Launched last June, the competition is designed to identify a project with the potential to deliver real progress toward solving a critical problem affecting people, a place, or the entire planet and will award that project a grant of $100 million, to be distributed over a number of years. Selected from more than nineteen hundred proposals based on four criteria — meaningfulness, verifiability, durability, and feasibility — the semi-finalists announced by the foundation on Wednesday include Catholic Relief Services, which, in partnership with Lumos and Maestral International, proposes to unite children in orphanages with supportive and nurturing families and transform orphanages into family service providers; HarvestPlus, which hopes to eliminate so-called hidden hunger — diets lacking vitamins and minerals that can lead to blindness, stunting, cognitive impairment, disease, and death — by fortifying staple crops such as corn, cassava, and wheat; and the Himalayan Cataract Project, which will work to deliver sustainable eye care in Nepal, Ethiopia, and Ghana using an adaptable, replicable, and scalable "train-the trainer" model.
The other semi-finalists are the Human Diagnosis Project, which has proposed to provide three million underserved patients in the U.S. with virtual access to a hundred thousand volunteer specialists; the Internet Archive, which hopes to expand free and long-term public access to knowledge by providing libraries and learners with free digital access to some four million books; Rice University's Rice 360° Institute for Global Health, which hopes to boost newborn survival rates in Africa with low-cost solutions and technologies that enable clinicians to provide quality newborn care in low-resource settings; Sesame Workshop and the International Rescue Committee, which propose to develop and deliver multimedia content to meet the educational needs of children displaced by conflict and persecution in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria; and the Carter Center, which is focused on eliminating transmission of river blindness in Nigeria by administering ivermectin through community-directed distribution systems.
Over the next few months, each semi-finalist organization will work with an expert team to address questions about its technical and organizational capacity and refine its proposal. Organizations also will be asked to demonstrate authentic engagement with their target communities and stakeholders. The expert teams will then submit an assessment to the foundation's board, which will select up to five finalists in September and, following presentations by the finalists in December, will select one recipient to receive $100 million over a period of years.
"These eight ambitious proposals exemplify the passion, range, and creativity of the hundreds of applications," said MacArthur Foundation president Julia Stasch. "We hope that the competition inspires individuals and organizations to be bold and think big, because solutions are possible."
To browse project summaries and watch a video overview of the eight semi-finalist projects, see the MacArthur Foundation website.