Today’s global challenges are massive, and affect the planet and people’s lives with equal impact. We need to move beyond the myopic view that we can solve global challenges one sector at a time. Yet, few organizations are equipped to do the needed cross-sector work, and only a few progressive funders are supporting it. We seek to change that, and launched the Bridge Spark Fund as a catalyst to empower teams and demonstrate what’s possible through solutions that deliver cross-sector impact.

Bridge Spark Fund: 2020 Winners

In September 2019, we launched the Bridge Spark Fund—a funding opportunity to expand the pipeline of integrated solutions ready to address today’s most pressing global challenges. We granted four US$150,000 awards to advance testing of solutions that benefit people and nature across three challenge areas: transforming the global food system for health and sustainabilityimproving sanitation and wastewater management, and accelerating a low-carbon, clean air and environmentally-friendly energy future for all.

The winning teams are profiled below, and the fund also recognized 51 semi-finalist teams. For more information on the competition, see the original Request for Proposals.

Tropical Agroecology Toolkit

AgroEco Toolkit - village view

Photo: Timothy Treuer

It is well-known that agroecology can improve soils, agricultural productivity, livelihoods and biodiversity. But can it go one further and improve human health?

The University of Vermont and Health In Harmony are working with farmers in Madagascar to adopt agroforestry and forest restoration practices in ways that target these multiple benefits, including health.

Diversifying Blue Livelihoods Through Holistic Ocean Farming

Blue Livelihoods Rope seeding

Photo: Francis Okalo

Aquaculture is on the rise, but will it repeat the ills of historic farming and fishing practices, or chart a new course for sustainable and healthy food systems? The Blue Livelihoods team will help rural villages in Kenya and The Gambia aim firmly for the latter.

Led by the Coastal Science and Policy program at the University of California, Santa Cruz and Sustainable Ocean Alliance, and in partnership with KMFRI in Kenya and the GREAT Institute in The Gambia, this team is adapting seaweed and other forms of aquaculture to local conditions, improving livelihoods and creating a path to a sustainable food system.

Infrastructure NEXT

Infrastructure NEXT_utility workers

Photo: Clean Water Services

Millions of dollars sit at the ready to help low-income and rural U.S. communities build new infrastructure. But many of these communities don’t have the capacity to go after these federal funds. Directed well, these infrastructure dollars could rapidly increase renewable energy generation and access, treat wastewater (still a problem in the U.S.), and provide climate-saving public transportation.

The Willamette Partnership and Center for Sustainable Infrastructure is partnering with low-income communities in the U.S. Pacific Northwest to develop sustainable, multi-purpose infrastructure projects for water, energy, transportation, and solid waste so they are better positioned to acquire these funds

Automated Emissions Reductions (AER)


Photo: Unsplash

Timing of electricity use is key in determining whether the energy grid is drawing on cleaner or dirtier sources. This situation holds a surprisingly powerful opportunity to reduce the climate and health impacts of energy use.

WattTime is working to scale its leading Automated Emissions Reduction software solution, which allows electricity-consuming devices to automatically opt for cleaner energy, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions and slashing air pollution.

Bridge Spark Fund Judges

The semi-finalist teams were invited to submit full proposals, which were reviewed by a panel of external judges, including funders and subject-matter experts.

Judges for U.S. Impact proposals

Dana Bourland, VP Environment, JPB Foundation

Chad English, Science Program Officer, David & Lucile Packard Foundation

David Fleming, VP Global Health Programs, PATH

Lisa Graumlich, Dean, College of Environment, University of Washington

Jan Mazurek, Director, Carbon Dioxide Removal Fund, ClimateWorks Foundation

LaKisha Odom, Scientific Program Director, Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research

Alonzo Plough, VP Research-Evaluation-Learning & Chief Science Officer, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Timothy Profeta, Director, Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, Duke University

Judges for Low- and Middle-Income Country impact proposals

Ruchi Badola, Senior Professor, Wildlife Institute of India

Patricia Balvanera, Professor, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

Karen Levy, Associate Professor, Emory University

Steve McCormick, Managing Director, Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation

Mark Sanderson, Managing Program Director, Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies

Jolyne Sanjak, Senior Associate, Tetra Tech

Sara Scherr, President & CEO, EcoAgriculture Partners

Stanley Wood, Senior Program Officer, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Bridge Spark Awards

In 2017 and 2018, the Bridge Collaborative ran two Bridge Spark Challenge competitions to seed new ideas for cross-sector impact with $10,000 catalyst grants. The positive outcomes from the eight winning teams and our experiences working with them informed the evolution of the Bridge Spark Fund. Please see here for more information about the 2017 and 2018 projects that received Bridge Spark Awards.