In 2021, the number of MAP Fellowship applicants doubled from the year before. While it meant struggling with a difficult selection process (read: stress eating popcorn), a silver lining was acknowledging the overwhelming interest from emerging leaders to put their skill sets to work and solve the big problems nonprofits are facing.
We saw an opportunity to expand MAP’s reach. After all, there’s no shortage of existential threats and, as indicated for us in-part by interest in the Fellowship, trailblazers who are hungry for the opportunity to tackle them.
So, we did what we do best at the Morgridge Family Foundation: rolled up our sleeves, thought big, and got to work.
That’s what led us to a thought. What would it look like to condense the impact of the MAP Fellowship, which takes place over six months, into a 48 hour pressure cooker? Limited resources can force us to rely on creativity and unconventional thinking; and unexpected, bold innovation can be the result. What if limiting time could have that effect?
MAP Project48 was born.
It’s a two day, social impact hackathon. It’s Shark Tank meets Oprah’s Big Give meets The Amazing Race (take a second to wrap your mind around that). We’ve partnered with three leading data visualization graduate programs, Columbia University, University of Missouri – Columbia, and Parsons School of Design, welcoming their students to apply to build an innovative solution for a unique challenge facing the Center of Rural Innovation (CORI).
You see, data on rural places is notoriously hard to find and use. Without data visualizations, maps or even raw data in an accessible form, economic development directors with small staffs often struggle to contextualize their region’s economic assets. As a result, the media is often forced to rely on anecdotes when discussing rural issues, unintentionally contributing to narratives that do not reflect the full complexity of rural America.
But CORI is uniquely poised to change that. The organization has the data sets that honestly reflect the experience of rural America; they just need big thinking, hard working data visualization wonks to help solve this problem. The result will be better and more data visualizations that meet the currently unmet needs of rural leaders, policymakers, journalists, researchers, and other stakeholders invested in imagining what is possible for rural America.
The first week of March, select teams from our participating graduate programs will be flown to Taos, New Mexico — one of CORI’s hub communities — and receive the data sets. Then, the starting bell rings, and the 48 hour social impact hackathon begins. They’ll have two days to build the best product they can, before presenting it to an expert panel of social impact and data visualization judges.
True to the MAP formula, we’ve infused mentorship, meaningful networking and unexpected fun into the model. But, the most important ingredient is allowing selected participants to unlock and unleash their proven potential by solving a problem that really matters.
The winning solution will receive $20,000 of implementation grant funding for CORI to put their work into action.
The Morgridge Acceleration Program is always growing and evolving. We’re energized and humbled to be on this journey alongside inspiring social impact leaders. We hope you’ll join us, too. If you haven’t already, subscribe to The Reach, MFF’s newsletter, to stay in the know about all things MAP Project48. You can also email me directly. I love talking about this stuff. We’re building something pretty cool; something that’s going to drive real, palpable impact. And we’re just getting started.