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There’s More Than One Needle in This Haystack: The 100&Change Solutions Bank

December 05, 2017

100Change-logo_padded15Earlier today, Foundation Center launched something new and still unusual in the field of philanthropy: a site that provides access to nearly nineteen hundred proposals submitted to a foundation by organizations with ideas for solving some of society's most pressing challenges. The site, the 100&Change Solutions Bank, features submissions to the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation's 100&Change competition, which the foundation launched in June 2016 and which will soon announce a winner. Recognizing that it had received many more viable ideas worth funding, the foundation decided to partner with Foundation Center to bring greater visibility to those ideas, with three goals in mind: to drive investment in proposals that merit it; to facilitate collaboration and learning between organizations working on similar problems; and to inspire funders and organizations working for change to do things differently.

Invest

The 100&Change competition will end with a single winner being awarded a $100 million grant. But the competition itself generated a great many solutions worth investing in — and the number of inquiries fielded by MacArthur staff suggests that other funders know this. Rather than force 100&Change applicants to spend more time tailoring their proposals to meet the requirements of their own application processes, funders should take advantage of the work MacArthur has done to surface good ideas in a variety of fields. With the launch of the 100&Change Solutions Bank, funders now have a lot to gain by spending just a few minutes exploring the proposals they’ll find there.

Collaborate

Whether it's a big, global challenge like climate change or a local (yet widespread) problem like homelessness, there is more than one organization working on a solution. This diversity of actors represents a golden opportunity to learn from others' approaches — even when they are implemented in a different context — and, potentially, to collaborate. Yes, this type of learning does happen through existing networks, listservs, and working groups. But what the Solutions Bank offers is the chance to learn from organizations you may not have a connection to.

Get Inspired

The 100&Change competition was a call to organizations to think "big": What would you do to address a problem if you really had the resources to solve it? The “permission” to be bold prompted many organizations to think differently about their proposed solutions. For organizations seeking funding, the competition and the ideas it sparked might serve as inspiration to change the scope and scale of their work and what they propose to funders. For organizations with resources, the ideas that an open invitation to "dream big" can generate might prompt reconsideration of current strategies.

Foundation Center President Brad Smith has said that the next frontier for philanthropy is the production and sharing of knowledge. As Smith puts it, what foundations know is just as valuable as what they fund. While the reports and evaluations commissioned by foundations are one source of knowledge, the hundreds of proposals they receive on an annual basis is another. The 100&Change competition was remarkably open: almost any organization from anywhere in the world could apply, with no restrictions on the problem to be addressed or the location of the proposed work. Contained in the proposals submitted to the competition is applicants' deep understanding of the most significant problems confronting their communities; their best thinking as to how to solve them; and their knowledge of what has, and hasn't, worked in the past.

For Foundation Center, the 100&Change Solutions Bank is both a hopeful experiment and the start of what we hope will be an ongoing conversation sparked by a simple but profound question: What happens when social sector organizations share their knowledge with others in the field?

Headshot_laia-grinoWe hope you'll be part of that conversation.

Laia Griñó is director of data discovery at Foundation Center. For more posts in the Insights series, click here.

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