$1.5 Million for the Middle Class

By Mackenzie McDermott

The American Dream Ideas Challenge has made it to Utah and will be awarding $1.5 million in funding.

The University of Utah has joined the ranks of the Alliance for The American Dream alongside four public universities through Schmidt Futures.

Schmidt Futures is a public benefit venture facility providing grants, gifts and investments to incentivize the development of solutions to public issues. The issue Schmidt Futures and the U are focusing on is the middle class.

“The Challenge aims to find, fund and develop policy and technology innovations from individuals or groups in Utah that have the potential to raise net income by 10 percent for 10,000 of the state’s middle-class households by 2020,” says The American Dream Ideas Challenge website.

Submission is open to any and all individuals and groups in Utah in the search for the best way to use the $1.5 million gift from Schmidt Futures.

Round one of the challenge has already begun and will be open through August 30, 2018. This round is primarily to submit proposals. From those submissions, 10 ideas will be selected to receive up to $10,000 to develop their ideas.

The second round runs from October 3 to November 19. Three ideas from this round will receive up to $30,000 after presenting their ideas to the Community Advisory Board.

The Community Advisory Board is made up of co-chairs, U Executive leadership team and the American Dream Community Advisory Board. Co-chairs are University of Utah President Ruth Watkins and Lt. Governor of the State of Utah Spencer Cox.

The U Executive Leadership Team is built by professor of law Erika George, Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute Director Kathy Hajeb, Alliance for the American Dream Project Director Courtney McBeth, Foundation Relations Director Chris Ostrander, Demographic Research Director of the Gardner Policy Institute Pamela Perlich and Vice President for Research Andy Weyrich.

The American Dream Community Advisory Board has business CEOs including Bill Crim, Clark Ivory, Patricia Jones and Keith McMullin. Other community leaders include Keith Bartholomew, Lucy Cardenas, Jonathan Francom, Jennifer Mayer-Glenn, Deeneece Huftalin, Jennifer Johnston, Derek Kitchen, Jon Larsen, Shawn McAlmont, Keith Diaz Moore, Mikelle Moore and Bob Pendelton.

In the final round, participants take their ideas to the national level. Round three will include top ideas from not only Utah, but all finalists from the Alliance for the American Dream. Top ideas from this portion of the challenge can earn up to $1 million from Schmidt Futures.

Each round lets top ideas advance, giving more ideas a chance to thrive.

The U is hoping to provide the resources necessary to let community members themselves find and implement the solution to the decrease of middle-class households over the past 50 years, as found by the Pew Research Center.

At a press conference at the U, Watkins said, “This is a community-based approach where we will seek ideas from you, from our state’s most innovative thinkers, about how we can strengthen the middle class in Utah. The vision of this project is that a vibrant, healthy middle class is essential for America for our future prosperity.”

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