Optimal CEO Joins Panel of Judges for Economic Opportunity Challenge

Date: December 4, 2019

The MacArthur Foundation and its affiliate Lever for Change, has launched the Economic Opportunity Challenge aimed to improve the financial health of low-income individuals and families in the United States. The panel will select up to five finalists that present the best evidence-based, data-driven solution on how to improve economic opportunities for low-income families and communities in the United States.

During the challenge, organizations are able to use existing evidence-based results to prove that their proposed plans are necessary to achieve and implement the goals of the challenge. This challenge aims to create a permanent change for lower-income individuals and communities in the United States. The winners of the challenge will have their proposed solutions implemented country wide.[1] “Over 40% of children born in the bottom quintile of the income distribution in the U.S. will remain in the bottom as adults. Lever for Change is excited to partner with the family foundation that is sponsoring the Economic Opportunity Challenge to find evidence-based, scalable approaches to improving economic opportunity and mobility in the U.S.” states Dr. Cecilia Conrad, CEO of Lever for Change.

Interested 501(c) (3) organizations are encouraged to register no later than January 28, 2020 and submit their applications by February 18, 2020.  Evaluation of the submitted proposals will take place between March and April 2020. Optimal’s President and CEO Dr. Mark Turner will join the panel of subject matter experts as a judge. He has a 25-year track record evaluating wide-ranging economic and workforce development initiatives.  Dr. Turner and his colleagues at Optimal recently completed a study of the Historically Underutilized Business Zones (HUBZone) program and is currently evaluating the Regional Innovation Cluster initiative for the U.S. Small Business Administration.  He also has also evaluated international economic development and entrepreneurship programs in Armenia, Bangladesh, the Philippines, and the West Bank.  At the local level, Dr. Turner recently served as a judge for the Raising Young Entrepreneurs’ Montgomery County Children’s Business Fair; he also serves on the University of Maryland Department of Economics Leadership Council.

In November 2020, up to five winners will be awarded grants from the challenge. The winning grant will total $10 million, and a $100,000 grant will go to the remaining finalists of the challenge.  

[1] https://www.economicopportunitychallenge.org/faq