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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)

  • commented on Aug 10 2012

    Use the money to create systems ( financial, educational, governmental,etc.) that work on the ‘Unique and United’ paradigm concept and dissolve the systems that currently employ the ‘Control Over’ paradigm worldwide. Hey, I can dream right?

  • Lois Langehaug commented on Aug 10 2012

    I would create a global online school that gives all students access to an education.

  • Rachel Langdon Schober commented on Aug 10 2012

    I feel that in order to stop prejudice, immanent wars, and the continued defamation of our world we must focus on our youth. As a child grows many times they learn and adopt intense differences perpetuated by adult views and media. I feel that at some point in a teenagers life they should leave home for a period of time to explore other cultures, learn how to adapt and co-existance. Make up there own minds. Share ideas freely and exchange knowledge that will ultimately effect the adult they are to become, the person that we entrust to sustain our world. I propose placing $1 million into a global travel fund as seed money for youth. Pursue additional matching funds and substantial donations from like minded donors and governments. Gain UN support and begin the process of structuring the program globally. This would be for ALL youth regardless of grades, finances, location in the world, etc. This may even be the only opportunity for some to travel in there entire lifetime. And I feel strongly that youth should comprise a large portion of the organization/implementation of this program. Yes this is a huge goal, but the effect would phenomenal! I believe the future of our world will be forever changed by it.

  • khalid ahmed commented on Aug 9 2012

    Grants from God to me that I help people to learn and develop and improve the environment and the establishment of schools for the education to build a generation on the foundations and rules of a strong and support the economy in the country and create opportunities for young graduates and unemployed to open the door of work for projects of agriculture and corporate organizations and employment to create a new generation to learn and work and create.

  • khalid ahmed commented on Aug 9 2012

    I am from Sudan, my country needs a lot of up to what you come to him and you hope you make the Ktm lights up again. I would like to create schools for the education of children of my tribe and my family. And the establishment of farm income to return to the citizen and the Taatdf economy forward, which helps the development of Sudan and employment by workers and machines.
    Education opens minds and earnings come from the work and the work needs to be capital.
    Ideas that help to bring income and Altnumeihtkon built on solid foundations of the study.

  • Giedrius Zolubas commented on Aug 9 2012

    First, I want to share my story briefly.
    In school, there was very little patriotism taught. I fell in love with my country while hiking. 400 km on feet, 14 nights spent together with people from small villages and communities, sincere chats continuing all night long and pure connection with the person. It was striking, because I am a town kid.
    Second, I was growing in town, attending OK school, got in to university. I was a good student but by no means exceptional, interested in what I am studying. I went abroad to study for a while, got a scholarship, which led to an Intern at big company and this did not cost me a penny. This proves, that, no matter how trivial it sounds, ‘Everybody CAN’. Everybody can achieve what she/he wants, everyone can make an impact.

    So, with 1M US dollars, I would bring this message to people around the world. I would share my story, travel with people around their country and at the same time I would convey the message that ‘YES, they can’. 1M would be enough I think for at least 3 years. This add ups to ~25k km on foot.

    Or I would find somebody, who is better public speaker and knows more languages than I do and would do this mission in a better way.

  • Kate Torgovnick May commented on Aug 9 2012

    These are such amazing, inspiring ideas! I think this post deserves a part two. Possibly even a part three. Stay tuned.

  • Jayaram Kancherla commented on Aug 9 2012

    People are not happy with anything. All the NPO’s spend a lot of money on healthcare, relief programs etc etc but they do not have any immediate effect on the people. If I really want to spend 1 million dollars, I would cash them into million $1 bills and give it to every poor person in the third world countries. A dollar in third world countries is actually a lot of money in terms of local currency. I’m sure it will definitely make a difference in their lives and make them feel happy for a moment. After all, Life is all about being happy!

  • sim san commented on Aug 9 2012

    1 million dollars is less for my project —BUT I shall buy/get used MRI /X-ray/Mammogram scanners?Ultra sound machines-all installed in a trailer truck, go around country sides of India/Africa/Srilanka, Bagladesh/pakistan,etc… and do at super low cost (nearly free) the diagnostic radiology tests, such as mammograms, bone density tests, body scans -to-diagnose early cancers, osteopenia-osteoporosis and other brain/spine/joints illnesses with optimal tools, & teleport / telelrad the rad. images/data to assigned radiologists who will read for free/ and get the ailing life back on to track and let them move ON…without waiting for money to come in and then seek a healer…by the time it may be too late in many instances…

  • Eric Henry commented on Aug 9 2012

    Some I would use to start schools in underdeveloped countries prone to violent extremism. I see education as one of the primary ways to battle this evil.

    The rest I would use to provide micro-loans to small business owners in various 3rd world countries.

  • Birger Allais commented on Aug 9 2012

    I would build a democracy company with liquid-democracy-leading. All the options will be voted by the world. Beginning with the product, the concept, the ceo, the corporate design and so on.. and so on..

    So the world could get, what he needs.. but it must be moderated.

  • Alex Cocan commented on Aug 9 2012

    I would nominate Jacque Fresco for his lifelong dedication to make the world a better place. The capitalist system has its limitation, some of which are very detrimental to the survival of our species on earth( one is encouragement to consumption etc), it is obvious that this would not last long. We need to move on to the next level of civilization, for more visit http://www.thevenusproject.com , all the q&a are there. It’s a new idea, keep an open mind! Jacque wants to make a Major Motion Picture to show the world how we can more to the NEXT LEVEL OF CIVILIZATION!!

  • Mydul Bhuiyan commented on Aug 9 2012

    I would invest in my own business to make sure my income flow. Then I would like to help develop education in Middle-east.

  • Carrie Zwagerman commented on Aug 9 2012

    Carrie Zwagerman:
    Open an Art Studio under the name of “Right Turns” in a poverty stricken community for at risk kids to explore and create in the world of arts. Art classes include painting, pottery, glass, sewing, woodwork & metals. The “Art Boutique” on site sells students art work with percentages going back into “Right Turns Art Studio” for supplies and a student fund to assist artist to further their education in Arts. A full kitchen on site provides cooking classes with an “artsy flair” for paid customers. Kitchen items created by students will be sold in the “Art Boutique” along with a line of kitchen ware to make the “artsy flair”. In addition an open facility in the center of the building would be leased to accommodate various events year round. Food would be provided from in house for all leased events. The project will be sustainable by the various avenues it’s generating money and by business donations receiving tax benefits.

  • z k commented on Aug 9 2012

    i would develop multiplatform (iOS, Android, WM) boinc app for cancer/aids/bio research
    (these devices have all you need, 1-4 cores, gpu, wifi connection available, low power consumption, can be ran once charged to 95% battery – during the night when their owner sleeps and paused during the day)…. with their vast amount , it would be the biggest grid ever .)

  • John Warwick commented on Aug 9 2012

    I would buy some good farm land and hire homeless people to work it and if any surplus food was realized, I’d give it to shelters, food banks, etc.

  • Balazs Toth commented on Aug 9 2012

    Aug 9 2012
    I’d organize an EU wide youth helping program, getting from point A to B on a bike. At each country, in 2-3 cities meetings could be held, where we (well prepared by social psychologists and sustainability economists) could talk to people and help them to get over their problematic, negative view about life and the world. At each country, a new young ambassador like me, could join me on my trip, national flag suite and bike painting. and cycle to the next meeting. This woould be an EU wide “roadshow” and at the final meeting, bikes, and other more precious things from the trip could be sold for companies, and the incomming money could be shared between the youth helping organizations in the EU. I think that would be a great challenge.

  • Balazs Toth commented on Aug 9 2012

    I’d organize an EU wide youth helping program, getting from point A to B on a bike. At each country, in 2-3 cities meetings could be held, where we (well prepared by social psychologists and sustainability economists) could talk to people and help them to get over their problematic, negative view about life and the world. At each country, a new young ambassador like me, could join me on my trip, national flag suite and bike painting. and cycle to the next meeting. This woould be an EU wide “roadshow” and at the final meeting, bikes, and other more precious things from the trip could be sold for companies, and the incomming money could be shared between the youth helping organizations in the EU. I think that would be a great challenge.

  • commented on Aug 8 2012

    Hello! I really enjoy your posts! You continue to inspire me through these motivational and quite eye-opening posts.

    I have nominated you for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. Kindly see this link: http://rifatmursalin.com/2012/08/08/very-inspiring-blogger-award/

    Thanks! :)

  • Sarah Wayland commented on Aug 8 2012

    Id establish a global support agency for families of missing people…its a grief that is not commonly acknowledged by society because of its lack of completeness, of finality. Id provide a space where people could wait and hope and feel embraced by others who understand.