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Apply for 2021 J.M.K. Innovation Prize, Get Up to $25,000 Cash Grant



Apply for 2021 J.M.K. Innovation Prize, Get Up to $25,000 Cash Grant

The J.M.K. Innovation Prize seeks to identify, support, and elevate innovators who are spearheading transformative early-stage projects in the fields of social justice, the environment, and heritage conservation.

To apply go to


In 2021, we will award up to ten Prizes, each including a cash award of $150,000 over three years, plus $25,000 in technical assistance funds, for a total award of $175,000. Awardees also receive guidance through the Fund and its resource network, providing tools and training that can help turn innovative ideas into life-changing social impacts.

Interested in applying? 


In recent years, America has been reshaped by seismic social and environmental forces. Efforts to dismantle democratic institutions have struck at the bedrock values of our nation. A worldwide pandemic has laid bare deeply-rooted inequities. And communities from coast to coast have been upended by growing climate impacts. These compounding crises—affecting communities both rural and urban, from historically underrepresented voters to undocumented immigrant farmworkers—have forced social-impact organizations to reimagine how they respond to systemic societal challenges. In short, we need social innovators like we never have before.

The J.M.K. Innovation Prize was made for moments like this. Since 2015, over three biennial Prize cycles, we’ve reached across the country to support thirty wildly creative social and environmental initiatives, ranging from neighborhood-led youth justice councils to researchers using wastewater to pinpoint COVID-19 hot spots. Leveraging a legacy of catalytic grant-making at The J.M. Kaplan Fund, the Prize seeks out visionary non-profit and mission-driven for-profit organizations that work within, across, or in a manner related to one or more of the Fund’s three program areas:

  • Social Justice: Buttressing democracy, voter education, and reforms to the criminal justice and immigration systems.
  • The Environment: Slowing the pace of climate change and mitigating climate impacts.
  • Heritage Conservation: Conserving the places that communities care about most.


Amid a time of unprecedented uncertainty in the philanthropic world, we know that support is scarcer than ever for untested ideas being piloted in the social innovation field. The Prize’s unrestricted funding is designed to fill this gap, allowing awardees to deploy resources where they are needed most. A flexible bank of technical assistance funds has also proven instrumental—whether invested in a tractor engine that awardee Growing Veterans urgently needed to sow crops, or used to purchase a state-of-the-art scanner that helped awardee Advancing Real Change more efficiently process case files and reshape a retributive criminal justice system.

“We’ve received several federal grants that were very strict, and the unrestricted nature of the J.M.K. Innovation Prize allowed our organization to flourish, particularly considering our focus on social-enterprise models.”


Individuals or teams representing non-profit or for-profit organizations are eligible to apply for the 2021 J.M.K. Innovation Prize. The Prize will be awarded to projects or ideas that:

  • represent a game-changing answer to a clearly identified need;
  • are innovative within one or more of the Fund’s three program areas;
  • demonstrate the potential to develop an actionable pilot or prototype with Prize funding; and
  • hold out the promise to benefit multiple individuals, communities, or sectors through a clearly articulated theory of change.

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Bernard Bassey is a graduate of Software Engineering from AfriHUB University, Abuja. He is an expert in field journalism, his interest in socio-politics activities is keen.

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