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Aid is Working. Tell the World. (Round 9)


In Partnership with the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity 

The Challenge:

Many people in the developed world are aid weary. They know billions of dollars go into aid, and yet the problems never seem to go away. This leads them to question if the money ever gets to where it is needed, and even then, if it is used wisely. The media seems full of stories of corruption, waste and broken systems.

But that’s not the whole story. Effective aid programs help developing countries become self-sufficient. They do not replace those countries’ efforts, but rather support the important work that’s already under way.

While not all aid projects deliver the kind of returns we hope for, very many do—and it’s critical to keep the support for those projects flowing.


 “Aid, which is less than 1 percent of the budget in most countries, has a significant impact on people’s lives…. Whether it’s fighting plant disease, treating people with AIDS, or getting a measles vaccine to a child in a remote area—modest investments in the poorest make a huge difference…The relatively small amount of money invested in development has changed the future prospects of billions of people—and it can do the same for billions more.” -- Bill Gates, 2012 Annual Letter

What We are Looking For:

If we, as a global community, are to succeed in ending extreme hunger and poverty and improving the health of the poorest, we must find ground-breaking ways to gather and share stories of aid working well. We must bring the data behind those stories to life. And we must do it on a global scale, making it relevant to audiences who are wrestling with tough economic decisions at home. 

The goal of this challenge is to solicit new approaches to communications that motivate the public in the wealthy countries of the world to change their minds about aid, and take actions to demonstrate their support.

We and others in the development community have traditionally focused on the “why” of aid. But most people already believe it is the right thing to do.  We must do a better job of explaining the “how” and the “what” (How exactly does aid work? Where does the money go? How is it used? What impact does it have on communities?).

We want to find revolutionary ways to make these issues matter deeply to the global community. We’re inspired by projects that allow anyone-- no matter where they live or what their background-- to take part. We encourage projects that embrace the complexity of these issues. We admire work that surprises us with its emotional power, and that comes at the problem from entirely new angles.

Most importantly, we’re looking for game-changing ideas we might never imagine on our own, and that could revolutionize the field. A few of the many specific examples to be considered include (but are by no means limited to…)

  • New ways to collect and share first-person stories from those impacted by aid in the developing world;
  • Data collection and visualization that demonstrates the “how” and “what” of aid, e.g. where funding goes and how it impacts people and communities; money spent on development relative to other areas; measurable progress against the Millennium Development Goals. (The foundation is particularly interested in MDGs 1,4,5,and 6.);
  • Creative distribution mechanisms to deliver stories, data, and information to key audiences;
  • Concepts that spark active engagement and collaborative problem-solving, e.g. games, crowdsourcing, and other projects that move the field from one-way communications towards authentic engagement;
  • Revolutionary ways to humanize the challenge and the solutions and to connect communities receiving aid to those who provide it.

We will not consider funding for:

  • Projects not aligned with the foundation’s goals in health and development;
  • Single pieces of content that are not supported by a robust engagement strategy;
  • Projects focused on  crisis response, individual donations,  or emergency relief, which are not as impacted by the current aid narrative;
  • Basic research without a clear objective to solve a communications problem;
  • Solely behavioral change/educational initiatives (e.g., training programs, scholarships, education programs);
  • Solely infrastructure or capacity-building initiatives;
  • Projects earmarking foundation funds for lobbying activity (e.g., attempts to influence legislation or legislative action) or efforts to influence political campaigns for public office.

How We'll Evaluate Proposals:

Proposals will be reviewed against the following criteria:

  • Response to the topic: Does the proposal address the problems described in the topic? Please note the types of projects that will not be funded, above;
  • Innovative approach: Does the idea offer an unconventional or creative approach to the problem outlined in the topic? Does it demonstrate application of a new or pioneering approach? Does the proposal describe how the project varies from current approaches, offers new premises or hypotheses to test, and does it provide a rational basis for expecting success?

About Our Partnership:

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has partnered with the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity to issue this call for proposals in Round 9 of its Grand Challenges Explorations program. Cannes will help the foundation promote the call to the creative community.

In addition, Cannes Lions has created a group, the Cannes Chimera, made up of one creative representing the agency who produced each of the 2011 Cannes Grand Prix winning pieces of work, who will advise the program, review the submissions, and mentor the winners as they develop their projects.

Great ideas come from everywhere.

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The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is part of the Grand Challenges partnership network. Visit www.grandchallenges.org to view the map of awarded grants across this network and grant opportunities from partners.