Stop World Hunger Essay Contest 2014

By Iris Stone
Published November, 2014

Most people agree that world hunger and poverty are problems worth eradicating. Unfortunately, it is much easier to profess support for a cause then to take action on its behalf. In a society where so many are critical of others for their half-hearted “slacktivism,” it is worth being reminded that not everyone is so passive in his or her commitment to charity. Not only are there legions of people around the world dedicating their lives to eradicating world hunger and poverty, many are coming up with innovative ways to address age-old problems. Below you will find our selection of thirty innovators working to solve world hunger, poverty, and important global issues. Our selection includes directors of nonprofit organizations, journalists, architects, economists, experts on agriculture, activists, politicians, entrepreneurs, scientists, concerned citizens, and even one celebrity (we bet you can guess who). We encourage you not just to read the article, but to reflect on ways you can donate or get involved with a cause important to you – whether it’s world hunger, poverty, or something else.

1. Andrew Mwenda

Journalist

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Andrew Mwenda is a Ugandan journalist and the founder and owner of The Independent, a news magazine. His controversial politics and inflammatory style have gotten him arrested by the Ugandan government several times. This is in part because of his community activism and strong stance on global poverty. Unlike many other humanitarians, he strongly opposes financial aid to Africa, arguing that it turns Africans into “passive objects.” Instead, he speaks and writes widely on economic development, free speech, and ways to empower members of the African community. His claims that Western aid often ends up in the hands of corrupt governments and fuels both war and abuse have garnered much attention – both positive and negative. Mwenda has spoken at the popular TED conferences and also appeared before the British House of Commons Committee on Global Poverty. In 2008, he also won the International Press Freedom Award, a distinction given by the Committee to Protect Journalists for his courageous defense of freedom of the press. The World Economic Forum has also recognized him as a Young Global Leader.

2. Anthony Lake

Executive Director of UNICEF

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When he was named executive director of the international aid group UNICEF in 2010, Anthony Lake brought more than 45 years of public service and experience working to help the war-torn and impoverished around the world. Although he has a long history in the United States government – even advising Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton – Lake invested many years in academia at Georgetown and Princeton universities. He is credited with helping to end the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea, and received the 2000 Samuel Nelson Drew Award for his efforts. Lake also led policymaking that resulted in peace between Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Northern Ireland. Lake served as chair of the Marshall Legacy Institute, which works in war-afflicted countries to remove landmines and assist survivors, as well as to help advance children’s rights. He was also international adviser to the International Committee of the Red Cross from 2000 to 2003.

3. Ashraf Ghani

Politician

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An Afghani politician and a chancellor of Kabul University, Ashraf Ghani has used his experience in political science and anthropology to rebuild his country and assist the poor. Between 2002 and 2004, Ghani served as finance minister and led the nation’s attempted economic recovery following the fall of the Taliban. In 2005, Ghani gave a TED Talk on how to rebuild a broken state, urging listeners to rethink traditional economic assistance. He also created the National Solidarity Program, which offers block grants to villages that meet specific criteria. Ghani came in fourth in the 2009 presidential election, but finished second in the first round of elections this year. However, due to pending questions about the election results, neither side has claimed victory. Ghani has also been ranked second among the world’s top 100 intellectuals in an online poll.

4. Bill Ayres

Founder of WhyHunger

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Bill Ayres served for many years as a Catholic priest but realized he had a love for radio broadcasting, taking thousands of calls and offering advice to those who sought his guidance. In the early 1980s, Ayres and his close friend, singer-songwriter Harry Chapin, saw a new challenge: the food needs of the impoverished. In response, they began World Hunger Year, which fights hunger through grassroots efforts and brings celebrities to the cause. The pair felt that long-term solutions come from community organizations that foster self-reliance. Ayres has since founded additional organizations, such as the National Hunger Hotline and the National Hunger Clearinghouse, and is a member of the board of advisers of Long Island’s food bank, Long Island Cares. He continues to write and record music, and is the co-author of “All You Need is Love,” with Pete Fortnatale. Ayres still hosts two weekly Sunday night radio shows in the New York area.

5. Bill Gates

Business Magnate & Philanthropist

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Dubbed the world’s richest man by Forbes Magazine, Bill Gates is renowned for both his co-founding of Microsoft and his widespread philanthropy. With his wife, Melinda, Gates created the Gates Foundation to tackle issues ranging from infectious disease to financial services for the poor. TIME Magazine named Gates, his wife, and U2’s lead singer, Bono, as the 2005 Persons of the Year for their humanitarian work. And in 2002, Gates and his wife received the Jefferson Award for “greatest public service benefiting the disadvantaged.” He also donated $20 million to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In total, according to Forbes, he has given away more than $28 billion. Gates has given several TED Talks, informing audiences of his tech-centered approach to solving worldwide problems such as malaria and barriers to education. The Gates Foundation also started the Alliance for Financial Inclusion to help the 2.5 billion people who do not have access to loans, bank accounts or insurance. AFI aims to help those living on less than $2 a day survive major life events like disease and pay for education.

6. Bill Shore

Founder & CEO of Share our Strength

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Bill Shore is the founder and chief executive officer of Share Our Strength, a national nonprofit organization committed to ending hunger in America and abroad. Compelled to act in response to the Ethiopian famine in 1984, to date Shore has distributed more than $65 million to over 85 organizations, winning support from business leaders, government officials, athletes, and entertainers. He also chairs Community Wealth Partners, a Share Our Strength organization committed to solving social problems by offering strategic services to non-profits. US News & World Report named Bill Shore one of America’s Best Leaders in 2005. Shore has authored four books focused on social change, including his most recent “The Imaginations of Unreasonable Men.” He has served on numerous presidential and senatorial campaign staffs, and served as chief of staff for former U.S. Senator Robert Kerrey (D – Nebraska). Shore holds a law degree from George Washington University and is an adjunct business professor at New York University.

7. Bono

Musician & Philanthropist

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Bono is a world-renowned rock star, global humanitarian, and geopolitical activist dedicated to ending world hunger and eradicating the AIDS epidemic. His affinity for social causes began in 1979 after viewing a benefit show for human-rights organization Amnesty International. Bono has helped organize and has performed in many charity concerts, including the Live 8 and Band Aid projects, and the Conspiracy of Hope tour. Bono has also met with influential politicians, including former President George W. Bush, to campaign for debt relief in developing countries. He cofounded fashion label Edun; the organization DATA (Debt, AIDS, trade, Africa); and the Product Red initiative, which is dedicated to wiping out poverty, AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria in Africa. Bono was twice named one of the 100 Most Influential People and also named Person of the Year by TIME Magazine, was awarded the Pablo Neruda International Presidential Medal of Honor by the government of Chile, and received the Portuguese Order of Liberty for his humanitarian work. Bono has received three nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize and was awarded the Man of Peace Prize in 2008.

8. Cindy Levin

Anti-Poverty Activist & Volunteer

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Levin is a former automotive engineer turned volunteer activist and fundraising coach in Chicago with RESULTS, Bread for the World, and Shot@Life. She is a mother to two daughters, and she credits her own mother for her calling to serve her community. Levin is particularly passionate about vaccination, a cost-effective way to save lives worldwide. She brings congressmen letters from children, who urge them to legislate greater access to vaccines. Levin combines her love of running with advocacy by competing in half-marathons. She trains with her daughters, who along with Levin ran for Charity Miles and raised enough money for Shot@Life to vaccinate over 100 children against polio, measles, rotavirus, and pneumococcal virus. Her volunteerism has taken her as far as Uganda, where she listened to mothers share stories of raising children in extreme poverty. Levin also began a letter-writing club, “Social Justice for Social Moms,” demonstrating how to write letters to the editor. Her anti-poverty blog can be found here.

9. Dave McMurtry

Senior VP of Strategy, Habitat for Humanity

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Dave McMurtry is an executive and entrepreneur who combines his passions for technology and non-profits in his current role as senior vice president of strategy and innovation at Habitat for Humanity International. His love of traveling fueled his visits to over 120 countries. While in Liberia in 2009, McMurtry raised $5 million in grant aid on behalf of the Liberian Economic Assistance Plan; additionally, he motorcycled across the countryside disbursing microloans to 1,500 small business entrepreneurs. In 2006, McMurtry raised over $200,000 in only six weeks in Colombia through online efforts and story-centric fundraising – enough to build 40 houses that sheltered 200 war refugees. McMurtry has volunteered as a pilot for Doctors Without Borders, served as an adviser to Kiva.org, and is an active participant with the World Affairs Council. He is also a Sloan Fellow with an M.A. in Business from Stanford University and a B.S. in Business Administration from California Polytechnic University.

10. Ellen Gustafson

Sustainable Food System Activist

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Ellen Gustafson is a sustainable food-system activist concerned with how fast-food corporations and convenience stores rife with junk food are driving out indigenous farmers — and along with them, access to nutritious whole foods. She documents how this situation creates hunger and results in obesity later in life, especially among those in developing countries. Gustafson is also the author of “We the Eaters: If We Change Dinner, We Can Change the World,” published this year. Gustafson co-founded the FEED Foundation, an organization that has sold over 500,000 reusable bags, some handmade and some produced at a fair trade factory. Profits have fed over 60 million healthy meals to schoolchildren around the world. Gustafson has received accolades from notable publications such as the Diplomatic Courier, Fortune, and Inc Magazine. She has given four TED talks, has spoken at numerous conferences — such as the World Food Prize and Fortune Most Powerful Women — and was co-chair of The Economist’s Feeding the World.

11. Ernesto Sirolli

Sustainable Development Expert

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Dr. Ernesto Sirolli is the Founder of the Sirolli institute, a non-profit organization that promotes local entrepreneurship and self-determination. The institute has helped start 40,000 businesses in hundreds of communities worldwide. Sirolli began working for International Aid in Africa in 1971 but believed that imposing ideas on people was dehumanizing and counterproductive. His method of harnessing the passion, determination, intelligence, and resourcefulness of “the local people” has made him one of the world’s most trusted consultants in his field. Sirolli’s TED Talk “Shut Up and Listen” has been downloaded more than 2 million times and has been translated in 32 languages. He authored the best-selling book, “Ripples from the Zambezi – Passion Entrepreneurship and the Rebirth of Local Economics,” which is studied in economics programs in universities worldwide. Sirolli earned a Ph.D in Local Enterprise Facilitation from Murdoch University, Australia, and is an Industry Fellow at CSRM University of Queensland.

12. Ertharin Cousin

Executive Director of the UN World Food Programme

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Ertharin Cousin is the current director of the United Nations World Food Programme. Prior to her appointment to the WFP, Cousin was the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture and also worked for the Democratic Party. She has supported many U.S. international development projects and briefly joined the board of America’s Second Harvest, the nation’s largest domestic hunger organization. She was a leader in the national response to Hurricane Katrina, spearheading an initiative to deliver more than 62 million lbs. of food to needy families in the Gulf Coast Region. She has made it clear that one of her goals is to eradicate world hunger in our lifetimes. Being in such a high profile position has garnered her much attention, and TIME recently named her among the 100 most influential people in the world. In 2014, Forbes also selected her as 45th on its list the world’s 100 most powerful women.

13. Esther Duflo

Economist & Co-founder of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab

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Esther Duflo is an economist and a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She also founded and directs the Abdul Latif Jameel Professor of Poverty Action Lab, a research network that performs evaluations of social programs. Her research on microeconomic issues in developing countries has earned her a number of awards, including a MacArthur Fellowship, also known as the “genius grant.” In 2011 she published a book, Poor Economics, which is described as a “radical rethinking of the way to fight global poverty.” The U.S. magazine Foreign Policy named her to its list of the 100 top intellectuals in the world in 2008, and also selected her for its “global thinkers” list in 2010 and 2012. The Economist has labeled her one of the eight best young economists in the world, and her book was given the Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award.

14. Iqbal Quadir

Founder of Gonofone & Grameenphone

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Iqbal Quadir is an innovator and entrepreneur who founded Gonofone and Grameenphone. Like Duflo, he works at MIT, but as the founder and director of the Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship. The companies he founded have helped bring telephone access to the rural poor of Bangladesh and thus helped increase their employment opportunities. Currently the largest telephone company in the country, Grameenphone brings coverage to 100 million of Bangladesh’s most impoverished citizens. His company’s success has been used as a model for how technology can serve the needs of those living in the world’s poorest places. He also founded the Anwarul Quadir Foundation, which promotes innovations in Bangladesh, and Emergence BioEnergy, which helps bring electricity access to those who aren’t currently connected to the power grid. Quadir has spoken at the World Bank, U.N., and World Economic Forum, and was selected as a Global Leader for Tomorrow by the WEF. He is also the 12th recipient of the Science, Education, and Economic Development Award, and his work has been featured in a variety of publications and books.

15. Jacqueline Novogratz

Founder & CEO of Acumen Fund

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The founder and CEO of Acumen, Jacqueline Novogratz works to provide entrepreneurial solutions to world poverty. As a company, Acumen invests millions of dollars to support businesses that work to serve the poor. Novogratz’s 2009 book, The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World, made the NYT Bestseller List. She has received a wealth of accolades, including being named one of the “25 Smartest People of the Decade” by the Daily Beast, one of Foreign Policy’s “Top 100 Global Thinkers,” and the Ernst & Young “Metro New York Entrepreneur of the Year” in 2008. As “one of the most innovative players shaping philanthropy today,” Novogratz has delivered an inspiring TED Talk about how entrepreneurship, rather than old fashioned aid, can bring affordable clean water, housing, healthcare, energy, agriculture, and education to poor people. Acumen’s life-altering investments have supported ventures as diverse as drip-irrigation systems in India and solar lighting solutions in East Africa.

16. Jamie Drummond

Co-founder of ONE

Jamie Drummond co-founded the organizations DATA and ONE (along with, Bono, another humanitarian on this list) in order to work toward ending extreme poverty and the AIDS pandemic. Drummond is an advocate for aid, trade, debt cancellation, investment, and governance reform in order to empower citizens of emerging countries to form their own destiny. ONE works tirelessly to help achieve the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals, eight benchmarks for health, justice, and well being designed to be accomplished over a fifteen-year period (2000 to 2015). Drummond has spoken extensively on how we can “crowdsource” these goals and how bipartisan leadership in Congress can play a role. Prior to his current work, Drummond was a global strategist for Jubilee 2000 “drop that debt” and also worked at Christian Aid. He has traveled extensively throughout Africa and Asia and was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.

17. Jessica Jackley

Co-founder of Kiva & ProFounder, Advisor for the Collaborative Fund

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Jessica Jackley is an entrepreneur and investor who focuses on the sharing economy, financial inclusion, and social justice. In 2005 Jackley founded Kiva, a microlending website designed to support the needs of small businesses and individual entrepreneurs in developing nations. As one of the fastest-growing social benefit sites in history, Kiva has collectively lent over half a billion dollars to people in more than 200 countries. Jackley also founded ProFounder, a crowdfunding platform for U.S. entrepreneurs. She is now an advisor with Collaborative Fund, which supports innovators who champion the sharing economy. A graduate of Stanford, she is also a Visiting Scholar at the university’s Center for Philanthropy and Civil Society. She also teaches Global Entrepreneurship at USC’s Marshall School of Business. Jackley has received widespread recognition for her philanthropic work, including being named to Fast Company’s “League of Extraordinary Women” and being given the “No Boundaries” Innovation Award by the Economist. Forbes put it aptly when it wrote that she “mixes the entrepreneurial daring of Google with the do-gooder ethos of Bono.”

18. Jim Weill

President of the Food Research & Action Center

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Jim Weill has devoted his entire career to reducing hunger and poverty; protecting the rights of children and poor people; and expanding economic security, support programs, and healthcare coverage in the U.S. He has served as the president of the Food Research and Action Committee since 1998, one of the leading nonprofit organizations working to eradicate hunger and undernutrition in the United States. Earlier in his career, Weill worked at the Children’s Defense Fund and at the Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago. A busy man, he also chairs the Alliance for Justice Action Council and is a board member at both the National Center for Youth Law and The Center for Effective Government. He also chairs the Children’s Leadership Council and works with the National League of Cities Institute for Youth, Education, and Families. Weill’s unique legal approach to ending hunger has led him into policy advocacy and research on such topics as Food Stamps, school meals, and the Child Tax Credit. He is an advocate for closing the nation’s income gap and reducing skepticism surrounding federal programs for the poor.

19. John Coonrod

Executive VP of The Hunger Project

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The Executive Vice President of The Hunger Project, John Coonrod is in charge of all research, advocacy, fundraising, and communications efforts for the charity. As one of the organization’s spokespeople, he has been interviewed on CNN, BBC, and NBC and has lectured at Columbia University, MIT, New York University, and Princeton, as well as at the United Nations. Coonrod has worked with The Hunger Project, which works in eleven countries to “empower women and men to end their own hunger,” since he became their first volunteer in 1977. He is also co-chair of InterAction’s Food Security and Agriculture working group and has been an advisor to a number of international NGO’s. Coonrod is a staunch advocate of supporting agriculture in developing markets and raising awareness for how climate change will affect farming in the coming years. He also emphasizes how important it is to meet the needs of female farmers, who constitute the majority of the world’s poorest and carry the primary burden for supporting their families.

20. Josette Sheeran

CEO of the Asia Society, Former Vice Chairman of the World Economic Forum, & Former Executive Director of the World Food Programme

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Josette Sheeran has a long history of taking on prominent positions in international and governmental organizations. She served as the United States Under Secretary for Economic, Business, and Agricultural Affairs in the State Department before becoming the eleventh Executive Director for the United Nations World Food Programme. She recently left the position to work for the World Economic Forum and then to serve as CEO of the Asia Society, a nonprofit dedicated to strengthening relationships between the United States and Asian nations. While at the WFP, Sheeran attracted attention for her bold approach to the job, frequently calling on national governments to give more aid to the world’s poor. Due to her leadership, the WFP increased its donor base to more than 100 nations and several private sector companies. In 1997 Washingtonian magazine named Sheeran as one of Washington’s 100 Most Powerful Women, and more than a decade later she is still being praised; in 2011 Forbes listed her as the world’s 30th most powerful woman.

21. Louise Fresco

Scientist & Food & Agriculture Expert

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Louise Fresco is a Dutch scientist and an expert on food and agriculture sustainability. As a former UN Director and an advisor to numerous think tanks and academies in the Western world, Fresco has developed a keen understanding of how global issues like hunger, poverty, and environmental problems cause social unrest. She insists that smart agriculture, not just food aid, will help solve the world’s hunger issues. One of her arguments is that we must stop romanticizing farmers’ markets, overpriced food items, and homemade products and instead focus on supporting local agriculture around the world. Fresco has a PhD in Tropical Agronomy and has traveled to more than 80 countries – and has done fieldwork in many of them. She has published eight books and over 100 scientific articles, is an advisor to the Dutch government, and is on the advisory council of The Hague Institute for Global Justice. A Dutch newspaper ranked her on their top 200 list of the most influential people in the Netherlands (2012) and she was also selected as one of the “Sustainable 100.”

22. Mark Goldring

CEO of Oxfam

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Mark Goldring had dreamed of running Oxfam ever since he started working for the nonprofit in Bangladesh, 20 years before his appointment to chief executive last year. He is a strong advocate of changing the way the world thinks about aid and nonprofit work, and he wants to ensure local communities have a “real say” in private sector development. In addition to leading Oxford and managing thousands of staff and volunteers, Goldring also regularly meets with high-level government and business leaders to urge them to take action in the fight against poverty. Although Goldring only became CEO of Oxfam a year ago, he has spent decades working in international development. He was chief executive of VSO International, he worked in the field in the U.N. Development Programme, and he also worked in the U.K.’s Department for International Development. Goldring hasn’t let such an important title go to his head; he spent time volunteering in the Philippines as part of an “undercover boss” segment and earns a salary in the lower quartile of what other nonprofit executives are paid.

23. Bob Aiken

CEO of Feeding America

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As the Chief Executive Officer of Feeding America, the fourth largest charity in the nation, Bob Aiken plays a central role in the U.S. domestic hunger relief effort. In addition to focusing on strategy development, Aiken also works daily to fortify relationships with food banks, food pantries, and meal programs. He has been an active volunteer in the Chicago area for years, and finally left the corporate world in 2012 to serve as a better model for volunteerism on a national scale. He exemplifies this volunteer ethic by serving on the Board of Directors for the Greater Chicago Food Depository. He is a particularly strong advocate for preserving SNAP (food stamp) benefits for U.S. families and personally participated in a campaign known as the “SNAP Challenge,” where he ate on $1.50 per meal for a week. He has campaigned against the Farm Bill and continues to push for policies that support America’s poor.

24. Paul Pholeros

Architect & Director of HealtHabitat

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Paul Pholeros is not only the director of Healthabitat, but also an ingenious architect. He put his design skills to good use when he founded the nonprofit, which is an Australian company that works to improve the lives of disadvantaged people – particularly children – by improving their housing and living conditions. Pholeros was first inspired by a challenge he received to improve the health of the rural Aboriginal population in the nation. The more he learned, the more convinced he became that intelligent engineering could improve the lives of indigenous Australians. Healthabitat also works in Nepal and was recently given the World Habitat Award by the UN Habitat and Building and Social Housing Foundation. The firm has also received a Leadership in Sustainability prize from the Australian Institute of Architects and was made one of the six Australian representatives at the Venice International Architectural Biennale. Pholeros personally was granted the Royal Australian Institute of Architects President’s Award, and he has lectured at venues around the world.

25. Pierre Ferrari

CEO of Heifer International


Pierre Ferrari is another humanitarian on this list who got his start in the corporate world. After years with Coca-Cola, Ferrari abandoned his post to support a number of social endeavors, including Hot Fudge, a venture firm that invested in startup companies interested in community development. He ultimately found a home at Heifer International. Ferrari grew up in the Belgian Congo and was exposed to poverty, hunger, inequities, and the impacts of colonialism in a way that not many experience first hand. As a result, he has carried the core tenants of giving, entrepreneurship, and self-reliance into his leadership position at Heifer. Rather than dole out aid indiscriminately or even deliver food packages, Heifer instead works with “limited resource farmers” – mostly women – to support agriculture development, increase poor peoples’ assets, and empower those living in developing countries. Ferrari has taken a unique approach to the position by insisting that increasing revenue is not a primary goal – rather, his mission is to maximize impact.

26. Premal Shah

Social Entrepreneur & President of Kiva

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Premal Shah is a social entrepreneur and the current president of Kiva.org. He is a prominent figure in the tech world and was very successful at PayPal before leaving to initiate his own venture helping low-income women in India. He is also a spokesperson for Blackberry, was a featured speaker at the 2006 Clinton Global Initiative, carried the Olympic Torch for the 2008 Summer Games, and has spoken about global poverty at several locations throughout Silicon Valley. He also made it onto Fortune’s 2009 “40 Under 40” list and was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. Under Shah’s direction, Kiva has been named one of “Oprah’s Favorite Things” as well as one of TIME’s Top 50 Websites. Shah’s personal lender page catalogs over 400 of his own loans to farmers, shop owners, and other small business entrepreneurs in countries from El Salvador to Zimbabwe. As he writes on his lender page, he loans because “there is no them.”

27. Rachel Zelon

Co-founder & Executive Director of Hunger Relief International

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Rachel Zelon is a founding member and the current executive director of Hunger Relief International, a Christian relief and development organization working to alleviate hunger in malnourished families by working with local communities. Zelon has spent her entire professional career working as a humanitarian and even volunteered for the Peace Corp, which took her on numerous adventures in the jungles of Ecuador. She also worked for the Joint Distribution Committee and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, where she focused on providing refugee assistance and protection. She has also worked for Feed the Children and is particularly well known for her efforts to compassionately relocate members of the Jewish community from Iraq to Israel. Throughout her career, Zelon has partnered with such organizations as UNICEF and the World Food Programme in order to create a more comprehensive effort at hunger and poverty relief. She has lead projects to organize school meal programs, develop families’ incomes, set up family farms, provide access to clean water, and more.

28. Salil Shetty

Secretary General of Amnesty International

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Salil Shetty is the Secretary General of Amnesty International, a prominent aid organization that focuses on a wide array of human rights issues, from torture to poverty. Amnesty states clearly that, “No one should be denied their rights to adequate housing, food, water and sanitation, and to education and health care.” Before joining AI in 2010, Shetty worked for the United Nations Millennium Campaign and as the Chief Executive of ActionAid, an international anti-poverty NGO. It’s no surprise that he has devoted his life to serving others; both of his parents were passionate activists in their home country of Bangalore. In addition to working to eradicate world hunger and poverty, Shetty is also concerned about providing the means for universal education, defending women’s and LGBT rights, and a variety of other issues important to the one of the world’s most liberal philanthropic organizations. Efforts to tackle poverty have been close to his heart for the duration of his career, and he believes that AI can play a central role in the anti-poverty movement by disseminating information to people about their social and economic rights.

29. Steven Weir

Vice President of Global Program Development & Support for Habitat for Humanity

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Steven Weir is a Vice President for Habitat for Humanity, a well-known organization that focuses on providing simple, affordable housing for people in need. His degrees in architectural engineering and environmental design have come in handy as he lends his skills to the HFH cause. Although trained as a licensed architect with a background in private practice work, Weir turned his back on for-profit enterprises after helping found a local Habitat affiliate in California in the 1980s. He was inspired to join Habitat after hearing Jimmy Carter give a speech about a housing project in NYC, and he felt that charity work was the ideal way to reconcile his Christian faith with his chosen profession. Weir has helped lead disaster reconstruction projects throughout Asia and the Pacific, including Sri Lanka, China, Myanmar, Yogyakarta, and Pakistan. He has spoken at a number of venues concerning such topics as how HFH handles disaster and what Habitat’s role is in global transformational development. He has also been involved in projects designed to encourage youth to participate in housing projects for the underprivileged.

30. Teddy Cruz

Architect, Urbanist, & Professor

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Teddy Cruz is an architect working in UC San Diego’s Department of Visual Arts. He is known internationally for his research on the urban area spanning from San Diego to Tijuana – research he uses to postulate improvements to urban policy, civic infrastructure, and affordable housing. More than just an architect, he has contributed to a wide number of fields, including political theory, visual arts, and environmental and social practice. Cruz regularly collaborates with community-based nonprofits and teaches seminars at universities such as Harvard, the Berlage Institute in Rotterdam, the University of Anyang in South Korea, and the University of Auckland in New Zealand. Cruz is a highly regarded professor and architect whose awards are too many to name completely. He received the prestigious Rome Prize in Architecture, two Progressive Architecture Awards, the Architectural League of New York Young Architects Forum Award, the Robert Taylor Teaching Award, and the James Stirling Memorial Lecture On The City Prize, among others. He has also been selected as an “Emergent Voice” in architecture, was named a “Visionary Leader” by the FORD Foundation, and has been deemed one of the “50 Most Influential Designers in America” by Fast Company Magazine.

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Wikipedia – Josette Sheeran
TED Speakers – Josette Sheeran
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FORD Foundation

What Is “Fundamental”

October 28, 2017 to January 22, 2018


Interesting physical systems can be described in a variety of languages. A cell, for example, might be understood in terms for example of quantum or classical mechanics, of computation, or information processing, of biochemistry, of evolution and genetics, or of behavior and function. We often consider some of these descriptions “more fundamental” than other more “emergent” ones, and many physicists pride themselves on pursuing the most fundamental sets of rules. But what exactly does it mean?

Are “more fundamental” constituents physically smaller? Not always: if inflation is correct, quanta of the inflaton field are as large as the observable universe.

Are “less fundamental” things made out of “more fundamental” ones? Perhaps – but while a cell is indeed "made of" atoms, it is perhaps more so “made of" structural and genetic information that is part of a long historical and evolutionary process. Is that process more fundamental than the cell?

Does a “more fundamental” description uniquely specify a “less fundamental” one? Not in many cases: consider string theory, with its landscape of 10500 or more low-energy limits. And the same laws of statistical mechanics can apply to many types of statistically described constituents.

Is “more fundamental” more economical or elegant in terms of concepts or entities? Only sometimes: a computational description of a circuit may be much more elegant than a wavefunction one. And there are hints that even gravity, a paragon of elegance, may be revealed as a statistical description of something else.


Contest Timeline.

This contest is sponsored by The Fetzer Franklin Fund and by The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation.

The goals of the Foundational Questions Institute's Essay Contest (the "Contest") are to:
  • Encourage and support rigorous, innovative, and influential thinking about foundational questions in physics and cosmology;

  • Identify and reward top thinkers in foundational questions; and,

  • Provide an arena for discussion and exchange of ideas regarding foundational questions.

For examples of previous FQXi contests, please see the list to the left.




An expert panel of judges will be instructed (and general readers strongly encouraged) to rate the entries by the degree to which they are relevant and interesting, as more specifically described below, with 1/3 weight given to relevancy and 2/3 weight given to interest.
  • Relevant: The theme for this Essay Contest is: What Is "Fundamental"?

  • This contest does not ask for new proposals about what some “fundamental” constituents of the universe are. Rather, it addresses what “fundamental” means, and invites interesting and compelling explorations, from detailed worked examples through thoughtful rumination, of the different levels at which nature can be described, and the relations between them.

    While this topic is broad, successful essays will not use this breadth as an excuse to shoehorn in the author's pet topic, but will rather keep as their central focus the theme of the contest.

    Additionally, to be consonant with FQXi's scope and goals, essays should be sure to touch on issues in physics and cosmology, or closely related fields, such as astrophysics, biophysics, mathematics, complexity and emergence, and the philosophy of physics.

  • Interesting: An interesting essay is:

    • Original and Creative: Foremost, the intellectual content of the essay must push forward understanding of the topic in a fresh way or with new perspective. While the essay may or may not constitute original research, if the core ideas are largely contained in published works, those works should be the author's. At the same time, the entry should differ substantially from any previously published piece by the author.

    • Technically correct and rigorously argued, to the degree of a published work or grant proposal.

    • Well and clearly written, so that it is comprehensible and enjoyable to read.

    • Accessible to a diverse, well-educated but non-specialist audience, aiming in the range between the level of Scientific American and a review article in Science or Nature.




Applications will be accepted electronically through the form on FQXi's website, as follows:
  • ENTRY

    • Submission: Essays and accompanying material must be submitted online using the webform between the dates of October 28, 2017 and January 22, 2018 (until 11:59PM Eastern Time). Applicants must provide accurate contact information, an abstract of their essay, a brief biographical statement, and their essay.

      Immediately after an essay application is submitted, the applicant will receive an application confirmation email containing this information at their specified email address. This confirmation DOES NOT mean your essay has been accepted into the Contest; it simply notes that FQXi has received the submission.

      All essays will be reviewed for rule compliance (see "Publication" below) and those that are eligible will be posted online within 10 business days. Essays received on the deadline date will be posted in batches for up to 10 business days after the contest ends.

    • Please note: You will be required to register an email address with fqxi.org and set up an account to enter the Contest. This information is available on the application page.

    • Acceptability: In order to be judged, essays must at least satisfy minimal professional standards of acceptability for publication, both qualitative and quantitative.

    • Format & length: Essays must be submitted as PDF documents via the webform.

    • Eligible essays must comply with these guidelines:

      • The body of the essay may not exceed 25,000 characters (not including spaces). To ensure your submission fits the character count, you can use our online character counter.

      • The length of the body of the essay must not exceed 9 pages, including figures and equations, calculated based on a standard 8 ½ x 11 inch single-sided page with 1 inch margins.

      • The following can be appended to these 9 pages: one page of references, and up to two pages of technical endnotes. No essay text (such as textual footnotes), figures, notations, or equations can be included in the reference section. The technical endnotes are meant to provide an opportunity for additional technical detail while retaining a readable, accessible, and self-contained essay body; all essay reviewers, including the Expert Judges, will be encouraged to focus on the body of the essay, and use the endnotes only as a technical supplement to a self-contained work.

      • Color figures as well as hyperlinks within the document are acceptable.

      • Although FQXi will accept essays from anyone anywhere, the essay must be submitted in English.

    • Publication: After submission and review for rule compliance, each essay will be posted (within 10 business days) in the FQXi Community Forum, under the category 'Essay Contest: Wandering Towards a Goal’, along with each author name and bio. Thereafter, the author and interested readers (including FQXi Members, other contest entrants, and the general public) are invited to discuss and comment on the essay. (Although commenters will be rating the essays, the goal of the forum is to discuss the essays and the ideas they raise; thus commenters are strongly encouraged to cultivate a supportive atmosphere of scientific conversation rather than a judgmental atmosphere of critical scoring and evaluation.)

    • All comments in the Essay Contest Forum must abide by FQXi’s terms of use and appropriate content rules that can be found here.

  • JUDGING

    • Community evaluation: Every FQXi Member and approved Contest entrant will be provided with a code allowing them to rate essays as a 'Community evaluator', on a scale of 1-10 (10 being extremely relevant and interesting).

      A rating code will be provided to each entrant in the confirmation email. The confirmation code will be at the bottom of your confirmation email. If an essay is considered ineligible in the Contest, the rating code will not be active. Community ratings can be submitted until 11:59 pm Eastern Time, February 26, 2018.

      FQXi expects those providing community evaluations to do so based solely on the quality of the essay assessed. Voting collusion or bartering, mass down-voting, and other such forms of 'voter fraud' will not be tolerated, and participants in such will have (all) their votes discarded or in extreme cases their essays disqualified. Entrants should alert FQXi with information if they witness such activities.

    • Finalists: A minimum of 40 finalists (the "Finalists") will be determined once voting closes. A minimum of 30 finalists will be selected based on the following procedure:

      • Any entry with an author who is an FQXi Member at the time of submission will automatically become a Finalist ( an “auto-inducted entry”), if and only if the following criteria are met:

        • Their essay is eligible as per the Contest guidelines.
        • The Member author has rated 5 other entries and left a suitable comment or question in the online forum for each of the entries he/she has rated.
        • The total number of auto-inducted entries does not exceed 30.
      • In case Member entries exceed 30, the Member Finalists will consist of the 30 auto-inducted essays with the highest Community ratings that have each received at least ten ratings. Furthermore, if the auto-inducted Member entries exceed 15, FQXi will increase the number of Finalists to ensure that there is a fair representation of the top Community rated entries submitted by people who are not FQXi Members.
      • The remainder of a base set of 30 finalists will consist of the entries with top Community ratings that have each received at least ten ratings, not including any auto-inducted essays.
      • In addition to the base set of 30, the Expert Judges will select up to 10 additional entries, at their discretion, to form the full pool of Finalists.
    • Expert Judges: A panel of the applicants' peers, chosen by FQXi, will be asked to carefully review, deliberate upon, and rate the Finalists, based on the criteria specified under "Evaluation Criteria".

      This expert panel of judges will be confidential; their names will not be released, though they are free to post online comments just as any Community or Public evaluator.

    • Final Ranking: The final ranking that determines the First, Second, and Third prize winners will be determined by the Expert Judges using the Evaluation Criteria.

    • Discretionary Prizes:The Judges will also have the option to award any number of Discretionary Prizes to the Finalists chosen for peer review, up to a total amount of $10,000, chosen at their discretion.

    • Public evaluation: Members of the public will also be allowed to rate essays. Ratings from the public will be accepted until May 1, 2018.

      • Public evaluators will have to submit their email address in order to rate essays. As with the Community evaluator, each Public evaluator can enter one score, 1-10, per essay.

      • Prizes will not be awarded directly on the basis of Public ratings, but these ratings may influence either Community evaluations or Expert judging.

    • All decisions of the judges are final and the selection of Winners is at the sole and absolute discretion of FQXi.

  • PRIZES

    • In addition to the cash prizes listed below, all First and Second Prize Winners will receive a nomination for FQXi Membership, if the applicant is not already a Member. (These top Winners will then be vetted through FQXi's new Member nomination process to ensure they meet the basic qualifications for Membership.) Springer will consider adapted material from the winning essays for possible publication.

    • A total of $40,000 will be awarded. Prizes include:

      • First Prize: US$10,000

      • Second Prize: US$5,000 each

      • Third Prize: US$2,000 each

      • Fourth Prize: US$1,000 each

      • Judging Panel Discretionary Prizes: various amounts, not to exceed US$10,000 total




No purchase necessary to enter or win. A purchase does not increase your chance of winning.
  • ELIGIBILITY

    • The Contest is open to everybody except employees and consultants (including Contest judges) of the Sponsors (Fetzer Franklin Fund, The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation, Submit, and the Foundational Questions Institute) and each of their respective parents, subsidiaries, affiliates, advertising and promotion agencies (collectively, the "Contest Entities") and their family/household members (defined as parents, spouse, children, siblings, grandparents).

  • GUIDELINES

    • No person is allowed to submit more than one essay to the Contest, regardless if he or she is entering individually or as part of a collaborative essay. If more than one is uploaded, all except the first will be disqualified. (On the rare occasion when a replacement is requested by FQXi, this will be handled outside of the usual submission system.) Collaborative essays written by more than one person can be submitted. If such an entry is awarded a Prize, it will be split equally among the collaborators.

    • Sponsors reserve the right to cancel or modify this Contest in the event that an insufficient number of entries are received that meet the minimum judging criteria.

    • This Contest shall be construed in accordance with U.S. law. All Federal, state and local laws and regulations apply.

    • Essays complying with the rules and satisfying minimal relevance and quality criteria will be automatically posted on the FQXi Community Forum website together with authors' names; after Prizes are awarded, contest Winners will be highlighted as such. The Sponsors reserve no copyrights to the submitted work; however, by submitting an entry, the applicant hereby grants to the Sponsors a worldwide, royalty free license to so post the essay, as well as use the essay for internal and advertising, marketing and promotional purposes of the Contest, in perpetuity, in any and all media now known or hereafter invented.

    • By submitting an essay, entrant represents and warrants that the essay is entrant's own creation and is 100% original work; is not subject to, and does not infringe upon, the rights of any third parties, including without limitation, copyright, trademark or privacy or publicity rights; and is not defamatory, obscene or otherwise illegal.

    • Entrants not complying with these requirements will be subject to disqualification. All entrants must have a valid email address. In case of dispute as to identity of entrant, entry will be declared made by the authorized account holder of the email address submitted at time of entry. "Authorized Account Holder" is defined as the natural person who is assigned an email address by an Internet access provider, online service provider, or other organization (e.g., business, educational, institution, etc.) responsible for assigning email addresses or the domain associated with the submitted email address. Any other attempted form of entry is prohibited: no automatic, programmed, robotic or similar means of entry are permitted. The Contest Entities are not responsible for technical, hardware, software, telephone or other communications malfunctions, errors or failures of any kind, lost or unavailable network connections, website, Internet, or ISP unavailability, unauthorized human intervention, traffic congestion, incomplete or inaccurate capture of entry information (regardless of cause) or failed, incomplete, garbled, jumbled or delayed computer transmissions which may limit one's ability to enter this Contest, including any injury or damage to participant's or any other person's computer relating to or resulting from participating in this Contest or downloading any materials in this Contest.

    • All Prizes are subject to United States Income Tax. Winners are required to furnish FQXi with appropriate tax forms for reporting the Prize, and applicable taxes may be withheld from the Prize.

    • Void where prohibited by law. FQXi reserves the right to refuse to award any Prize if doing so violates any applicable laws.

    • By submitting an entry in the contest, the author agrees to release, defend and hold harmless the Contest Entities and each of their respective directors, officers, employees, agents, volunteers, the Contest judges, and their affiliates, heirs, successors and assigns from and against, and waive any right to pursue, any and all claims of any nature whatsoever arising out of or in connection with the Contest, the selection of Winners, and the use of the submitted essay, the author's name, and biographical information as authorized under these Contest rules.

    • All decisions of the judges are final and the selection of Winners is at the sole and absolute discretion of FQXi.

  • NOTIFICATION & ACCEPTANCE

    • Potential winners will be notified by e-mail on or about May 1, 2018, and may be required to execute and return an Affidavit of Eligibility/Release/Prize Acceptance Form within fourteen (14) days of attempted notification. Each participant selected as a potential winner must comply with all terms and conditions set forth in these Official Rules, and winning is contingent upon fulfilling all such requirements. If the winner cannot be contacted within seven (7) calendar days of first notification attempt, if prize or prize notification is returned as undeliverable, if winner rejects his/her prize or in the event of noncompliance with these Contest Official Rules, such prize will be forfeited and an alternate winner will be selected from all remaining eligible entries. Upon prize forfeiture, no compensation will be given.

    • The names of Winners will be posted on www.fqxi.org on or about May 8, 2018.

    • GENERAL: Acceptance of a prize constitutes permission by Winner to use of his/her name, photograph and/or likeness for advertising, publicity and promotion purposes without compensation (unless prohibited by law).

  • CAUTION: ANY ATTEMPT BY AN ENTRANT TO DELIBERATELY DAMAGE ANY WEB SITE OR UNDERMINE THE LEGITIMATE OPERATION OF THE PROMOTION MAY BE A VIOLATION OF CRIMINAL AND CIVIL LAWS AND SHOULD SUCH AN ATTEMPT BE MADE, THE CONTEST ENTITIES RESERVE THE RIGHT TO SEEK DAMAGES FROM ANY SUCH PERSON TO THE FULLEST EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW.






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