UP grew out of our previous efforts to identify extraordinary ideas and people to support, most of which were structured as time-bound prizes. In 2010, we sponsored our first online challenge to identify opportunities for philanthropic investment. The contest was devised as an experiment to find out if a broad, open call could uncover rare opportunities with huge potential, yet lacking access to alternative funding. We partnered with the open innovation platform InnoCentive to seek submissions for "extraordinary and unorthodox ideas for philanthropic investment." The winner was a start-up organization called GiveDirectly that was piloting the use of unconditional cash transfers via mobile phone to very poor households in Kenya.
The success of the first challenge, and of GiveDirectly itself, inspired us to sponsor a second Unorthodox Prize in 2013 to unearth another rare opportunity that was both extraordinary and devoid of funding. Evidence Aid, an effort to bring rigorous, evidence-based practices to the fields of disaster relief and humanitarian aid, was the winner. Also in the early days of our philanthropic exploration, we funded an early iteration of New Incentives, an organization providing conditional cash transfers to improve childhood immunization rates in Nigeria.
GiveDirectly has been extremely successful since our initial support and is now the leading global organization delivering digital cash transfers. GiveDirectly has transferred over $400m to people living in poverty over the past decade and continues to advance the global conversation around the value of cash as an effective poverty intervention.
Evidence Aid continues to be a leading provider of evidence to decision-makers involved in emergency response and creates timely research collections on urgent and emerging issues such as COVID-19, health of refugees and asylum seekers, resilient health systems, and the humanitarian impacts of climate change.
We provided some early, flexible funding to New Incentives' founder Svetha Janumpalli as she developed the organization's vision and strategy. Svetha ultimately developed, tested, and proved the model with the support of charity evaluator GiveWell; they recently named New Incentives a global top charity and awarded them over $16 million to carry out their evidence-based program that is saving children's lives across Nigeria.