Gates Foundation Looks to Hollywood for Anti-Poverty Initiative

Bill Gates - Publicity - H 2018
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Television

The foundation will award ten $100,000 grants for stories that combat stereotypes of the poor in America.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is looking toward the creative community for a new initiative that aims to shift the narrative around poverty in the United States. The foundation is offering grants of up to $100,000 over two years for proposals that combat the false narratives about the causes of poverty in America. That could include documentary, performance pieces or written word.

“These stereotypes are so problematic in the search for solutions,” says Ryan Rippel, director of U.S. economic mobility and opportunity at the foundation.

“They cause us to demean people and not actually be in the conversation with a lens of humanity and a deep commitment to getting to the bottom of the nature of the challenge.”

The initiative is part of the foundation’s Grand Challenge: initiatives designed to foster innovations to solve global health and development issues.

This is the first Grand Challenge in the Unites States, where income inequality has become a central theme in multiple presidential campaigns. The foundation is looking for content that combats stereotypes of poor Americans. 

The call for ideas is open for eight weeks, after which a group of experts will review the ideas and identify the 10 strongest for the grant. The foundation has not identified the experts publicly, but they are from disparate backgrounds, including the creative community. The foundation hopes to announce the 10 recipients in the spring. 

The foundation will not own the content, so applicants are free to pursue other avenues of distribution, says Rippel. And the aspiration is that the initiative will elicit compelling enough content, a documentary or short film for instance, that could find a wider audience. Adds Rippel: “It’s very hard to mobilize actors if the accounts of what’s going on are not accurate at the outset.”