HCP Among 8 Semi-Finalists in MacArthur Foundation Competition for $100 Million Grant

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is one of the largest independent foundations in the United States, which supports “creative people, effective institutions, and influential networks in building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world.”

The Foundation is active in 50 countries and in 2015 awarded over $250 million in grants for a broad range of projects. The inaugural 100&Change competition was launched in June 2016 with the idea that, with the right amount of funding, one great idea could fix one pressing social issue because, in their words, “big problems require bold solutions.” The rules of participation were simple: proposals from any sector were encouraged, without limitations to the field or the problem area to be tackled. Proposals had to explain the problem and the proposed solution, and had to have a charitable purpose. Finally, in the words of the MacArthur Foundation, the proposals had to be “meaningful, verifiable, durable, and feasible” to be considered competitive.

There was robust participation: of 7,069 competition registrants, 1,904 submitted proposals. Of those, 801 passed an initial administrative review and were evaluated by a panel of expert judges who each provided ratings on four criteria: meaningfulness, verifiability, durability, and feasibility. MacArthur’s Board of Directors made the final selection.

“These eight ambitious proposals exemplify the passion, range, and creativity of the hundreds of applications,” said MacArthur President Julia Stasch. “We hope that the competition inspires individuals and organizations to be bold and think big, because solutions are possible.”

The Problem

We applied for the grant knowing that needless blindness is a public health problem of great magnitude, resulting in grave consequences. Thirty-nine million people worldwide are blind and the great majority live in developing countries. Yet 80 percent of blindness could be prevented or cured. The persistence of this problem, despite known, cost-effective solutions, speaks of our collective failure. In the developing world, blindness is as disruptive as a fatal disease, in that it reduces life expectancy by one third and places an unbearable burden on families and communities.

The Solution

Eighteen million people are blind due to cataract, which can be permanently cured with a simple surgery that takes 10 minutes and costs as little as $25. For two decades, the Himalayan Cataract Project and our partners have been delivering high-volume cataract surgeries in remote areas to people who don’t have access to healthcare services or structures. We have also promoted education, provided training, and to date restored the sight of over 500,000 people. But our work is far from finished.

A MacArthur 100&Change grant would enable us to leverage our ongoing work, our previous success and our broad partnerships to develop systems of sustainable eye care in Ethiopia, Ghana and Nepal to unlock a replicable solution to avoidable blindness. Through this grant, we would deliver sight-restoring surgery to half a million people. We would expand our model to include innovative, refractive programs that address uncorrected vision while also providing sustainable revenue generation. We’re putting everything in place for a cascading effect to create a planet where no one is needlessly blind.

A recent PricewaterhouseCoopers study has shown that the estimated return for every dollar invested into eye care programs is 400%. Other studies estimate $47 billion is lost in productivity every year due to blindness—and predominantly by the economies that can afford it the least. Our solution would scale and proliferate, turning $100 million into billions and would produce a viable solution for eradicating needless blindness.

Additionally, we intend to incorporate new technologies as well as powerful collaborations with global leaders in ophthalmology and data management to create an ecosystem of sustainable, high-quality, high-volume, low-cost eye care delivery.

Next Steps

Each semi-finalist will next work with an expert team to address questions about their technical and organizational capacity. The expert team will provide feedback to the semi-finalists to inform proposal revision and will submit an assessment to MacArthur’s Board. The semi-finalists will also be asked to show authentic engagement with their target communities and other relevant stakeholders.

MacArthur’s Board will select up to five finalists in September. Finalists will present their proposals during a live event on December 11, 2017, before the Board names a single recipient to receive $100 million over up to six years.

In the meantime, we will pursue our work with continued enthusiasm, strengthened further by this accomplishment and the knowledge that it wouldn’t have been possible without the support of our partners and donors. We thank you. Now, more then ever, we need your ongoing support.

If you would like to learn more about our proposed solution or our work, please visit the links below or get in touch with us.

Download the press kit related to the 100&Change competition.

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