Aug 18, 2021
This year, 1273 applicants from 92 countries applied for the Elevate Prize, each with a vision of how to change the world. As we read through their applications, we were deeply inspired by their stories – of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. It was no easy task selecting our Finalists! We’re excited to introduce them to you – 23 courageous innovators who are taking on humanity’s biggest challenges in unexpected ways.
Many of our finalists’ organizations are championing education – starting with access. Ndinini Kimesera Sikar’s Maasai Women Development Organization tackles systematic and cultural issues that are barriers to girls’ education. One such issue? Books not being available in local languages that children actually speak – a challenge that Tanyella Evans is on a mission to overcome by publishing mother-tongue texts through NABU Global Inc. When access itself is a barrier, Ubongo is there; Doreen Kessy’s organization provides educational programming that’s accessed by over 24.6 million households across Africa – making learning approachable and fun.
Doubling down on fun, we were inspired by Nick Monzi’s Learn Fresh programs that promote STEM through sports, and Tony Weaver’s mission to improve literacy and mental health by encouraging kids to find their inner superheroes through Weird Enough Productions. Also addressing mental health and communication, Heejae Lim’s organization TalkingPoints uses technology to solve the communications gap between students, their families and schools in under-resourced minority communities. From GirlBoss New Zealand, founded by Alexia Hilbertidou, which works to close the gender gap in science, to Re:Coded, co-founded by Alexandra Clare, a coding bootcamp that started in a refugee community in Iraq, our finalists are thinking outside the box and making a real impact.
Perhaps unsurprisingly in times dominated by glaring health inequality, many of our finalists are driven to tackle it. Two of our finalists, Krista Donaldson, PhD, founder of Equalize Health and Dr. Aparna Hegde, founder of ARMMAN are improving maternal mortality and infant health, using different approaches to technology to widen access, train health workers and provide trustworthy health information.
Nyaka, founded by Twesigye Jackson Kaguri, and Healing Together, founded by Amy Paulson, both focus on creating healthy communities – Nyaka, through a grandma-powered, child-centered care model that deals with the impacts of HIV/AIDS on families, and Healing Together, building resilience together through a scalable model for mental health support in communities around the world.
Justice is the driving force for many of our finalists. On a person-to-person level, Uzoma Orchingwa’s organization Ameelio is working to ensure that incarcerated people can stay in touch with their loved ones on the outside, while on a societal level, Amanda Alexander and The Detroit Justice Center are helping transform the justice system, build power, and create more equitable cities.
Taking a stand for equality every day, Alexander Roque at the Ali Forney Center is helping to create career pathways for homeless LGBTQ and transgender youth, while young Syrian refugees are being supported as future leaders by Lina Sergie Attar’s Karam Foundation.
Championing the rights of artisan homeworkers (90% women) around the world, Rebecca van Bergen’s Nest Artisan Guild is standing up for fairness – and making sure it happens. Yuriko Oda’s WheeLog is building an accessible society for wheelchair users through crowd-sourced maps, and it’s impossible to watch Marisa Hamamoto’s intersectional company Infinite Flow Dance at work without being inspired by her vision of a fully inclusive world. In her words, “dance does not discriminate.”
We were excited to see so many organizations with big ideas to tackle the crisis of climate change – especially in light of the UN’s recent report. Industrial designer Enrique Lomnitz and his organization Isla Urbana are harvesting rainwater to supply millions without safe access, while several of our finalists are focusing on farming as a means of change; Anthony Myint’s Zero FoodPrint offers grants to farmers to adopt sustainable practices, sequestering carbon and improving soil. Kaushik Kappagantulu’s Kheyti greenhouses are helping smallholder farmers across India deal with the challenge of climate change – and grow better. Finally, Leslie Craig’s organization Just Transition Fund partners with communities whose economies were previously reliant on fossil fuels and helps build equitable economic pathways to ensure green energy support.
We were impressed, moved, motivated and inspired by every one of our finalists. We firmly believe that each of these 23 organizations is poised to make a world-changing impact – and improve people’s lives for the better. All around the world, these exciting ideas will drive progress – and Elevate will be here to champion them every step of the way.
All that’s left is the difficult task of selecting the winners – over to our Elevate Prize Judges – and to wish all our finalists the best of luck.
Learn more about our Finalists.