in the Aberdare Mountains, Kenya
Chania Waterfalls in the Aberdare Mountains, Kenya © Roshni Lodhia


The Nature Conservancy Among Top 100 Proposals for MacArthur $100 Million Grant

Water Funds Create a Way for Cities to Cost-Effectively and Efficiently Protect Watersheds for People and Nature

The Nature Conservancy is among the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s highest scoring proposals for its 100&Change competition for a single $100 million grant to solve one of the world’s most critical societal challenges.  The focus of TNC’s proposal is water security.

Twenty years ago, TNC established the first water fund in Quito, Ecuador.  Since then, the organization has successfully launched more than 30 water funds around the world.  Water funds help cities by restoring the watersheds they depend on, they help rural communities by directing resources to improve livelihoods, and they benefit nature by protecting habitat.  These adaptable financial and governance mechanisms bring stakeholders together to secure sustainable funding to conserve watersheds.  Downstream water users – including businesses, utilities and local governments – contribute resources collectively in the water fund, which then pays for conservation activities upstream, like reforestation and agriculture best practices.  

“Half of all people live in places where their water sources are being degraded or used up faster than they are being replenished. And when the taps run dry, the most economically disadvantaged people are disproportionally affected,” said Lynn Scarlett, Chief External Affairs Officer, The Nature Conservancy.  “Through 100&Change, we can bring this proven solution to a tipping point by empowering 300 cities – 10 times our current portfolio – to begin implementing water funds.  Along the way, we’ll improve water supplies for 70 million people, help 150,000 rural people improve their livelihoods, and protect 2 million hectares of habitat.”

The Top 100 represent the top 21 percent of competition submissions.  The proposals were rigorously vetted, undergoing MacArthur’s initial administrative review, a Peer-to-Peer review, an evaluation by an external panel of judges, and a technical review by specialists whose expertise was matched to the project.

Each proposal was evaluated using four criteria: impactful, evidence-based, feasible, and durable. MacArthur’s Board of Directors will select up to 10 finalists from these high-scoring proposals this spring.

MacArthur seeks to generate increased recognition, exposure, and support for the high-impact ideas designated as the Top 100,” said Cecilia Conrad, CEO of Lever for Change and MacArthur Managing Director, 100&Change. “Based on our experience in the first round of 100&Change, we know the competition will produce multiple compelling and fundable ideas. We are committed to matching philanthropists with powerful solutions and problem solvers to accelerate social change.”

Bold Solutions Network Launches

The Bold Solutions Network launched today, featuring The Nature Conservancy as one of the Top 100 from 100&Change. The searchable online collection of submissions contains a project overview, a 90-second video, and a two-page factsheet for each proposal. Visitors can sort by subject, location, Sustainable Development Goal, or beneficiary population to view proposals based on an area of interest.

The Bold Solutions Network will showcase the highest-rated proposals that emerge from the competitions Lever for Change manages. Proposals in the Bold Solutions Network undergo extensive evaluation and due diligence to ensure each solution promises real and measurable progress to accelerate social change.  

The Bold Solutions Network was designed to provide an innovative approach to identifying the most effective, enduring solutions aligned with donors’ philanthropic goals and to help top applicants gain visibility and funding from a wide array of funders. Organizations that are part of the network will have continued access to a variety of technical support and learning opportunities focused on strengthening their proposals and increasing the impact of their work. 

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 75 countries and territories: 37 by direct conservation impact and 38 through partners, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit or follow @nature_press on Twitter.