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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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  • Mirwais Mioo Wakil commented on Aug 17 2012

    Empower Women through free education in the third world specifically extremist Islamic countries which will provide them independence resulting into a better world!

  • Nathan Kessel commented on Aug 14 2012

    I would use the money to create an open online communications platform (a web app that would be a mix between an internet forum and a social aggregator [like reddit]) to brainstorm and generate new ideas and crowd-source solutions to problems humanity faces and facilitate transparent collaborative action on the most effective and promising solutions, leveraging the huge cognitive surplus currently available in order to create a more desirable future for humanity.

  • commented on Aug 13 2012

    I would initiate a new class, or platform, in schools. They would be called ‘confidence classes’ starting from an early age so that children who are not necessarily encouraged at home get a chance to hear encouragement from an outside organization (such as mine… which I would set up with the money available from TED). Every child deserves a chance to believe they can make a big difference in making the world a better place. It will be a place of non-criticism; simply warmth, smiles and encouragement in hearing children’s ideas and opinions and enabling them that platform so the world can see they are important, too.
    facebook.com/howtochangeyourlifeinthetimeittakestoboilanegg

  • kris piecha commented on Aug 12 2012

  • commented on Aug 12 2012

    I would donate it to worthy non profits, nation wide! perhaps start a non profit of my own.

    • commented on Aug 12 2012

      Correction- World Wide!!!

  • Sharon Kuckuck commented on Aug 11 2012

    There are about 192 countries in the world
    Pick 5 people on 5 continents

    They get to SKPE for 1 hour and all have to agree how to spend it on something other then themselves

    or 5 people on 5 continents have one hour to double it or no one get money for their projects

    or 5 people on 5 continents think of something that makes people happy

  • Greg Shores commented on Aug 10 2012

    I’d invest the million in a micro-loan bank that focuses on startups by and for women, community projects and cooperatives (like urban garden cooperatives), and recycling and second-use businesses.

    Then take the ongoing profits from interest and fees and create a scholarship fund for struggling-yet-worthy students to go to college. Perhaps also an annual “education prize” for outstanding public school teachers who really help their kids shine (in the tradition of Jaime Escalante).

    Rather than blowing the million on one-shot attempts to do the most good for the greatest number (which often backfire despite good intentions), I’d focus on finding ways to create self-sustaining support networks for individuals and groups who aim to better themselves and their communities.

    My dream job would be to run a small non-profit group to manage such a fund and ensure its perpetuity. What an opportunity to better the world!