Evidence Aid Wins the Unorthodox Prize
Friday, September 13, 2013
Unorthodox Prize Media Statement
As you may know, we conducted a prize competition in 2010 with the aim of identifying an “extraordinary and unorthodox” philanthropic opportunity, devoid of funding, which our support might help catalyze. We found precisely that in our winner, GiveDirectly. GiveDirectly has subsequently gone on to achieve remarkable growth and attract significant attention; it has the potential to make a major contribution to the fields of philanthropy and international aid.
Based on this positive experience, we launched a second competition in May 2013. The design and criteria were similar to the first, although we worked harder this time to solicit proposals from outside our own network and traditional philanthropic circles. We received nearly 250 submissions from around the world, covering a wide spectrum of disciplines. A number were promising, causing us to spend time reaching out to the applicants, references, and relevant thought leaders in order to make the best selection possible.
Following those efforts, we are very pleased to announce the winner of our second competition: Evidence Aid. Incubated as a project of The Cochrane Collaboration based in the U.K., Evidence Aid aims to bring rigorous evidence-based practices to the fields of disaster relief and humanitarian aid.
We chose Evidence Aid for several reasons. First, its founder, Professor Mike Clarke, of Queen’s University, Belfast, and the organization itself seem outstanding, with great reputations in their field. Consequently, we believe Evidence Aid has an excellent chance of achieving its ambitions, perhaps more than other proposals we received. Second, Evidence Aid is a definite “misfit,” in that it falls outside the traditional issue categories of most funders. Thus, funding resulting directly and indirectly from our prize could be instrumental to its success. Third, we have been on the lookout for philanthropic opportunities in which a time-limited, targeted, and cost-effective intervention could have a big and sustained positive impact on the world’s most disadvantaged people. Mitigating the lasting impacts of disasters, which are disproportionately felt by the poor, is indeed a fertile area for such opportunities.
Billions of dollars are spent annually on international humanitarian responses, yet aid budgets are not keeping pace with the increasing frequency and severity of disasters. At the same time, there is a push to professionalize the field. Evidence Aid can play a significant role in this regard by (a) conducting systematic evidence reviews to identify optimal interventions and (b) providing this information in an easily-accessible format to decision-makers and front-line relief workers. We are aware of no similar effort.
We intend for the Unorthodox Prize to provide visibility and endorsement to Evidence Aid, helping it achieve its goal of becoming a potent voice in the humanitarian aid field. While it is clearly not as unorthodox as GiveDirectly, we believe that, among all submissions, Evidence Aid is best positioned for success and offers the highest “return on investment” to society. We are excited to be working with the team at Evidence Aid to further advance their mission. In addition to the prize and potential follow-on funding, we intend to provide the non-financial support Evidence Aid needs to reach its full potential.
One remarkable aspect of the Unorthodox Prize has been its utility for uncovering latent opportunities that we never would have otherwise found (nor would applicants have otherwise found us). Through our work on our two prizes to date, we have been exposed to new fields of inquiry and areas of opportunity that we will continue to explore. There are several other submissions that deserve an honorable mention for capturing the spirit of the prize. If you are interested in learning more about these, please visit the prize website at www.unorthodoxprize.org.
We sincerely appreciate the time you have taken to submit your idea, to help us promote the prize and/or to evaluate submissions. We welcome other extraordinary and unorthodox ideas or projects you may come across in the future and we hope you will continue to stay engaged in our efforts.