Prof. Kartik Chandran’s Project Selected as a Top 100 Proposal for MacArthur $100 Million Grant

Feb 19 2020 | By Holly Evarts | Photo Credit: Timothy Lee Photographers | Video Credit: Jane Nisselson

A project led by Earth and Environmental Engineering Professor Kartik Chandran has been chosen as one of the highest-scoring proposals by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in its 100&Change competition. Whittled down from 755 initial proposals and announced today, the Top 100 are competing for a single $100 million grant to help solve one of the world's most critical social challenges.

Chandran’s project—“Safe Water and Sanitation to Promote Human and Environmental Justice”—is focused on raising the quality of life and socio-economic status of communities by providing water and sanitation through an approach that respects local context and incorporates technology that is both state-of-the-art and commercially viable in a culturally relevant way.

The project consortium includes experts on sanitation, environmental justice, technology development and implementation, and policy framing and development. They include the Center for Earth Ethics at the Union Theological Seminary, Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Water Research Commission of South Africa, Center for Science and Environment, Deutsche Gesellschaft für internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH (Germany), and Columbia Engineering. 

“Communities not connected to pipes are rendered ‘invisible’ to water and sanitation infrastructure,” said Chandran. “This is gross human and environmental injustice that our project aims to overcome.”

The Top 100 proposals were rigorously vetted, undergoing MacArthur’s initial administrative review, a peer-to-peer review, an evaluation by an external panel of judges, and a technical review by specialists whose expertise was matched to the project. Each proposal was evaluated using four criteria: impactful, evidence-based, feasible, and durable. MacArthur’s Board of Directors will select up to 10 finalists from among these high-scoring proposals this spring.

Since the inaugural competition, other funders and philanthropists have committed an additional $419 million to date to support bold solutions by 100&Change applicants. Building on the success of 100&Change, MacArthur created Lever for Change to unlock significant philanthropic capital by helping donors find and fund vetted, high-impact opportunities through the design and management of customized competitions. In addition to 100&Change, Lever for Change is managing the Chicago Prize, the Economic Opportunity Challenge, and the Larsen Lam ICONIQ Impact Award.

100&Change is a distinctive competition that is open to organizations and collaborations working in any field, anywhere in the world. Proposals must identify a problem and offer a solution that promises significant and durable change.

Video on projects from Kartik Chandran