Lyda Hill Philanthropies Chooses Finalists for $10M Lone Star Prize to Improve Texans’ Quality of Life

The Lone Star Prize, a statewide competition that aims to find and fund solutions focused on creating stronger communities, will award $10 million to the most transformative, scalable, feasible, and evidence-based solution.

Dallas-based Lyda Hill Philanthropies, which funds advances in science and nature, empowers nonprofits, and works to improve Texas and Colorado communities, and Lever for Change, a Chicago-based nonprofit that helps donors find and fund solutions to the world’s greatest challenges, have announced the five finalists for their $10 million Lone Star Prize.

Launched in early 2020, the Lone Star Prize is a statewide competition that aims to improve the lives of Texans by finding and funding solutions focused on creating healthier, stronger communities.

The prize, sponsored by Lyda Hill Philanthropies, is designed to “source a pipeline of philanthropic ‘big bets.'” The goal is to find a scalable, transformative effort that can transform Texas in one or more of three key categories: improving health outcomes, protecting the environment, and boosting the workforce.

“I am particularly excited to be involved at this historic moment, as Texas is my home and has always been for me a place of opportunity,” Cecilia Conrad, CEO of Lever for Change, said in a statement. “So, it’s especially exciting to announce these outstanding finalists for the Lone Star Prize, who are all working on transformative solutions to cultivate strong, healthy, resilient families and communities.”

Around 200 peer applicants, philanthropic and civic leaders, and subject matter experts reviewed more than 172 submitted proposals during a three-month evaluation process. Finalists were chosen based on whether they were transformative, scalable, feasible, and evidence-based, according to a statement.

In the next three months, each finalist will receive a $40,000 planning grant to work with a team of experts to strengthen their proposals before re-submission. Then, each proposed project will get a shot at the $10 million prize.

According to Dallas investor and philanthropist Lyda Hill, the group of finalists is answering a call just when Texas needs it most.

As the founder of her namesake Lyda Hill Philanthropies, Hill has a fervent belief that “science is the answer” to some of the most challenging issues. The philanthropic organization, which encompasses Hill’s charitable giving, has formed a series of partnerships that represent its commitment to building a resilient Texas.

That includes the Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, Advance Together, an initiative of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, Texas 2036, and The Texas Tribune. According to a statement, each partner plans to provide strategic support and promotional platforms for the Lone Star Prize’s top applicants. 

“Amid the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic, finding long-term solutions to improve the lives of Texans is more critical than ever,” Hill said in a statement. “Our communities need the vision of these hardworking teams who are committed to making a difference by improving health outcomes, boosting the workforce, and protecting the environment.”

Of the five finalists, two are North Texas-based, Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute and Merit America. Meet each finalist and their proposed projects below, courtesy of Lyda Hill Philanthropies.

JUST Community: JUST will invest in 20,000 female entrepreneurs to build wealthier, more financially resilient communities across Texas by increasing their ownership opportunities.

Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute: The Lone Star Depression Challenge will improve quality of life and mental health access in communities across Texas using evidence-based approaches. Key partners include UT Southwestern Center for Depression Research and Clinical Care, Department of Global Health and Social Medicine of Harvard Medical School, Dell Medical School Department of Psychiatry, and Path Forward for Mental Health and Substance Use. 

Merit America: The Lone STARS project will build new pathways to upwardly mobile careers for talented, low-wage Texans without bachelor’s degrees, focusing on underrepresented minorities. Key partners include Jobs for the Future, Opportunity @ Work and College Promise.

Texas Water Trade: Texas Water Trade’s project Clean Water for All Texans proposes a nonprofit water service provider that would deliver clean water to households most in need by deploying affordable onsite water treatment systems through a trained workforce. Key Partners include the University of Texas at El Paso, Columbia University, and Antelope Water Management.

William Marsh Rice University, Baker Institute for Public Policy: William Marsh Rice University, Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy – Center for Energy Studies will transform the environment through implementation of a soil carbon storage market, while growing new economic opportunities for rural communities.

A final Lone Star Prize recipient will be announced this spring.

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