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Introducing the 2021 Elevate Prize: What’s Different This Year

Just over a year ago, the Elevate Prize Foundation launched the first-ever Elevate Prize powered by MIT Solve, a $5 million prize awarded to 10 purpose-driven leaders around the world who are tackling the most critical issues of our time. Innovators, activists, social entrepreneurs, and social impact leaders answered our call: we received nearly 1,300 applicants from nearly 120 countries—the greatest number of submissions ever received for a single open innovation Challenge on Solve's platform. In October 2020, we announced our inaugural cohort of winners: 10 remarkable social impact leaders solving issues from health and food insecurity, to youth education and women’s empowerment. Amanda Nguyen, Dixon Chibanda, Koketso Moeti, and the other seven Elevate Prize winners are now participating in a 2-year personal, professional, and organizational program with the Elevate Prize Foundation tailored to each winner and ranging from help creating content around their work and building a fanbase, to pro bono legal or marketing support for their organization.

Based on last year’s success, we have opened applications for the 2021 Elevate Prize, and there are a few improvements we made to the process based on learnings from the 2020 Prize.

So, what are we doing differently this year?

Narrowing the Elevate Prize’s Focus on Nonprofit Organizations

For the inaugural Elevate Prize, we cast the widest net possible—accepting submissions from anyone, anywhere in the world, working in any sector and tackling any issue. This year, we’re looking for Founders, CEOs, and Executive Directors of nonprofit organizations that are working in proximity with the most underserved communities. This is not to say that there aren’t incredible for-profit social entrepreneurs in need of this support, but we feel like these individuals and enterprises would be better served with a different kind of investment, which we plan to offer sometime in the near future. (If you are a for-profit social entrepreneur, be sure to check out Solve’s other open Challenges!)

Shortening the Initial Application through a Two-Phase Process

Now, we have a simplified, two-phase application. We understand that complete detailed applications take a lot of time and time is a valuable resource! This year, we’ve lessened that burden by creating a two-step application.

Phase One, now open to all nonprofit leaders in any geography until May 5, 2021, includes a shortened written application where applicants are asked to detail the essential information about themselves and their work. We hope this takes less time to complete and is more inclusive, helping us reach a radically diverse set of applicants, especially those with fewer available staff and resources. We will also be holding webinars to assist applicants with the process.

Each Phase One application will be reviewed and scored in May by MIT Solve and Elevate Prize Foundation staff and community members based on our published criteria. Based on these scores, we will then shortlist up to 80 Phase Two applicants.

These top 80 applicants will be invited to submit a longer application as part of Phase Two in June. This application will include a more robust set of questions and dive deeper into impact metrics, leadership approach, financials, and goals for the Elevate Prize. 

Supporting an Antiracist & Equitable Future

In 2020, the Elevate Prize responded to the Covid-19 pandemic by committing one of its 10 prizes to a Solver selected from Solve’s Challenge on Health Security & Pandemics. Recognizing that racial injustice in the US has continued unabated and has even been exacerbated with the Covid-19 pandemic, one of this year’s 10 prizes will be awarded to a Solver selected from Solve’s Antiracist Technology in the US Challenge.

The Elevate Prize for Antiracist Technology is open to nonprofit leaders who are helping to create an antiracist and equitable future in the US. The exemplar leader selected will take part in both the MIT Solver program and the Elevate Prize winners program and as part of these, will receive ongoing support from MIT Solve and the Elevate Prize Foundation.

Now more than ever, we need diverse nonprofit leaders and innovators who can elevate humanity, and we’re excited and humbled to continue our support to those on the frontlines of the biggest issues of our time through Year 2 of the Elevate Prize.

Does your work sound like a good fit? Apply to the 2021 Elevate Prize by May 5 and to The Elevate Prize for Antiracist Technology by June 16.

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