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You Tell Us: What would you do for the world with $1 million?

Posted by: Kate Torgovnick May

Did you know that you — as in, anyone — can nominate a visionary leader for this year’s TED Prize? Do you have a mentor with an incredible track record? A former teacher with a big idea for change? A colleague doing incredible work that could reach new heights if given more resources? A friend with the ability to inspire collaborative action? Well, nominations are currently open. Find out more by heading to the TED Prize website, where you can even nominate yourself.

In late June, TED announced a new chapter of the TED Prize. Not only was the cash prize for the annual award — granted in the past to artist J.R., chef Jamie Oliver, music educator José Abreu,  writer Dave Eggers and biologist E.O. Wilson, among others  — increased to $1 million and the nomination process opened to anyone. But, while historically the prize has been awarded to individuals who then made a wish, this year articulating the big wish is done up front, with the idea getting heavy weight in the selection process. Because we are looking for a great idea, after all.

Nominations for the TED Prize are due on August 31, a date which is quickly approaching. And so we decided to ask you, in a TED Conversation, what you would do if awarded the $1 million prize. Below, some of your incredible answers.

“Start a grass roots org. to teach people survival skills they will need in a globally warmed world. Key word here is ‘survival.’” —Gale Kooser

“I’d go to Sudan and feed needy people.” —Prashanth Kondedath

“I think I would use the big number to teach children how to manage money and invest in a high school level personal finance class. Take the million dollars and work with some financial planners to use several different types of investments such as savings bonds, stocks, municipal bonds, utility stocks, savings accounts, CDs, and similar common investments. Post the financial planner’s strategy online and set up some sort of game where the kids did research into how the investment strategy will work. Let them come up with a plan and see how they do against the expert. Give every child a stake in the earnings. Split the earnings among participants, but make the split based on successful prediction of personal finance over the course of the school year, successful marketing strategies found, and development of financial savvy. Reuse the million dollars for the next year’s class.” —Robert Galway

“I’d buy some of the toxic assets and burned them in my backyard!!! Awwww!!!” —Jedrek Stepien

“Start an organization which helps people to fulfill their dreams!!!” —Chetan Somani

“I think the best use is in bursaries [i.e. scholarships] for people disadvantaged in real time from continuing their studies. I am certain it is in the combination of research and actual lived experience that a person is best able to synthesize their knowledge and information. I believe bursaries should support a second chance, for young people whose hormones or family circumstances got in the way of learning, for older women who decided to have children first for whatever reason and for disabled people, if only to get them the technology so they can speak and be heard.” —Elizabeth Muncey

“Get involved in microeconomics … spend it in the local area.” —Robert Winner

“Ondo State Children’s Home in southwest Nigeria is an orphanage with hundreds of children who have access to education until high school. Some of the children may not be able to go to the university if they are still not adopted at age 18, which is usually the case. With a million dollars I would start a scheme that ensures that university education is possible for the children.” —Feyisayo Anjorin

In a moment of skepticism, community member Kate Blake wrote, “Sounds great, but $1 million won’t go very far to make long-term benefits.” And got this response:

“Everything is relative. 1 million US dollars equals; 100,000 families protected from Malaria by mosquito nets, 20 schools in Vietnam, 20,000 annual incomes in the poorest countries, enough micro-credit to start up 10,000 businesses in poor countries.” —Henk Mulder

Have an idea to add? Share it in the comments section, or join the conversation to discuss with your peers.  And check out more information on how to nominate for the TED Prize. Keep in mind the August 31 cut-off date.

Comments (79)

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  • Albert Gornals commented on Aug 8 2012

    I will create an NGO that provides alternatives for future and the necessary tools to young people with low income house hold to create small sustainable business that provide necessary services to their communities and themselves. Not donation but micro-credit, quality formation and tools.

  • Sébastien Paris commented on Aug 8 2012

    I would create a venture with Apple to distribute x000s of iPad with satellite Internet connexion to remote villages in developing countries.
    I would educate one kid per village on how to use it (to avoid human and technical problems) so he can look-up any problem the village wants to solve: how to clean water, medical questions, etc… I would also stay with them for a while to study their interaction with the interface to optimize a UX\UI for easier use.

    I would then create a social network among these villages not only to monitor their use and progress, but also for them to share and interact between first nations, and not only to consult occidental approaches.

    Who knows, they might create better venues among themselves than the ones we’ve invented then imposed with our arrogant approach of ‘saviors’ (read colonists :)

  • Heather Cruise commented on Aug 8 2012

    Exactly what I am doing- assisting rural indigenous communities grappling with climatic change and globalization to achieve food sovereignty by increasing local, diversified food access and nutrition. Empowering the people in the documentation and protection of their traditional knowledge, habitat, and genetic resources.
    http://indigenousknowledgeproject.org/barabaig-project

    ps. you don’t need a million dollars to help the world. all you really need is compassion.

  • Phill Klamm commented on Aug 8 2012

    Expand an existing idea, of low cost, debt free International Villages for volunteers around the world. More than hostel less than a hotel, blurring the line of authentic experience and tourism. Encouraging global volunteers to do their small part in each community they visit, by encouraging others to visit and sustainable giving to the local projects they support.

  • Nell Forest commented on Aug 8 2012

    Education.
    Put together a group of experts, parents, experienced teachers etc. and let them work out a good, modern and adequate school/education system OR even better, take the elaborated ideas that already exist and put the money into the implementation of that system. There are enough ideas and projects out there, which take for example into consideration classes with a diversity of cultures and ethnicities. Put the money into projects like that. Because as always Education is our highest value.

  • Ja Lubin commented on Aug 8 2012

    Start a worldwide campaign to use all war machines as cleaning and protection machines for the Enviorment .

  • Kevin Parcell commented on Aug 8 2012

    I’d conduct research using pilots that pay people to develop renewable energy resources in their own communities, and discount the energy when purchased with community currency, to discover the best configurations of this strategy for stimulating local marketplace growth.

  • Victor Victor commented on Aug 8 2012

    I would create a non profit focused on food education. The emphasis would be on creating dynamic complete community education programs that leverage existing infrastructure like http://www.dabble.co for marketing and creating a space where people can come and learn about food, health, and how to take more control of that most central aspect of their life and financial reality.

    As well the non profit would have a line of programs focused on food education in the schools again hopefully leveraging existing infrastructure like community gardens, and community kitchens to create a strong connection between children who need a broader food education with the resources that are all around them.

    The wheel really does not need to be “reinvented” in terms of the types of food programming that needs to be developed. What we need in this space currently is an influx of people connecting the resources that already exist with the communities that most need them.

    There is the knowledge and food available to feed the world. We just haven’t figured out how to leverage it yet.

  • Steve McEwin commented on Aug 8 2012

    Invest the $1million, and use the income to fund any and all of the above.

  • Ryan Flynn commented on Aug 8 2012

    build a theater of thought. A meeting place where people come together once a week and talk about how to help the community. No politics or religion allowed. Just a place where people can talk and listen to each other.

    • John Warwick commented on Aug 9 2012

      Best, most realistic one I’ve read so far

  • Joanna Schneier commented on Aug 8 2012

    I would develop a math program for people wanting to go back to community college to get new job skills in the US. Math is one of the biggest reasons people drop out of community college and it is holding back people being able to shift careers during the recession. Ideally the program would be called “Math In Real Life” and it would teach the real-life application math as well as giving them skills to pass the courses they are taking.

  • Sardeth Wynn commented on Aug 8 2012

    I would work on water Reclamation and Desalination, like it or not this is becoming a big problem

  • Madelyn Freeman commented on Aug 8 2012

    I would take a sampling of the least abled amongst us, the discarded, the unwanted, and with the money plus generous helpings of compassion, to allow each individual to evolve their recognisable strengths and in so doing prove to the rest of us that scapegoating the vulnerable amongst us is a relic from a sordid prehistoric past and in need of real change on the basis of actions speaking louder than words… and that is what I would do with a million bucks, so there.

  • commented on Aug 8 2012

    I would create a nonprofit that hired recent graduates and underemployed artists of all mediums to provide arts programs to Title I schools that cant afford them. Arts for All!

  • commented on Aug 8 2012

    I’d create an organization dedicated to helping women who are rebuilding their lives following escaping domestic violence/abusive situations to make their dreams happen through going back to school, finding gainful traditional employment, or starting their own businesses…

  • Patti Martin commented on Aug 8 2012

    Continue to build our language immersion preschool programs and encourage nationwide multilingualism and language learning in the classroom.

  • Carl McCarthy commented on Aug 8 2012

    I’d design an App that would enable every 5 year old in the world to receive a sight and hearing check. The ‘i-nurse’ app would be a simple way to carry out the test and then make a referral based on a ‘traffic light’ system of need.

    • Elio Jose Bustos commented on Aug 9 2012

      No todos tienen energía electrica!!!!!

  • Daniel Paiz commented on Aug 8 2012

    I would set up the first facebook “World News” webpage in which all users can post news that they think is relevant to share with other people around the world of there hometowns (sources of information would be required). This webpage would allow all users with the app to look at news on a world map posted by local people in real time.

  • commented on Aug 8 2012

    Complete my online learning platform that will provide education, confidence and skill to millions of people across the globe!

    • Elio Jose Bustos commented on Aug 9 2012

      Y los que no tienen energía eléctrica qué harán?

  • Daniel Volpe commented on Aug 8 2012

    I’d make a prime time ad-buy in the bible belt and air Angels in America.

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