Finalists Selected for the Lone Star Prize to Improve the Quality of Life of Texans

The $10 Million Award Will Focus on Building Healthier, Stronger Communities Throughout Texas
Aerial drone view above Lady Bird Lake showing kayakers on the water and the Austin, Texas skyline in the distance.
Credit: Bryan Roschetzky

Chicago, IL, January 7, 2021 – Today, Lyda Hill Philanthropies and Lever for Change announced five finalists for the $10 million Lone Star Prize, a Texas-based competition launched in early 2020 to improve the lives of Texans and their communities. The Prize, sponsored by Lyda Hill Philanthropies, is a statewide competition designed to find and fund bold solutions focused on building healthier, stronger communities.

“The finalists for the Lone Star Prize are answering the call just when Texas needs them the most,” said Lyda Hill, founder of Lyda Hill Philanthropies. “Amid the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic, finding long-term solutions to improve the lives of Texans is more critical than ever. Our communities need the vision of these hardworking teams who are committed to making a difference by improving health outcomes, boosting the workforce, and protecting the environment.”

The five finalist projects are:

  • JUST Community: JUST will invest in 20,000 female entrepreneurs to build wealthier, more financially resilient communities across Texas by increasing their ownership opportunities.
  • Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute: The Lone Star Depression Challenge will improve quality of life and mental health access in communities across Texas using evidence-based approaches. Key partners include UT Southwestern Center for Depression Research and Clinical Care, Department of Global Health and Social Medicine of Harvard Medical School, Dell Medical School Department of Psychiatry, and Path Forward for Mental Health and Substance Use.
  • Merit America: The Lone STARS project will build new pathways to upwardly mobile careers for talented, low-wage Texans without bachelor’s degrees, focusing on underrepresented minorities. Key partners include Jobs for the Future, Opportunity @ Work and College Promise.
  • Texas Water Trade: Texas Water Trade’s project Clean Water for All Texans proposes a nonprofit water service provider that would deliver clean water to households most in need by deploying affordable onsite water treatment systems through a trained workforce. Key Partners include the University of Texas at El Paso, Columbia University, and Antelope Water Management.
  • William Marsh Rice University, Baker Institute for Public Policy: William Marsh Rice University, Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy – Center for Energy Studies will transform the environment through implementation of a soil carbon storage market, while growing new economic opportunities for rural communities.

Lever for Change is featuring the finalists for the Lone Star Prize in its Bold Solutions Network. This Network seeks to match nonprofits and social enterprises—whose solutions to significant social challenges were highly ranked after rigorous evaluation in one of the Lever for Change competitions—with additional donors and funding.

“I am particularly excited to be involved at this historic moment, as Texas is my home and has always been for me a place of opportunity,” said Cecilia Conrad, CEO of Lever for Change. “So, it's especially exciting to announce these outstanding finalists for the Lone Star Prize, who are all working on transformative solutions to cultivate strong, healthy, resilient families and communities.”

More than 172 proposals were submitted to the Lone Star Prize. Applications were evaluated during a three-month review process by more than 200 peer applicants, philanthropic and civic leaders, and subject matter experts with experience in health, workforce, and the environment among other issue areas. Applications were evaluated based on four criteria: whether they were transformative, scalable, feasible, and evidence-based.

Lyda Hill Philanthropies is partnering with institutions that share its commitment to building a resilient Texas, including Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, Advance Together, an initiative of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, Texas 2036, and The Texas Tribune. These partners are providing a variety of strategic support and additional promotional platforms for the top applicants.

Over the next three months, the finalists will each receive an additional $40,000 planning grant and will work with a team of technical experts to strengthen, revise, and re-submit their proposed solutions for the $10 million Prize.

Donors interested in learning more about funding Lone Star Prize projects may contact Dana Rice, Vice President of Philanthropy at Lever for Change.

A final grant recipient will be announced in late spring 2021.

More information on the Lone Star Prize can be found at


Lyda Hill Philanthropies
Lyda Hill Philanthropies encompasses the charitable giving for founder Lyda Hill and includes her foundation and personal philanthropy. The organization is committed to funding transformational advances in science and nature, empowering nonprofit organizations and improving the Texas and Colorado communities. Because Miss Hill has a fervent belief that “science is the answer” to many of life’s most challenging issues, she has chosen to donate the entirety of her estate to philanthropy and scientific research.

Lever for Change

Lever for Change, a nonprofit affiliate of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, helps donors find and fund solutions to the world’s greatest challenges, ranging from racial and gender equity to economic development and climate change. Building on the success of the MacArthur Foundation’s $100 million competition, 100&Change, Lever for Change customizes and manages open and transparent competitions for donors. In addition, we match donors with nonprofits and social enterprises in our Bold Solutions Network whose solutions to significant social challenges were highly ranked after rigorous evaluation in one of our competitions. Currently, Lever for Change is managing nine competitions, ranging in size from $10 million to $100 million, awarding $295 million in total to grant recipients and strengthening dozens of top organizations. For more information, visit

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