Sesame Workshop named semifinalist in $100M MacArthur Foundation grant competition

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Ernie whispers into Bert's ear.

Sesame Workshop is a semifinalist in a $100 million MacArthur Foundation program that challenges grantees to make progress toward solving a critical and widespread social problem.

With 12 million children under the age of eight forcibly displaced from their homes, Sesame Workshop has proposed to create educational programs and culturally relevant content for them. Its proposal, one of eight selected as semifinalists, targets children who face violence, limited access to education, loss of loved ones and other challenges.

“When children in crises have opportunities to learn, they are better able to contribute to economic development in their home countries,” according to a profile of the project on the foundations website.

The competition is part of 100&Change, an effort to “address problems and support solutions that are radically different in scale, scope and complexity,” according to the foundation. “$100 million is a large enough sum to focus on a serious problem and its solution in a meaningful and lasting way.”

Most semifinalists, including Catholic Relief Services, Himalayan Cataract, HarvestPlus and The Carter Center, seek to address global health issues.

With the grant, Sesame Workshop in partnership with the International Rescue Committee, proposes to educate refugee children and their parents in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. It would produce multimedia content and learning opportunities that features Sesame Street Muppets “adapted to reflect and mitigate the adverse effects of experiences of refugee children and their parents,” according to the summary. Using digital media and printed material, the project would reach refugees and host communities through schools, community centers, social protection programs and health clinics, according to the project’s profile.

At this stage of the competition, each of the semi-finalists will work with an “expert team” to address questions about their technical and organizational capacity. The team will also provide feedback for the proposal revision and submit an assessment to the foundation’s board.

Up to five finalists will be selected in September; they will present their proposals during a Dec. 11 event. The board will name a  single recipient to receive $100 million over up to six years.