On May 26, 2020, as part of a unique joint program, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors (RPA), Columbia Business School’s Tamer Center for Social Enterprise, and Lever for Change announced a $100,000 philanthropic grant to the Mercy Corps AgriFin program. AgriFin was selected after a thorough review by Columbia MBA students of the “Top 100,” the highest scoring proposals in MacArthur’s 100&Change competition. AgriFin has already helped over 3 million farmers increase their harvest by leveraging mobile phones to catalyze a global network of partners, effectively creating digital “one stop shops” to address needs from seeds to finance. The proposal submitted for this competition builds on that successful model.
As a capstone project for their course on Global Philanthropy taught by RPA president and CEO Melissa A. Berman, who is also an adjunct professor at Columbia Business School, more than 50 MBA students formed 12 teams that reviewed the top 100 proposals from 100&Change. Each team considered several projects’ capacity for systems change, authentic engagement with affected communities, and the use of bottom-up approaches, then selected one applicant they also felt would fulfill MacArthur’s four criteria: impactful, evidence-based, feasible, and durable.
At the conclusion of the presentations, the students voted for the Mercy Corps AgriFin project, Transforming Small-Scale Farming in the Face of Climate Change. The project leverages satellite data from NASA to provide hyper-local insights on soil moisture, and the best crops and timing for planting, and sends it directly to the farmers. Digital Green and other partners provide education in local languages and contexts as part of this initiative, which will also be accessible through mobile phones. With these resources and tools, the project will create a seamless network of 25 million small-scale farms, and will help them adapt to a changing climate and become more sustainable.
The other top contenders selected by the Columbia Business School teams for the $100,000 award are listed below:
- 25x25: Ending Energy Poverty Faster: CalCEF Innovations DBA New Energy Nexus (NEX)
- Solving Schistosomiasis and Food, Water, and Energy Shortages in Africa: University of Notre Dame du Lac
- Harnessing Citizen Participation in Watershed Management for Climate Resiliency: Georgetown University
- PowerUp: Eliminating Violence Against Women in Africa's Great Lakes: Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere, Inc. (CARE)
- Building Brighter Futures for Marginalized Children in Asia: OneSky
- Sustainable Rice Platform: Improving Farmer Livelihoods and Fighting Climate Change: Olam International, Ltd
- Revolutionizing Prosthetics, Redefining Disability: Hope and Healing International
- Ending the Cycle of Poverty: Financing Low-Income Women Entrepreneurs: Grameen America, Inc.
- Summer For All: A Third Semester of Work and Learning: Boston After School & Beyond
- Disruptive Inclusive Innovation to Improve Learning Outcomes in Public Schools: Sampark Foundation
- Reducing Mortality and Improving Health in Africa through Emergency Care: Regents of the University of Michigan
Additional information about the award and process can be found in the press release.