MacArthur Awards $100 Million to Sesame Workshop, IRC

MacArthur Awards $100 Million to Sesame Workshop, IRC

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has announced Sesame Workshop and the International Rescue Committee as the winner of its 100&Change competition.

Selected from among four finalists announced in September, the two organizations will receive a grant of $100 million over five years in support of a joint project to implement an early childhood development intervention designed to address the "toxic stress" experienced by children caught up in the Syrian refugee crisis, with a focus on the four countries — Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria — most directly affected.

With the goal of improving children's learning outcomes immediately and their intellectual and emotional development over the longer term, the project's three components will help caregivers restore nurturing relationships and give children the tools they need to overcome the trauma of conflict and displacement. To that end, Sesame Workshop and the IRC will create customized educational content and a new local version of Sesame Street that is delivered to homes and communities through television, mobile phones, and digital platforms; provide home visits reinforced with digital content designed to promote caregiver responsiveness, early learning, mental well-being, and resiliency; and create child development centers at community sites, schools, and other points of assistance equipped with resources for age-appropriate play-based learning.

"The Syrian refugee crisis is the humanitarian issue of our time and we are deeply grateful for this incredible opportunity," said Jeffrey D. Dunn, president and CEO of Sesame Workshop. "For almost fifty years, Sesame has worked around the world to improve the lives of children and help them to grow smarter, stronger, and kinder. This may be our most important initiative ever, and we are humbled by the trust and confidence that has been placed in us. These children are, arguably, the world's most vulnerable and by improving their lives we create a more stable and secure world for us all."

The MacArthur Foundation also decided to award grants of $15 million each to the three other finalists — Catholic Relief Services, HarvestPlus, and Rice University's Rice 360° Institute for Global Health.

Launched in June 2016 with the goal of supporting a project with the potential to deliver real progress toward solving a critical problem affecting people, a place, or the entire planet, 100&Change announced eight semi-finalists in February selected from more than nineteen hundred proposals based on four criteria — meaningfulness, verifiability, durability, and feasibility.

"We are compelled to respond to the urgent Syrian refugee crisis by supporting what will be the largest early childhood intervention program ever created in a humanitarian setting," said MacArthur Foundation president Julia Stasch. "Less than 2 percent of the global humanitarian aid budget is dedicated to education, and only a sliver of all education assistance benefits young children. The longer-term goal is to change the system of humanitarian aid to focus more on helping to ensure the future of young children through education."

To explore submissions to the 100&Change Competition, check out the MacArthur Foundation 100&Change Solutions Bank

(Photo credit: Sesame Workshop, International Rescue Committee)