Full Proposal

Application Requirements and Criteria


All teams participating in the final round of the 2023-2024 Big Ideas Contest and Mastercard Foundation Alumni Scholars Impact Fund are required to submit both a written proposal and a short application video by the Wednesday, April 10th, 2024 by 1pm Pacific Time. (Note:  The deadline for teams from the University of Sussex is March 17th.)  Please carefully read all of the information contained on this webpage. Any applications that do not adhere to the requirements outlined below for both the written proposal and application video will be deemed ineligible. All decisions made by the judges and contest administrators are considered final and not subject to appeal.

Application Video

All finalist teams are required to submit a short application video between 60 and 90 seconds. Big Ideas is utilizing the Y-Combinator Application Video model. This format requires that teams speak directly to the camera, leaving out all production aspects (such as music, effects, images, slides, “post-production wizardry,” etc.) This is not a video making contest and no fancy editing is necessary (or desirable). We just want to hear directly from the student team members about their project in a very straightforward, clear and concise manner. For teams with remote members, recording via zoom is acceptable. 

The video is an opportunity for teams to introduce themselves, explain what they are doing and why, and detail anything else they want judges to know about the team or the project. Applicants should carefully review the Y-Combinator Application Video instructions for tips and examples, some of which are outlined as follow:

  1. Up to 90 Second Video
  2. Only Student Team Members Talking
  3. No Effects
  4. No Script
  5. No Music
  6. Check Audio

Videos should be uploaded directly to the application platforms along with the written proposal by Wednesday, April 10th, 2024, by 1pm PT. Accepted video file formats are as follow: .3pg, .avi, .flv, .m4v, .mkv, .mov, .mp4, .mpg, .webm, .wmv.6


Written Proposal

Finalist teams will have the opportunity to develop and refine their pre-proposals into full proposals due on Wednesday, April 10th, 2024, 1pm PT (March 17 for teams from University of Sussex). In the full proposal, finalists will expand on the ideas presented in their pre-proposals, edit their proposals based on judges’ feedback, and have the opportunity to refine their project ideas through collaboration with a Big Ideas mentor.

Finalists are instructed to submit full proposals no more than 8 pages in length, single-spaced, at least 11pt font, 1-inch margins, including the required budget and implementation timeline. Teams are permitted up to 1 additional page for team bios (required) and up to an additional 4 pages for references and appendices (optional). Unlike the pre-proposal application, appendices are permitted in the final round. Below is a list of required elements that Big Ideas recommends are included in every application. However, students are allowed to modify the order and presentation of the information as needed to tell their story. The required components are as follows.

Written Proposal: Required Elements

  1. Problem Statement

The problem statement is a clear description and background information on the identified problem. An effective problem statement is thoroughly researched, shows a deep understanding of the issue, and builds a strong case to support why the project is needed. This includes but is not limited to: research/statistics on the problem, and/or research/statistics about the target community or market.

  1. Existing Solutions

Teams should include an overview of any existing services, programs, interventions, or products that have been designed or implemented to address this problem. Where applicable, applicants should discuss the limitations of these approaches, the gaps that still exist, and present research on what has been done in the past and where those solutions fell short. 

  1. Proposed Innovation

The team should provides a summary of the innovative project (e.g. program, service, product, etc.) how it works, and it’s intended impact.  This is the “nuts and bolts” portion of the proposal and focuses on what the project will look like in its 1st year of implementation. It briefly explains any implementation challenges that may arise and how they will be addressed. It may note (but does not focus on) whether the project intends to scale up or expand in future years. 

3a. Progress to Date: Mastercard Foundation Alumni Scholars Impact Fund ONLY. Impact Fund teams (not Big Ideas applicants) should summarize any progress made to date (Milestones achieved, partnerships, funding, publicity, awards/achievements, etc.)

  1. Implementation Timeline

The timeline describes the key next steps for implementing the idea over the next year. Big Ideas awards will be disbursed in June/July 2024. Therefore, for the purposes of this Contest, the “next year” is defined as June 2024-June 2025. The majority of the application should focus on this timeframe, however, teams may mention work conducted prior to or following this 1-year timeframe in order to convey the broader context or impact of the project.

  1. Measuring Success

Teams should include information about how they will monitor or measure the impact or success of their project throughout the 1st year of implementation (June 2024-June 2025). This does not need to be a formal monitoring and evaluation plan, but can take the form of metrics and methods to make sure they can track their progress.

  1. Budget

Includes both expected costs and revenue for the next year of the project (June 2024-June 2025) 

*Note: The funding requested from Big Ideas can be no greater than $10,000.  If anticipated 1st year expenses are greater than $10,000 total, the team should convey a realistic plan for securing additional funds (e.g., additional grants, fundraising, revenue generation, etc.)

  1. Team Bios

A list of key project team members with brief biographies that explain the capability of the team to pursue their idea. Teams are permitted 1 additional page, beyond the 8 page limit, for team bios. 

Judging Criteria

Entries will be judged according to the criteria below.

Criteria 1:  Innovative solution (30%)

Is your Big Idea a creative and innovative solution to a significant problem? Include in your proposal how your Big Idea does the following:

  • Addresses a major societal problem, and conveys a clear understanding of that problem.
  • Approaches the challenge in a new or unique way.
  • Provides a timely solution that should be implemented now .

Criteria 2:  Effective implementation strategy (40%)

How would you operationalize your Big Idea over the next year (June 2024- June 2025) to put you on a path for long-term impact? Include in your proposal how your Big Idea implementation plan does the following: 

  • Assembles a team, including potential partnerships, with the right skills and experience, such as technical, business, field and marketing.
  • Demonstrates community or market familiarity, including cultural, ethical, and legal implications. 
  • Identifies potential risks or obstacles, and proposes strategies to avoid or minimize those challenges.
  • Incorporates a 1-year timeline, metrics for success, and budget* that convey a clear plan for future growth.
  • Impact Fund Teams (ONLY) should emphasize and describe the project’s presence in Africa.

Criteria 3:  Persuasive proposal (30%)

Can you convince potential partners and supporters to fund or assist your Big Idea? Include in your elevator pitch and proposal clear, concise, and compelling answers to the following:

  • What problem do you solve, and why is this project urgent now?
  • How does your innovation work?
  • What progress will you make over the next year (June 2024- June 2025), and what will you do with any funds you are awarded?
  • How will the world be different in the future with your innovative solution? 

*Note: The funding requested from Big Ideas can be no greater than $10,000.  If anticipated 1st year expenses are greater than $10,000 total, the team should convey a realistic plan for securing additional funds (e.g., additional grants, fundraising, revenue generation, etc.)

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes. Only one team member is required to be a matriculated student from an eligible campus.

We understand that team building is a primary challenge teams face during the pre-proposal round; however, your for the final round your team should be able to demonstrate that it comprises individuals with the necessary skills to implement your project.  Some teams may seek to hire or recruit additional team members during the 1st year of implementation (between June 2024-June 2025.) In these instances, applicants should list the type of team member they will seek to recruit (skillsets & role on project), when they will be recruited, and strategies for recruiting them.

No. Full proposals should be a single PDF document no more than eight pages long, including a 1-year budget and implementation timeline. You may have additional references/citations beyond the 8-page limit. For consistency and fairness purposes, the proposal should be size at least 11pt font, single-spaced, with one-inch margins.

Yes! Unlike the pre-proposal round, appendices are allowed in the final-round and do not count towards the 8 page limit.

You may rearrange the sections as it makes sense for your proposal, and you can add an additional section(s) if you think it will enhance your proposal. That said, it is highly recommended that you include a section (and the appropriate section heading) for each of the components described on the pre-proposal application requirements, as the judging criteria focus on the information provided in each of those sections.

There are no restrictions on what expenses can be covered with Big Ideas funds. Past winners have budgeted for personnel costs (e.g., hiring a programmer or marketing consultant), domestic and international travel, marketing costs, building materials costs, and so on. Typically, teams do not include a salary for themselves in their budget. However, note that you should not request more than $10,000 from Big Ideas. If your project requires more than $10,000 in funding, note other funding sources you are pursuing in the Revenue section of the budget (and include in the Notes section whether you’ve applied for this money and not yet received it, have received it, etc.)

This year, Big Ideas awards will range from 5,000 to $20,000 based on the overall quality of the proposal. Proposals should not request more than $10,000 from Big Ideas in their budgets.

No. As long as you are consistent, you can format your references any way you choose.

Yes! You can include figures in your proposal to help explain your project, but they will count toward the page limit. Any image not created by your team should be properly cited. If you are worried about losing space for writing, you can include more images in an appendix.

As in the pre-proposal round, applicants are required to complete a webform with information about their team and a brief description of their project. Applicants will then attach their proposal and budget (preferably as one PDF document). The Big Ideas Contest reserves the right to use the brief description of the project in the webform publicly. However, your attached proposal will be kept confidential. If you are concerned about protecting your idea, do not put any protected information in short (webform) description.

Big Ideas awards must be disbursed either to a) a registered student (from an eligible campus), b) an ASUC student group account, or c) a campus research account of a faculty advisor. Awards cannot be disbursed to partners, non-profits, or students from non-eligible campuses. The Team Lead (primary applicant) will be the main contact person for all Big Ideas communications and must be a matriculated student at an eligible campus. The Team Lead has final authority in determining prize disbursement options.

The judges are a mix of academia and industry professionals with varied expertise, backgrounds and skillsets. When crafting your proposal, you should be writing to a general audience. Be sure not to use jargon and explain technical terms. Judges’ identities will remain anonymous throughout the Contest. You will receive written feedback from the judges, but you will not be given access to the names or contact information of the judges. If there is a certain judge that you wish to get in touch with based upon their feedback, please contact the Big Ideas staff and we will attempt to facilitate an introduction.