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'100 and Change'.

Among the community of CSOs, or civil society organizations, there is no more exciting prospect than a huge source of funding that will allow the group to engage in its mission for a sustained period, with enough resources and personnel to work for change that will have a lasting impact.

But for too many organizations, funding is often meager and, even if available and generous, has a very limited life span (on average about three years). The problem is that most funders are interested in what is known as 'pilot projects,' which are employed to test the viability of a certain approach to a social or political problem, or as a response to urgent needs.

The idea is that by the end of a certain period, the development project, if successful, would be replicated by bigger, mainstream agencies, such as the government, and thus multiply the desired, necessary change.

But too often, the average life span of a pilot project of three years proves too short to create a real purposeful impact. Too many pilot projects thus die on the vine, unable to prove (or disprove) the soundness or viability of their social experiments, starved of funds and running out of time.

This was the dilemma that trustees of the MacArthur Foundation sought to address. Searching for 'bold solutions to critical problems of our time,' the foundation launched '100 and Change,' which would award $100 million to the winning CSO (or partnership of CSOs) that could come up with 'proposals promising real progress toward solving a critical problem of our time in any field or any location.' A total of 1,904 proposals were submitted by more than 7,000 registrants, and of these, 801 passed an initial review, evaluated by a panel of judges who judged entries based on four criteria: meaningfulness, verifiability, durability and feasibility. Eight semifinalists were chosen, and were further whittled down to four finalists,

before the winning proposal was chosen.

Awarded the $100 million-certainly a game-changer in the world of CSOs-is a collaboration between the Sesame Workshop and the International Rescue Committee (IRC). It is a response to the huge refugee crisis in Syria, supporting 'what will be the largest early childhood intervention program ever created in a humanitarian setting,' said MacArthur president Julia Stasch.

The funds will be used 'to implement an evidence-based, early childhood development intervention designed to address the 'toxic stress' experienced by children in the Syrian response region-Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Syria.' Over the long term, it is

expected to 'improve children's learning outcomes today and their intellectual and emotional development in later years.'

Even better news is that the foundation board decided to award additional grants of $15 million to each of the three finalists, with the foundation committed to helping the finalists attract the additional support their critical work requires.

On the local scene, a more modest effort, though with lasting impact especially in the lives of abused women and girls, street children and youths in conflict with the law, has been underway for more than 30 years.

Founded in 1987, Child and Family Service Philippines Inc. (CFSPI) seeks to help abused and exploited women and children, teenage single mothers, and 'delinquent' youth access social and economic opportunities and build their resiliency.

CFSPI president Daniel Urquico recalls that the foundation began with a street children's program housed in a former retreat house in Baguio. Initial funding was provided by CFS Hawaii until Consuelo Zobel Alger heard of the CFSPI's work and began 'to contribute unstintingly.' Ms Alger eventually bequeathed her entire wealth 'as her legacy to children and families' in the Philippines, including projects under the aegis of the Consuelo Foundation.

Urquico says that the government, especially local governments, can take a more proactive role in addressing glaring and emerging social problems instead of waiting for CSOs, burdened as they are by limited budgets and scant resources, to take the lead and show the way.
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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Dec 22, 2017
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