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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)

  • khalid ahmed commented on Aug 8 2012

    wooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooowwww i need it to change my life.I’m poor man that is dream for me but really to help every body need some thing and develop my environment around.

  • Victor-Antonio Ali commented on Aug 8 2012

    My plan would be to create a free food program. I would start by finding an empty large building with many floors, and talk to the owner and to an IRS agent and see what it would take for the owner to get a tax write off for letting me use the building indefinitely (if this is at all a possibility). Then I would invest in large amounts of ventilation systems, hydroponic plants, and lighting systems. Each floor would have a different food product growing. From there I would solicit help from people willing to work for the cause to dedicate their time caring for the plants, and create a process to produce free food for the people. There would be no meat options, but it’s still free healthy food. The purpose of the ventilation systems would be to prevent any sort of outside toxins from entering the food and assure a proper pure product. Also from there if there were any money left over I would attempt to purchase proper housing for large amounts of people. It’s my theory that with food and shelter covered it would be easier to get people’s attention and wake up, to band together and attempt to create a proper change against our Corpratocracy.

  • Este Ra commented on Aug 8 2012

    I would pomp it in http://www.maaaproject.org – alternative art education global network for kids :)

  • Matthew Green commented on Aug 8 2012

    Get an impartial, proven expert involved rather than guess at a good cause or let personal emotion get in the way…. “sort this for me (them) Mr Geldorf – please”

  • Amy Timmins commented on Aug 8 2012

    I would start a non-profit organization that deployed health care advocates to regional hospitals to assist often un-informed patients with their healthcare choices. These would be people not only well-versed in the health care system, but knowledgeable about choices patients need to make about their health.

  • Mirko Saam Diaz commented on Aug 8 2012

    Expand family planning programs across the neediest areas.

  • Johnny Plata commented on Aug 8 2012

    I would get serious about clean energy and construct my gasless “swiss movement” automobile. and after making billions from the million, would construct my pipe and pump ocean water condenser water supply in many areas in the world!!!

  • David Rodriguez Souto commented on Aug 8 2012

    I’d setup a concientization campaing on the crucial importance of critical-precise-scientific thinking and emotional management, and the traps and drawbacks of a society ruled by traditional religious thinkining patterns.

  • Tim Rue commented on Aug 8 2012

    Currently there are world wide protests happening and many involved or watching from teh side lines or not watching at all, really don’t understand what is happening but only that they are tired of those in command over them in various forms have been deceiving them.

    So for a million in funding I’d produce, publish and distribute not only the big picture but proof enough that people can prove it to themselves and expose deception of the few over the many.

    Sounds Nobel but impossible…. But its not. Its really about the creation and use of abstractions in language, government, religion, economy and of course the abstract value representation tool of money and how these abstractions have been yused to deceive the many for the benefit of the few. And this so that w can return to the genuine intent of our very useful abstraction tools, shutting out the cheats http://abstractionphysics.net/pmwiki/index.php

  • Jonnie Barratt commented on Aug 8 2012

    Sure as hell wouldn’t waste it

  • Grant Hensarling commented on Aug 8 2012

    Use the money to start a NPO or support existing organizations for the development of urban and suburban communiy gardens to feed families and local food banks. The focus would be on education of establishing sustainable perennial herb and vegetable gardens, small animal husbandry, and the sharing of capital (human, hardware, and natural resources). Providing the value of networking communities and giving people access to basic sustenance will be the mandate of the organization.

  • John Pompeo commented on Aug 8 2012

    As an active member of KIVA.org , I could create a million dollar account which would allow me to make approximately 4 million $25 micro-loans per year to farmers, shop-keepers, families and entrepreneurs in developing countries. I estimated 4 million because most recipients pay the loans back within a year on average. So, this lending will continue each year for as many years as KIVA is in business. I’m sure I would donate some of that money to KIVA as well to help them continue their amazing work! These loans are crucial for the recipients to continue running their businesses and feeding their families. It also promotes good will and follows the “golden rule”. We are all brothers and sisters…all children of god.

    • John Pompeo commented on Aug 8 2012

      My bad…I meant 40,000 loans/year. Still far more than they probably even get requests for! The loans are broken down into $25 chunks, however most total loans are for $1K – 2K. So a million dollars takes care of 500 to 1000 total micro-loan requests per year! that’s a lot of families fed.

  • Glenn Richter commented on Aug 8 2012

    I would create an online “Volunteer Vacation” for teen to young adults in every country. A vacation that qualifies for educational credit. The program/agency would provide options for students to travel anywhere in the globe to get involved in international volunteer organizations that range from assisting in orphanages and/or rural communities to helping wildlife. The idea being that the world needs action not words. It’s too easy to just hit the send button for sympathy. It will let a new generation have the opportunity to have a true outreach and a true education in the global community. They can travel for one week to one month with accommodations and flights included….and they get credit for school.

  • Anne Lwenya commented on Aug 8 2012

    Deborah Amoi Foundation began in 2009 paying school fees for bright but disadvantaged high school kids and as of now, over 90 have received funding.
    With that kind of money I would not only increase the number of students that we select every year, but would also build a school because right now the students are in 20 different high schools. if I still have extra, I would tackle the water problem in rural elementary schools. Kids walking long distances carrying water to school should not be happening in this century.

  • Jan Simson commented on Aug 8 2012

    I would create alternative education systems for students who don’t want to go to college but are still seeking a quality higher education experience for less money and time.

  • Linda Nowakowski commented on Aug 8 2012

    I would like to set up an organization that would provide very low interest loans ($10,000 or less) to small local businesses. The goal being to make it continue in perpetuity.

  • Ben Friedman commented on Aug 8 2012

    I’d want to install solar panels all over my town.

  • Jun Sibal commented on Aug 8 2012

    I would setup a TED program in the Philippines like the ones from other industrialized countries, employ smart people and educate my countrymen about the world. So they could also invest in whatever is good for our country like education scholarships for smart people who are less fortunate. Allocate some on science and technology, health and research without the involvement of the government.

  • David Schwartz commented on Aug 8 2012

    I had a heart attack in November. Luckily it wasn’t bad. But 1/3 of all heart attack victims die instantly, and about half of the rest suffer medium- and long-term disabilities. Since then, I’ve been learning a lot about cardio vascular disease (CVD) and what’s being done to prevent it. CVD is the largest cause of death world-wide. In America it kills more than the next nine causes combined. Globally, it accounts for 25% of all deaths. Most of the time heart attacks happen suddenly; they seem to come out of nowhere, with no warnings.

    People are poorly educated about the symptoms, and when you have a heart attack and your heart goes into fibrillation, if you’re not defibrillated within 5 minutes or so, you die.

    My cardiologists said my LAD artery was 95% blocked, and two others were 20% blocked. They put in a stent and I’ve been fine since then.

    The thing is, my arteries didn’t get clogged overnight. High cholesterol levels are only suggestive. The only way to know for sure is to have an angiogram to measure how clogged your arteries really are. This is an expensive, highly invasive procedure that nobody will perform unless you have a darn good reason.

    I’ve since learned that there’s a class of medical devices that are similar to blood pressure meters on steroids that have been around for about a decade. I saw a new one recently that is simply a blood pressure cuff attached to a device that hooks up to a laptop.

    It measures something called the “complex arterial function (stiffness)”, including “all the relevant arterial function parameters such as Aortic Pulse Wave VElocity (PWVao), Augmentation Index (Aix) and Central Blood Pressure (SBPao) values simultaneously with the peripheral blood pressure”. It is a passive device that takes about two minutes to perform its readings.

    These devices are virtually unknown to the medical community. I’d like to see them adopted as standard equipment in every doctor’s office in the country. At least, I’d like to see them used by a good percentage of medical professionals on a regular basis.

    Today, doctors say to eat a healthy diet and exercise. It has not had much of an impact, and I doubt it ever will. What’s needed is a SIMPLE, EASY, PASSIVE tool that measures arterial blockage to SHOW people what the REAL RISK of a heart attack is FOR THEM. These devices do that!

    Some folks with high cholesterol have no blockage; some with heavy blockage have normal cholesterol levels. Doctors just don’t know without actually determiing your arterial function parameters. Angiograms are a very limited solution.

    This equipment does that passively, quickly, and inexpensively.

    There’s a bigger problem: even if blockages can be detected early on, what do they do about it?

    There are nutritional supplements that have proven effective at reducing blockages and reducing aterial stiffness. If it is detected early enough, people can make the necessary changes to their diet and avoid a heart attack or stroke completely. But drug companies are NEVER going to promote nutritional supplements, and most doctors aren’t going to discuss them either.

    So there’s no incentive for ANYBODY to take this approach! That’s because the medical industry make more money by enabling heart attacks to occur without warning, rather than working to actively prevent them!

    If I had a million dollars, I’d buy a bunch of these devices, train people to use them, and set up free heart health screenings in as many cities around the country (US) as possible. I’d educate people about their heart health, and what they can do to improve it, and use these devices as a way for them to measure their progress.

    Perhaps this much capital would be sufficient to allow the manufacturer to cost-reduce these devices to the point where they could be purchased much more economically and distributed far more broadly around the world. Hopefully it would be enough to attract even more capital.

    (People don’t need to own these devices individually, but just have access to them so they can get screened every few months, or at least annually.)

    • David Schwartz commented on Aug 26 2012

      I’ve just found a 10-yr old non-profit aligned with my goals that I’m looking at working with for this purpose. And a friend who’s also interested in this knows of another NPO we could work with as well. We’re moving ahead!

  • Tracy Puntney commented on Aug 8 2012

    I would set up some kind of scholarship/grant program with the expectation that it would be paid forward in some capacity to keep the gift growing and communities built. I especially like the idea above (in regards to food education) and sustainability.