Vera Sacchetti | Miscellaneous

Virtue Rewarded: Design and Social Innovation Prizes

The introduction of new grazing methods helped restore Zimbabwe's grasslands and won innovator Allan Savory this year's $100,000 Buckminster Fuller Challenge.


Why and How Much? Based in Copenhagen, INDEX is a nonprofit founded in 2002 with a focus on humanism, social understanding and democratic thinking — qualities the organization deems characteristic of Danish design. Its biennial INDEX award for “designs that improve life” distributes a total of €500,000 (about $639,600) among five winners in the categories Body, Home, Work, Play and Community.
What’s Eligible? Projects developed since 2004 in which design has played a crucial role to “substantially improve aspects of people’s lives or carries the potential to do so.” Anyone, anywhere in the world, can nominate a project, provided the designer gives his or her blessing.
Who Decides? An international jury of 11 distinguished individuals, led by Nille Juul-Sorensen, an associate director of the engineering company Arup. Designer Hella Jongerius and design curator Paola Antonelli are also members. Nominated designs are evaluated for their aesthetics, impact or demonstrated potential for significant change and appropriateness to their intended context. The jury conducts two rounds of deliberations, first selecting finalists and then the five winners. In 2007, INDEX introduced the People’s Choice Award. One honoree is selected by popular vote cast by the online community and by the audience of the world-touring INDEX Awards exhibition.
Past Winners: Among the most famous (and infamous) are the LifeStraw (2005) and One Laptop Per Child computer (2007). In 2009, the Freeplay Fetal Heart Rate Monitor, which seeks to lower infant mortality rates in developing countries, won in the Body category; the smokeless Chulha stove, designed to reduce respiratory illnesses in the developing world, won in the Home category; and the micro-lending website Kiva won in the Work category.
Strings Attached? No, but recipients usually use the prize money to help distribute their projects.


Why and How Much? British architect Clifford Curry and his wife, H. Delight Stone, founded the Curry Stone Design Prize in 2008 to celebrate and encourage designers who have been instrumental in changing people’s lives. One recipient receives $100,000 annually. A group of finalists, ranging from two to four, receive $10,000 each.
Who’s Eligible? Nominees are proposed by a rotating, anonymous committee.
Who Decides? Winners are chosen by a jury composed of international practitioners and thinkers. Previous members have included British architect David Adjaye, Droog founder Renny Ramakers, American architect Lindy Roy and Pentagram partner Michael Bierut.
What Wins? Top projects reflect innovative design solutions by individuals or teams that improve society and the world. Recipients are often emerging practitioners.
Past Winners: Last year, Alejandro Echeverri and Sergio Fajardo took the big prize for their renewal of Medellín, Colombia’s notorious former capital of drugs and crime. Echeverri, the city’s former director of urban projects, and Fajardo, its former mayor, were commended for revitalizing the city’s poorest neighborhoods with the help of architects, technicians and community members. In 2008, Luyanda Mphalwa and Mphethi Morojele of MMA Architects in Cape Town, South Africa, won for their design of super-low-cost homes constructed from sand bags, which was commissioned by the Design Indaba’s 10 X 10 project.
Strings Attached? No, but it is hoped that the resources will be used to implement or expand winning projects.


Why and How Much? Change, Buckminster Fuller believed, requires building “a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” Launched in 2008, The Buckminster Fuller Challenge awards $100,000 annually to an innovative strategy with “significant potential to solve humanity’s most pressing problems.”
Who’s Eligible? Anyone who pays the $100 non-refundable application fee. A reduced fee of $50 is also available for students and educators.
What Wins? Don’t bother applying unless you have a focused and tangible initiative that is bold and visionary, locally relevant but globally applicable, and destined to create a desirable and sustainable future outcome.
Who Decides? After a jury performs an initial review of projects, selected participants are called in for an interview, and a group of semi-finalists advances. A second round of deliberation leads to the selection of finalists, and a third to the winner. Members of the 2010 jury included Doors of Perception’s John Thackara and Metropolis magazine’s Susan Szenasy.
Past Winners: In 2008, John Todd’s New Alchemy Institute won the award for its plan to restore Appalachian coal lands. In 2009, the prize went to the late William J. Mitchell and his MIT Media Lab’s Smart Cities group for its innovative mobility systems. The 2010 winner was Allan Savory, whose Operation Hope has reversed the effects of desertification in Zimbabwe.
Strings Attached? Yes. Recipients must use the funds to support further development and implementation of their winning strategy.

Why and How Much? Based in Amsterdam, this awards program was launched in 1997 as part of the Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Development, an organization that seeks to preserve the cultural infrastructure of nations in crisis. The program hands out a principal prize of €100,000 (about $127,100) and several additional awards of €25,000 (about $31,700).
Who’s Eligible? Artists, thinkers and cultural organizations in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.
What Wins? The prizes are connected to an annual theme, which is announced in December. Past themes include “Urban Heroes” (2000), “The Survival and Innovation of Crafts” (2003) and “Culture and Nature” (2009). Recipients must have an outstanding body of work and demonstrate a positive impact on their society and culture.
Who Decides? A committee encompassing a changing group of experts.
Past winners: Jaime Lerner, former mayor of Curitiba, Brazil (2000); Reza Abedini, a Tehran-based graphic designer and educator (2006); Simón Veléz, a Colombian architect recognized for his technologically innovative and earth-friendly work with bamboo (2009).
Strings Attached? No. The awards celebrate past achievements and recipients can spend the money as they choose.


Why and How Much? TED awards $100,000 a year to an exceptional individual, who is asked to formulate “one wish to change the world.” To make this wish come true, TED works to obtain pledges of support beyond the $100K, and continues to promote the project into the future. The prize was launched in 2005, and through 2009 was awarded to three individuals every year. But the effort of supporting the growing wish list led to the recent decision to enrich only one person.
Who’s Eligible? For the most part, influential people on the order of Al Gore, Karen Amstrong and Bono.
What Wins? Leverage that can be applied to TED’s world-changing mission. Even recipients who lack household names (oceanographer Sylvia Earle, photographer Edward Burtynsky) are wildly accomplished and have powerful friends. The 2010 recipient was Jamie Oliver, who wished for “help to create a strong, sustainable movement to educate every child about food, inspire families to cook again and empower people everywhere to fight obesity.” This wish is now fueling Oliver’s Food Revolution initiative.
Who Decides? A committee.
Other Past Winners: Awarded in 2006, Architecture for Humanity’s Cameron Sinclair wished to “create a community that actively embraces open-source design to generate innovative and sustainable living standards for all.” The result is the Open Architecture Network, allowing architects and engineers to share their projects and collaborate following an open-source model. A 2008 winner, mathematician and physicist Neil Turok, wished to “unlock and nurture scientific talent across Africa, so that within our lifetimes we are celebrating an African Einstein.” The launch of the NextEinstein program soon followed, and to this date is receiving international support.
Strings Attached? The prize and subsequent pledges of support must be used to charge the recipient’s wish, empowering their initiatives and linking them to the TED mission.

Why and How Much? MacArthur fellowships, unofficially known as “genius awards,” are sums of $500,000 that annually drop into the laps of 20 to 30 creative individuals in diverse disciplines: scientists, photographers, poets, inventors, artists, engineers, musicians, historians and many others. The awards are distributed in the belief that “highly motivated, self-directed, and talented people are in the best position to decide how to allocate their time and resources.”
Who’s Eligible? Candidates need only be residents or citizens of the U.S.
What Wins? Winners must demonstrate exceptional creativity and the promise for future advances based on previous accomplishments. Independent-minded humanitarian efforts are frequently rewarded, and social change agents are often part of the mix. The fellowships are considered an investment in the recipient’s potential and originality.
Who Decides? The MacArthur Foundation, based on recommendations from a wide network of anonymous nominators. These individuals are asked to keep mum about their involvement to avoid being harassed by aspiring recipients.
Past Winners: Among the 2009 fellows with a social-change agenda was Rebecca Onie, who as a Harvard undergraduate founded Project Health to deploy college students throughout the country to assist patients with obstacles limiting their access to healthcare. Before that, they included Detroit farmer Will Allen, a champion of low-cost technologies for holistic farming (2008); and Sven Haakanson an Alaska-based anthropologist preserving indigenous history, legends and rituals (2007).
Strings Attached? While the fellowships are meant to help recipients “exercise their own creative instincts for the benefit of human society,” the money can be spent however they please. It is distributed over the course of five years.

Why and How Much? Founded in 1995 by the Lemelson Foundation and administered by the Massachussets Institute of Technology, the Lemelson–MIT Awards celebrate those “who have turned their ideas into accomplishments.” Handed out annually, they include the $500,000 Lemelson–MIT Prize, dubbed the “Oscar for Inventors,” and the $100,000 Lemelson–MIT Award for Sustainability.
Who’s Eligible? Candidates for the Lemelson–MIT Prize must be U.S. citizens or residents with patented inventions in disciplines such as healthcare, energy and the environment. Candidates for the Sustainability award must be the authors of practical inventions and work to improve the environment.
What Wins? The Lemelson–MIT Prize recognizes mid-career individuals or partnerships that are likely to raise the status of inventors and inspire younger generations. The Sustainability award targets early-career inventors or partnerships whose work enhances “economic opportunities and societal well-being…while protecting and restoring the natural environment.”
Who Decides? Contenders must be nominated by their peers. Two separate committees composed of MIT faculty review the applications and choose the finalists. A national jury of renowned science, technology and business experts selects the winners, who are finally ratified by the Lemelson–MIT Prize Board.
Past Winners: B.P. Agrawal, Indian social entrepreneur who created the 2006 Aakash Ganga rainwater harvesting system currently being considered for large-scale implementation by the Indian government (2010 Sustainability award). Joseph M. DeSimone, for his expertise in green manufacturing and nanomedicine (2008 Prize). Lee Lynd, for his work in biomass-derived fuels (2007 Sustainability award).
Strings Attached? Although winners have no requirements regarding prize money, they are encouraged to participate in Lemelson–MIT activities, especially youth outreach initiatives.


Why and How Much? Established in 2008 to support projects lead by fellows of the Aspen Global Leadership Network, the John P. McNulty Prize awards $100,000 every year to one outstanding project and $10,000 to four or five finalists.
Who’s Eligible? Aspen Global Leadership Fellows — young leaders from 43 countries, who are encouraged to use their creativity to face 21st-century challenges. Projects must have originated during fellowships and run successfully for the previous two years.
What Wins? Projects are selected according to three criteria: creativity, impact and lasting contribution. Initiatives must reflect unique approaches to problem-solving, exceptional implementation and measurable success, along with evidence of sustainability and promise for the future.
Who Decides? The Aspen Institute announces the finalist projects, and an international jury, composed of philanthropic leaders, entrepreneurs and academics, makes the final selection for the prize. Current members of the jury include Madeleine Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State, and Judith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation. Previous jury members include Richard Branson and Bill Gates, Sr.
Past Winners: Among the 2010 finalists is Jacqueline Novogratz, founder and CEO of the Acumen Fund, whose nonprofit encourages young people with business and nonprofit skills. Past winners include Patrick Awah from the Africa Leadership Unit (2009), founder of Ashesi University in Ghana, a liberal arts university with a focus on business, technology and leadership; and Jordan Kassalow (2008), whose VisonSpring initiative has provided some of the world’s poorest communities with access to affordable reading glasses.
Strings Attached? Yes. Winners are expected to use prize funds to further implement and expand their projects.

Why and How Much? The Do Something Awards (previously known as the BRICK Awards) are presented annually to five young “world-changers” to reward their commitment to social causes. Launched in 1996 by DoSomething.org, the awards seek to give power to teenagers and young adults who’ve successfully implemented change in their communities and are the source of inspiration for future generations. Five finalists are awarded a community grant of $10,000, one of which will also receive a grand prize of $100,000. The Do Something Awards ceremony is broadcast live and also honors celebrities, actors, athletes and musicians who are creating a positive impact.
Who’s Eligible? Anyone 25 or under, who is a citizen or resident of the U.S. or Canada, can apply.
What Wins? Extraordinary leadership skills and vision for long-term growth and sustainability. Applicants must demonstrate how their particular contribution fueled a successful project, created a positive impact and successfully raised awareness for their cause.
Who Decides? Do Something selects the five finalists, and the grand prize winner is chosen through online voting.
Past Winners: Among the 2010 finalists is 25-year-old Mark Rembert, founder of the Energize Clinton County initiative that established Wilmington, Ohio, as the country’s first Green Enterprise Zone, attracting investment from across the U.S. This year’s award winner is 23-year-old Jessica Posner, founder of the first free school for girls in Nairobi’s Kibera slums. Past winners included Kimmie Weeks, who leads micro-financing and scholarship programs in war-torn countries (2007).
Strings Attached? Yes. The funds must be applied toward implementation of the winner’s project. However, the recipient may use up to $5,000 of the total prize as an educational scholarship.

Posted in: Philanthropy

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