100&Change Proposals from Asia illustrate bold, innovative ideas worthy of large investment

by Cecilia Conrad for AVPN

Some might see 100&Change as a peculiarly American enterprise – brash and a little loud: An award of US $100 million for the proposal that solves any problem anywhere in the world. Can this model translate well to other social challenges? To answer this, it may be useful to explain how 100&Change and other Lever for Change competitions are distinctive in the field of philanthropy.

Transparency in Evaluation

Lever for Change competitions define specific criteria and a set of rules that govern how projects are evaluated. The rules, scoring criteria and names of the evaluators are public, which ensure transparency, fairness, and a level playing field.

For grant seekers, a competition imposes the burden of completing an application without the promise of funding. However, it also creates an opportunity to think creatively about what is possible, to reach audiences that might not otherwise be accessible and to receive constructive feedback from peers, experts, and program officers. Without the opportunity to dream freely and to dream big, grant seekers may never have the opportunity to fully articulate their bold ideas.

For donors, a competition enables greater discovery of compelling solutions to significant social challenges. It allows a donor to cast a wide net and benefit from rigorous third-party evaluations and philanthropic expertise from those reviewing the proposals. However, the donor must be willing to let applicants define the specific strategy for addressing a problem and must cede some decision-making to the wisdom of the process and a panel of independent voices.

78 Proposals from Asia for 100&Change

One distinctive feature of a Lever for Change competition is the award size: A donor must commit to a minimum award of US $10 million to be paid out over five years, though a longer payout or two US $5 million awards may be possible. The award size is typically the first thing that leads to questions about the appropriateness of a Lever for Change competition for donors who want to focus on community-based organizations. US $10 million is a big grant for any organization, anywhere, but the 78 100&Change proposals from Asia illustrate that there are organizations and collaboratives in Asia with bold, innovative ideas worthy of large investment.

Read more

Jill Geiger