conrad, CEO of Lever for Change. “Lever for Change is excited to partner with a family foundation that is sponsoring the competition to find evidence-based, scalable approaches to improving economic opportunity and mobility in the U.S.”

Describing the motivation behind the $10 million competition, the donor, who wishes to remain anonymous, said, “As income inequality in the U.S. has risen dramatically over the last half-century, the American Dream has become more of a myth than a reality.  While there exist highly effective nonprofits working to remove barriers to economic opportunity for low-income families, it has been difficult for these nonprofits to access funding of the magnitude that will allow them to scale.  The main goal of the Economic Opportunity Challenge is to significantly increase economic opportunity in the U.S. by helping to fill this gap.”

Lever for Change is working closely with the donor to manage the competition. “The Economic Opportunity Challenge is the third competition that Lever for Change has managed since our founding earlier this year, and we are eager to work with applicants from around the country to find creative solutions to this significant challenge,” added Conrad. 

In April, Pritzker Traubert Foundation, in partnership with Lever for Change, launched the Chicago Prize, a competition to award a $10 million grant for a community investment in Chicago’s South and/or West Side. MacArthur’s second round of 100&Change, which is being managed by Lever for Change, also launched in April. 100&Change is a global competition for a $100 million grant to fund a single proposal that promises to solve a significant problem. In the inaugural round of 100&Change, Sesame Workshop and International Rescue Committee were awarded $100 million to educate young children displaced by conflict and persecution in the Syrian response region and to challenge the global system of humanitarian aid to focus more on building a foundation for future success for millions of young children. 

In the first half of 2020, Lever for Change will launch six new competitions on a variety of issues and ranging in scope from state-based to global. ICONIQ Impact will launch two global competitions funded by their client-base — a $12 million competition focused on securing a durable future for refugees and a separate $10 million competition with the topic to be announced in 2020. Lyda Hill Philanthropies will launch a $10+ million competition focused on improving the lives of Texans in the areas of health, the environment, and workforce development. Earth’s Call Fund will launch a global $20 million competition to find and fund innovative solutions to the global climate emergency. Two other competitions offering awards of at least $10 million will focus on emissions reduction in the transportation, buildings, and/or industrial sectors in the U.S. and increasing women’s power and influence in the U.S.

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