Our Thanksgiving wish: Bigger pies, more equity

November 18, 2021

Thanksgiving makes me think of pecan pie and pecan pie makes me think of pareto optimality. What can I tell you? I’m an economist.

An image of Dr. Cecilia Conrad smiling.
Credit: Dr. Cecilia Conrad

One Thanksgiving when I had to miss dessert, my mother saved a slice of pie for me to eat later, but my cousin ate it before I got home. My economist brain recognizes that the resulting allocation of pie — two slices for my cousin and none for me — was "pareto optimal." Any reallocation of pie to me would have deprived my cousin, but 40+ years later I am still annoyed. Herein lies the trouble with pareto optimality: it can be used to justify the status quo no matter how inequitable.

At Lever for Change, we focus on change — change that both makes the pie bigger and its distribution more equitable. As we approach the Thanksgiving holidays, we want to thank the many partners who are working with us to achieve transformative, equitable change.

Since launching Lever for Change in 2019, we have developed and managed nine customized challenges, focusing on a wide range of issues including: 100&Change, the Chicago Prize, the Economic Opportunity Challenge, the Larsen Lam ICONIQ Impact Award, the Lone Star Prize, the 2030 Climate Challenge, the Equality Can’t Wait Challenge, Racial Equity 2030, and the Stronger Democracy Award. We will announce a new challenge in the New Year, so stay tuned.

Together, these challenges have influenced more than $800 million in grants and provided support to more than 140 organizations to date. Our goal is to unlock $1 billion in funding for bold solutions to the world’s biggest problems by 2023. Three years after announcing the launch of Lever for Change, we are more than three-quarters of the way there!

We are grateful to our investors and partners who have funded these solutions and made our progress possible. The funding we have leveraged would not be possible without their belief in the inspiring members of our Bold Solutions Network, a public and inclusive network of rigorously vetted, expert-reviewed projects. These donors and problem solvers are joining forces with us to accelerate social change.

In September, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation announced ten visionary finalists for Racial Equity 2030, an open call for bold solutions to drive an equitable future for children, families, and communities across the globe. By next fall, this challenge will have awarded $90 million to help build and scale actionable ideas for transformative change in the systems and institutions that uphold racial inequities.

The awardees of the Equality Can’t Wait Challenge were featured in the latest issue of the Chandler Foundation's Social Investor magazine. The article, Equality Can’t Wait, discusses the outcome of the Equality Can’t Wait Challenge and strategies for accelerating the impact of philanthropy on gender equality.

In addition, Lever for Change and Pivotal Ventures launched the Equality Can’t Wait Idea Lab to increase the visibility of top projects from the Challenge. The Idea Lab features top ideas, as determined by peers and experts, that emerged from more than 550 submissions to the Challenge.

Recently, Lever for Change announced the awardees of our Swift Grants fund, which provides small grants of $25,000 each to five Bold Solutions Network members for collaborative projects. This fund provides an opportunity for the world’s top problem solvers to leverage expertise and collaborate to find creative solutions in their fields. We look forward to sharing their progress with you in 2022.

In October, Lever for Change hosted an event for donors where we showcased eight highly rated organizations addressing a broad range of climate issues. If you are interested in learning more about climate-related funding opportunities or other teams in our network of problems solvers, please contact Dana Rice, our Vice President of Philanthropy. Our Bold Solutions Network members have inspiring ideas. They just need funding.

We are so thankful for all of you and the part you play in helping Lever for Change accelerate social change. We’re grateful that so many great minds are working to solve the world’s biggest problems.

We’re particularly thankful to our Bold Solutions Network members, with whom we continue to work to improve their case for support. We offer both awardees and finalists in our challenges ongoing learning and networking opportunities to strengthen the impact of their work, raise their visibility, and increase their potential for further funding. Over the past year, for instance, members based in India have worked with Lever for Change’s social impact partner Sattva Consulting on organizational development through the Accelerate for Impact Initiative.

In other news, Bold Solutions Network member Ahlan Simsim reflects on its third year, sharing lessons learned and plans for the future. Sesame Workshop was awarded the MacArthur Foundation’s inaugural 100&Change grant in 2017 for its collaboration with the International Rescue Committee to create Ahlan Simsim, a show for children affected by conflict and displacement across the Middle East and North Africa. Recently, the show was nominated for an International Emmy and has expanded its reach to even more children and families.

We are so thankful for all of you and the part you play in helping Lever for Change accelerate social change. We’re grateful that so many great minds are working to solve the world’s biggest problems. We feel honored to work with you all, each and every day.

Best wishes to you and yours,

Cecilia Conrad
CEO, Lever for Change

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