Apply for the 2021 Catalyst Grant

IREX is excited to announce the launch of the Mandela Washington Fellowship Catalyst Grant, a unique funding opportunity for 2021 Fellowship Alumni! Through a new partnership with D-Prize, a non-profit organization that works to distribute and scale proven technologies to benefit people in extreme poverty, approximately five 2021 Fellows will be selected to receive grants of up to $20,000 USD each to fund initiatives to catalyze change and distribute proven poverty interventions wherever extreme poverty exists.

Round 1 feedback and advancement decisions have been sent to all candidates via email. D-Prize will communicate future advancement decisions based on the timeline below.

Who Should Apply? 

The Mandela Washington Fellowship Catalyst Grant is open to eligible 2021 Fellowship Alumni from all tracks, sectors, and levels of expertise who want to launch or scale a social enterprise in communities throughout Africa. The Mandela Washington Fellowship Catalyst Grant is intended to support 2021 Fellowship Alumni in distributing an already proven poverty solution. 2021 Fellows must have completed all requirements to be considered Fellowship Alumni and been notified by the Fellowship of their status in order to be eligible for this opportunity.

The 2021 Mandela Washington Fellowship Catalyst Grant is structured around several key poverty challenges with proven solutions. Applicants can either select from one of the pre-established challenges or create their own.

2021 Mandela Washington Fellowship Catalyst Grant Challenges*


  • Quality Inputs Challenge: Can you provide smallholder farmers with high-quality inputs and training proven to increase their harvests?
  • Post-Harvest Challenge: Can you provide smallholder farmers post-harvest loans and storage technology proven to increase their incomes?

Clean Water

  • Chlorine Dispenser Challenge: Can you distribute community chlorine dispensers and teach people to use them?


  • Teaching at the Right Level Challenge: Can you teach basic reading and mathematics skills to primary school students in a resource-limited classroom?


  • Solar Lamp Challenge: Can you sell solar lights to rural or slum-dwelling households in need?

Governance & Infrastructure

  • Transparency Challenge: Can you improve transparency and report data on the public service performance?
  • Road Safety Challenge: Do you have an idea for ways to reduce reckless driving and road accidents?

Health Access Challenges

  • Immunization Challenge: Can you direct 500 caregivers (parents or other guardians) to bring their infants to health facilities for routine immunizations that otherwise would not occur?
  • Maternal Health Challenge: Can you develop an organization to train birth attendants to administer medicine to prevent postpartum hemorrhaging?
  • Patient Identification Challenge: Can you create a way to identify patients and connect them to early treatment solutions?


  • Poverty Graduation Challenge: Can you provide business coaching, capital, and social support to lift people out of ultra-poverty?

Propose your own challenge!

  • If you know of another proven poverty intervention in need of greater distribution, we would like to hear it. The only requirements are to choose an already proven poverty solution that needs distribution to more people in the developing world.


  • Round 1 Application Deadline: October 25, 2021, at 11:59 pm EDT
  • Round 1 Decision Notifications and Round 2 Application Invitations: December 2021
  • Round 2: 2021 Mandela Washington Fellowship Alumni applicants invited to Round 2 will be required to submit a plan a few weeks after invitation.
  • Final Round: 2021 Mandela Washington Fellowship Alumni applicants invited to the Final Round will interview with judges on the phone.
  • Winning ventures will be announced in March 2022.

*D-Prize developed the challenges for the purposes of this competition. The preferences and views expressed in the documents do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government.