They’re so prevalent they have their own meme: TED Talks.
“Thank you for coming to my TED Talk,” many of us have quipped, after briefly getting on a soapbox or sharing a “hot take” online.
And why do we say that?
To, albeit playfully, establish ourselves as something of an expert, to add a little self-knowing credibility to our ideas, to manifest our own version of TED’s objective: that our idea is “worth spreading.”
TED’s reach as a nonpartisan nonprofit really does have an impact — one that has grown from the first Technology, Entertainment, and Design conference in 1984. The organization spans across the globe, with hundreds of talks, podcasts, educational lessons, and programming in over 100 languages.
Over 3,000 annual TEDx events connect people internationally, and between sharing climate solutions, vital social justice conversations, and innovative ideas for a more prosperous future, the foundation has become a household — or Twitter ‘birdhouse’ — name.
One arm of its work that is lesser known, however, is The Audacious Project.
What is the Audacious Project?
The Audacious Project is a collaborative funding enterprise housed at TED. Every year, the foundation selects a group of social impact innovators to invest in, with the hope of launching bold solutions to the global mainstream.
The project works to close equity gaps by seeking out social entrepreneurs and projects that may otherwise go unnoticed, focusing specifically on the following areas of interest: Climate Solutions, Tech For Change, Health For All, Social Safety Net, Social Justice, and Breakthrough Science.
Donors and reviewers must meet six core values of the project (audacity, achievability, community, humility, learning, and joy). Fortunately, funding has accelerated in recent years, with an annual growth rate of about 40%.
The ten grant recipients in 2023’s cohort have received funding between $40 million to over $200 million from The Audacious Project.
Audacious grantees share their groundbreaking ideas at TED’s annual conference, raking in millions of views, and applying compelling storytelling to the facilitation and implementation of their big ideas.
In the opening TED 2023 session, TED head and curator Chris Anderson said, “Never in our wildest dreams did we believe we could raise $1B for this community in just one year.”
Since Good Good Good is covering the 2023 TED conference in Vancouver this year, we wanted to be the first to introduce you to the 2023 Audacious Project cohort. Check them out and stay tuned for more TED coverage all week long!
Meet this year’s Audacious Project grantees:
CAMFED serves girls and young women in impoverished areas in rural sub-Saharan Africa, working at the intersection of poverty, gender, and education.
CAMFED has developed a model that begins with giving young women a comprehensive support system, including financial and material support, as well as holistic coaching — right in school communities. The support doesn’t stop in the classroom, as CAMFED enables the transition into work opportunities, through mentorship and a robust alumni network.
By 2030, CAMFED will support five million girls across Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Malawi, and beyond.
The Audacious Project will support the organization’s work to double its membership, collaborate with governments to implement the approach in schools, and create a sustainable model for replication in impoverished communities across the globe.
Canopy has spent the last 20 years pushing forest-saving solutions from the margins to the mainstream. The organization’s mission is to protect the world’s forests (and subsequently, its species and climate), advance the rights of Indigenous communities, and transform unsustainable supply chains.
The Audacious Project has invested in Canopy’s plan to scale the use of next-generation pulp in key supply chains to conserve endangered forests.
What does that mean? Canopy will lower the demand for wood pulp (the thing so many companies are taking from ancient forests) by creating and calibrating low-impact, circular wood pulp alternatives.
These alternatives are made from straw waste and recycled textiles — which are competitive in both price and performance, in case you were curious. They also have 88-100% less land-use impact, and are at least five times lower impact on biodiversity and threatened species.
Canopy has already secured commitments from over 900 major companies to end sourcing from climate-critical forests and switch to next-generation pulp production, but the pace of that production must increase.
With the help of The Audacious Project, these innovative technologies will scale and develop by 2029, all while avoiding 160 million metric tons of carbon emissions.
Clean Slate Initiative
The Clean Slate Initiative’s goal is to expand and automate the sealing of arrest and conviction records after people have completed their sentences and remain crime-free for a period of time.
Working with local, state, and federal partners to pass Clean Slate laws across the board, the bipartisan organization’s vision is that everyone in America has a fair opportunity to work, live, and thrive.
Clean Slate legislation expands eligibility for record clearance, as well as streamlines the process to expunge records as soon as folks are eligible.
With the support of The Audacious Project, the organization will enact a 50-state strategy to increase access to record clearance, implement the program in states where legislation has passed, and pass laws where Clean Slate legislation is needed.
This plan will fully clear the records of 6 to 8 million Americans and will partially clear records of an additional 10 million — all while reshaping the narrative of people with records — and reconstructing the criminal justice system.
Global Fishing Watch
Global Fishing Watch uses cutting-edge technology to turn big, overwhelming data into actionable information. By creating and publicly sharing knowledge about human activity at sea, the organization safeguards the global ocean for the good of all.
The Audacious Project has invested in Global Fishing Watch’s use of artificial intelligence to increase and share the knowledge of the ocean, called The Open Ocean Project.
Over the next five years, this project will map 100% of industrial fishing vessels, hundreds of thousands of small-scale fishing boats and non-fishing vessels, and all fixed infrastructure at sea, like aquaculture and oil rigs — in a completely free data platform.
This data will also help pinpoint where destructive fishing activity is happening, allowing Global Fishing Watch to partner with governments, scientists, civil society, and the media to improve ocean stewardship.
Innovative Genomics Institute
The Innovative Genomics Institute (IGI) is made of a diverse group of researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, the University of California, San Francisco, and the University of California, Davis.
Together, the members of IGI conduct research driven by real possibilities that genome engineering can treat human diseases, end hunger, and respond to climate change. Additionally, IGI works to advance public understanding of genome engineering and guide the ethical use of these technologies.
Through The Audacious Project, IGI will build two groundbreaking toolsets: CRISPR genome editing, which enables the precision editing of DNA, and genome-resolved metagenomics, which provides a complete picture of every organism in a microbiome and the function of its genes.
The plan is to edit the genomes of microbiomes as a solution to health and climate crises. These interventions will be used over the next seven years to focus on two real-world applications: One that relieves childhood asthma, as well as one that curbs agricultural methane emissions.
These two projects will enable IGI to discover, improve, and scale microbiome editing and delivery tools.
Jan Sahas is a community and survivor-centric nonprofit that aims to eliminate sexual violence and forced labor in migrant communities and ensure safety, security, and mobility for vulnerable migrants.
Jan Sahas started its Migrants Resilience Collaborative (MRC) in 2020 to support domestic migrant workers in South and Southeast Asia, starting in India.
The MRC uses a two-pronged approach to help migrants secure benefits and worker protections; migrant-led field teams that make sure workers and their families are able to get great benefits, and government support in improving infrastructure and labor rights.
Over the next five years, The Audacious Project will support Jan Sahas’s existing strategies to directly support 10 million migrant households (over 15 million workers), in 100 districts in India.
Jan Sahas field staff will work to build awareness and accessibility around benefits, set up a toll-free hotline to address unsafe working conditions and exploitation, and collaborate with governments and employers to improve systems and practices.
ReNew2030 is a global coalition dedicated to scaling renewable energy to help the world meet its climate goals.
ReNew2030 is a network of national and international partners of the European Climate Foundation, including: The African Climate Foundation, Energy Foundation China, US Energy Foundation, Iniciativa Climática de México, Instituto Clima e Sociedade, The Sunrise Project, and Tara Climate Foundation.
With the mobilization of governments, businesses, and communities around the world, ReNew2030’s goal is to scale wind and solar power capacity five times by 2030 in 30 countries (that are responsible for over 80% of power sector emissions).
In conjunction with the Audacious Project, ReNew2030 will engage in advocacy, research, diplomacy, and organizing to mobilize the corporate and financial sectors to accelerate the clean energy shift. This plan will rally stakeholders and adapt strategies to make climate-friendly power the new norm.
Restore Local is an effort building on The African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR100) plan to restore 100 million hectares of Africa’s vital landscapes by 2030 by investing in locally led restoration.
AFR100, World Resources Institute, and other partners launched Restore Local as an effort to support local Restoration Champions who are already working to restore degraded forests and farmlands in Africa.
As part of the Audacious Project’s 2023 cohort, Restore Local will help its Restoration Champions build financing, secure policies from local and national governments, and improve efforts to measure impact.
This work will be done in three anchor landscapes: the Lake Kivu and Rusizi River Basin, Kenya’s Great Rift Valley and Ghana’s Cocoa Belt, delivering immediate and lasting results to more than 600,000 smallholder farmers. This will ignite local economies and build the infrastructure to scale restoration projects to AFR100 lands.
Think Of Us
Think Of Us is a research and design lab transforming child welfare. Led by people who have been directly impacted by the child welfare system, Think Of Us works with government agencies, lawmakers, providers, advocates, and foundations to create real solutions.
The organization actively includes foster youth and their families in its initiatives, elevating real data and insights through human-centered research — a critical missing piece from previous reform movements.
With the help of the Audacious Project, Think Of Us will spend the next five years reengineering the child welfare system to mitigate harm and give all families the necessary resources to thrive.
This will be done by the development of the Lived Experience Engine, which aggregates perspectives from thousands of impacted individuals to provide meaningful data that can result in opportunities for improvement.
These opportunities include elevated social support to prevent children entering the system, increasing “kinship placement” with extended or other already-trusted adults, and improved assistance for the thousands of children who “age out” of the system each year by providing necessary support services.
The Audacious Project and Think Of Us estimate that these efforts will positively impact the lives of 300,000 children and families, all while reshaping this flawed system.
Upstream USA is dedicated to reducing unplanned pregnancies across the United States, strengthening reproductive care and autonomy, and increasing equitable access to the full range of contraceptive options.
The organization knows that closing gaps in contraceptive access — and therefore minimizing unplanned pregnancies — requires the standardization of contraceptive care within primary care environments. This means especially expanding care to benefit communities who have historically been underserved or harmed by the healthcare system.
Upstream USA prepares healthcare organizations to provide high-quality, patient-centered contraceptive care, especially in states where access to abortion is restricted.
This intervention is free of cost to healthcare organizations, implemented over 12-18 months, and designed for long-term sustainability. It includes bias-free counseling about all contraceptive options and methods in a single appointment.
With its partnership with The Audacious Project, Upstream USA will reach five million patients and serve 700 healthcare organizations by 2030.
Header photo credit: TED2023: Possibility. April 17-21, 2023, Vancouver, BC, Canada. Photo: Jason Redmond / TED (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)