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Roddenberry Foundation Awards $1 Million For Big, Bold Ideas To Change The World Amidst COVID-19

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Roddenberry Foundation Awards $1 Million For Big, Bold Ideas To Change The World Amidst COVID-19


(August 20, 2020, FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE)—The Roddenberry Foundation today announced the winners of its $1 million biennial prize—designed to advance the vision of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry—to four organizations working to better humanity amidst the challenges of the global pandemic. 


This year’s prize, launched in the early weeks of the pandemic, quickly pivoted to engage organizations who have demonstrated their agility and innovation on the frontlines of Covid-19.


“Gene’s vision was for big, bold ideas to change the world,” said Roddenberry Foundation Chief Executive Lior Ipp. “The year’s Prize invested in organizations able  to move quickly and boldly in combating Covid-19, from spreading Covid-19 awareness to ‘last-mile’ populations to delivering online job training to contact-tracing and risk evaluation in genetic mapping, this year’s prize winners are extraordinary organizations  responding to humanity’s needs during the Covid-19 crisis and beyond.” 


Unprecedented solutions in an unprecedented year 


Criteria for the Roddenberry prize are innovation, potential for impact, vision, and track record across four key issue areas — Environment, Humanity, Science, and Education — but with 2020 applications due in April just as the pandemic was unfolding across the planet,  the Prize application was adjusted to address its outsized influence on potential applicants.   


“It was clear that the devastating impact of COVID-19 would be unprecedented and that at least for the immediate future, there was an opportunity to leverage the Prize  to support robust responses to the pandemic,” said Heidi Roddenberry, board chair. “The organizations awarded the Prize are pivoting or amplifying their work in extraordinary ways.”  


The response to the Prize was overwhelming and inspiring, with over 2,500 applications from non-profit and for-profit enterprises of all sizes from around the globe.  


Announcing the four 2020 Roddenberry Prize winners: 

2020 Roddenberry Prize winner in Environment:

The Roddenberry Foundation is proud to support organizations working to protect our oceans, reduce pollution, lower the emission of greenhouse gasses, and mitigate the human destruction of the environment. We are pleased to announce our 2020 Roddenberry Prize winner, Digital Green who are on the frontlines of supporting farming communities across the world and ensuring they are able to lift themselves out of poverty and have the resources they need to combat the impact of Covid-19. 


Digital Green — Based in Baltimore, Maryland, USA and with operations around the world. Digital Green supports smallholder farming communities in South Asia and Africa with technology and grassroots level partnerships that help them lift themselves out of poverty. The organization has worked with 2.3 million farmers across 17,000 villages in nine countries, primarily in India and Ethiopia. With food supply disrupted by the pandemic, Digital Green has supported farming communities by connecting farmers to buyers via a digital marketplace and developing text-message, video, and audio based advisory systems deliverable to farmers via their cell phones. They expect to reach 200,000 farmers with their digital advisories and enroll the same number in the digital marketplace supplier directory. 


Rikin Gandhi, Co-Founder & Executive Director, Digital Green said: “We’ve all seen food shortages at grocery stores and long lines at food banks.  Paradoxically, many farmers themselves have been the first to go hungry. That’s especially true for the 126 million smallholder farming families across India. We’re scaling a multilingual, voice-based chatbot over WhatsApp that enables these farmers to set up their own digital storefronts to sell their produce directly to consumers and reap their greatest harvests. We’re deeply grateful to partner with the Roddenberry Foundation to put farmers back at the center of the food and agriculture system that is more resilient for our collective future.”

2020 Roddenberry Prize winner in Humanity: 

The Roddenberry Foundation is proud to support organizations working on mitigating and solving for the unintended consequences of the vast technological, medical, and scientific advances that have come to define the 21st century. As humanity continues to progress we must ensure it is inclusive, transparent and equitable. We are pleased to announce our 2020 Roddenberry Prize winner, Generation is committed to ensuring people across the world have the skills they need to access the careers of today. 


Generation — Based In Washington, D.C., USA, and with operations around the world. Generation has helped more than 38,000 people in 14 countries train for careers that had been previously inaccessible to them. 86% of graduates are in jobs three months after graduating, 93% are unemployed with no income before they begin. Moving training programs online during Covid-19, Generation has worked with its partners to upskill more than 200,000 workers on personal protective equipment use and pandemic-relevant job skills since the crisis began. 


Mona Mourshed, global CEO of Generation said: “The pandemic is leaving an employment crisis in its wake, and solving it requires far-reaching solutions. We are expanding our global work at Generation to meet this challenge and to train, place, and support people into new jobs that would be otherwise inaccessible. In addition, we have been training healthcare workers with the skills to treat and care for COVID-19 patients, with 200,000 reached over the past four months. We are thrilled to be one of the 2020 Roddenberry Prize winners, and so thankful for the support of our partners and funders who have helped us set the bold agenda that is being recognized today.


2020 Roddenberry Prize winner in Science: 


The Roddenberry Foundation is proud to support organizations working scientific advancements in health and medicine including vaccines, autoimmune diseases, cancer research, and stem cell therapy. We know as the global population ages and grows, mass migration continues, and conflict, drought, and famine create more acute challenges, the pace and scope of health related innovations and scientific efforts must not abate. We are pleased to announce our 2020 Roddenberry Prize winner, Global Gene Corp who’s medical technology platforms are advancing health outcomes for people around the world. 


Global Gene Corp — Based in Mumbai, India and Cambridge, UK and with operations around the world. Global Gene Corp is democratizing healthcare through genomics by mapping and organizing the world’s genomic diversity, overcoming the bias that 80% of all existing genomic data come from people of European ancestry. In response to Covid-19, the company has expanded

 its genomics technology platforms, originally developed to enable large scale studies on human health to create next generation therapeutics, to include a multilingual contact tracing platform with mobility passports and individual risk evaluation. 


Sumit Jamuar, Chairman & CEO of Global Gene Corp said:  “At Global Gene Corp, we are truly honored and humbled to receive the Roddenberry Foundation Prize for 2020.  Growing up on Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry inspired us with his vision of a future where technology is a force for incredible positive impact on humanity.  This recognition of our work to create an equitable and fair world where all of us, irrespective of where we live, can benefit by leapfrogging to the healthcare of the future enabled by genomics, digital health and creating the next generation of therapeutics is a truly remarkable moment in our journey to create lasting transformation.”

2020 Roddenberry Prize winner in Education: 

The Roddenberry Foundation is proud to support organizations working to improve education for all people around the globe. We know schooling improves the overall health of a community, supports economic growth, empowers women and girls, and even combats climate change. We are pleased to announce the 2020 Roddenberry Prize winner, Libraries Without Borders who are committed to increasing literacy and access to books globally.


Libraries Without Borders (Bibliothèques Sans Frontières) — Based in Montreuil, France and with operations around the world. Libraries Without Borders ​works in 20 countries to advocate for libraries to become epicenters for the reduction of inequalities and the development of people and communities.Through innovative solutions they are ensuring books are available even for off-grid populations with offline Internet technology. The organization has adapted to raise awareness of Covid-19 in countries such as Bangladesh and Burundi, and internationally by hosting daily live videos with educational and creative activities for children. It has also trained volunteer tutors to teach migrant children using WhatsApp. 


Jeremy Lachal,  Director General of Bibliothèques Sans Frontières, said: We are so happy and honored to win the Roddenberry Prize! We are convinced that technologies could be a fantastic lever to foster the access to education, that’s why we want to work with local universities and Senegalese training centres. We want to develop offline Internet solutions to reinforce the access to higher education and to help young people in difficulties obtaining work, including young people who were not previously enrolled in higher education.”




Notes to editors:


Foundation representatives and available for interview, and there is a wealth of photography of the projects to share. 


About The Roddenberry Foundation

The Roddenberry Foundation is committed to big, bold ideas that can change the world. We make catalytic, timely investments in original ideas and extraordinary people through three core programs which uncover and support great, often untested ideas, and the individuals and organizations whose vision and leadership have the potential to bring them to fruition. http://roddenberryfoundation.org