$1 million prize offered for best ideas to help Utah families

May 25, 2018, 1:10 AM

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Have an idea for how to improve the financial situation for Utah families? If so, the University of Utah wants to hear from you as it launches the American Dream Ideas Challenge that could result in the best ideas being awarded up to $1 million in funding.

“We are interested in everyone’s ideas,” said Ruth Watkins, president of the University of Utah. “We will try to match every idea with people who can help them bring it forward.”

The University of Utah announced on Thursday that it is accepting ideas for the American Dream Ideas Challenge.

The goal of the challenge is to develop ideas that will create a 10 percent increase in the net income of 10,000 middle-class families by the year 2020.

An initial gift of $1.5 million from Schmidt Futures is helping get the project started. From now until noon on August 30, the university will be accepting idea submissions online.

“The University of Utah is one of four higher education institutions selected by Schmidt Futures to serve as anchors in The Alliance for the American Dream,” the university said in a press release. “Each is taking a unique approach to achieving Schmidt Futures’ goal of creating pathways to a healthier and more robust middle class.”

Leaders of the Utah-based project say they are particularly interested in ideas that provide solutions to financial pressures caused by health care, workforce development, education, transportation, housing, and supports for families.

“We need the best and brightest to help solve these issues,” said Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox.

Cox said he hopes the ideas submitted from Utah residents focus on both rural and urban parts of the state, with a focus on helping those having a hard time making ends meet.

“People who are living on the margins,” he explained, “who could make their rent a year ago, but now their wages haven’t kept up with the increase in rent.”

The goal of the contest is to increase the net income of 10,000 middle-class Utah families.

Once the ideas have been submitted, a selection committee will pick 10 ideas that will be eligible for up to $10,000 for further development. The next round will narrow the list down to the three best ideas, which will be eligible for up to $30,000 for more fine-tuning.

“We have so many amazing, brilliant people here in Utah, and this is their opportunity to put forth their ideas to strengthen families,” said Courtney McBeth, project director of the challenge. “To help families not just survive, but to thrive.”

In early 2019, the top three ideas from Utah will then compete at the national level with just nine other ideas. The winning four concepts will get up to $1 million in funding from Schmidt Futures to help implement the ideas.

“Utah has a tremendous history of upward mobility,” said Keith McMullin, president and CEO of Deseret Management Corporation and a member of the Community Advisory Board for the challenge.

The American Dream Ideas Challenge is looking for solutions to financial pressures on Utah families.

McMullin says that while the challenges facing Utah are not unique, the state is positioned to find unique solutions that could benefit families across the country.

“We have the people that have the desire to move forward and to step upward and make a great contribution,” he said. “Those are the kinds of fundamentals that make this type of an opportunity really exciting.”

University officials say Schmidt Futures selected Utah for the challenge because of the state’s charitable and energized population and the willingness to work with each other to solve problems.

“Schmidt Futures told us they valued our unique community-based approach to running this Ideas Challenge, with its focus on engaging a broad range of perspectives and voices from across the state,” Watkins said in the media release.

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$1 million prize offered for best ideas to help Utah families