Reflecting on the First Decade of The Charles Bronfman Prize

Ten years ago -- together with our spouses, Andrew Hauptman and Claudine Blondin Bronfman -- we founded The Charles Bronfman Prize as a birthday gift to our father. He has long been committed to supporting young people, and we wanted the prize established in his name to do the same. The intent was to create an early recognition of endeavor, rather than a lifetime achievement award, as a way to amplify important work and make a difference in the careers of those working for social change. We wanted to recognize people committed to repairing the world inspired by their Jewish values, since that too is a reflection of our father. Finally, we hoped that the prize would not only be an award, but also a fellowship where prize recipients would continue to meet and learn from each other.

Our father has long held the belief that philanthropic endeavors should be approached with the same rigor and evaluation as business undertakings. With that in mind, we wondered aloud how we would measure the prize's success. At the time we agreed that it would take ten years before we would know what we had accomplished.

Here we are, a decade later, and the prize has exceeded all of our expectations. Each recipient has made an incredible mark on the world, and what we now realize is that this gift to our father is a gift to us as well. The laureates remind us that change is possible in this world and that the future is in truly good hands. Along the way, we have also been fortunate to see the creation of an amazing extended Prize family of like-minded idealists who have formed a new cycle of giving -- laureates helping laureates -- a community drawing attention to each other's work.

One of the great privileges of the prize is coming to know our recipients each year and having an opportunity to share their stories. Their work continues to represent what the Prize was established to celebrate. They are all dynamic next-generation leaders with a vision for making a difference and all have records of significant accomplishment. Our laureates' work has spanned the issues of health, human rights, education, the environment, and national service. And while the work they do is all different, each laureate shares three core characteristics - humility, generosity of spirit and a relentless determination to accomplish their mission. Individually they have created effective methods within their chosen fields to deliver measurable results and models for systemic change.

  • Jay Feinberg created the only Jewish bone marrow donor registry in North America and has registered over 233,000 donors;
  • Alon Tal has taught peace-building through environmental studies to over 800 Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian students;
  • Rachel Andres has helped protect 100,000 Darfur refugee women in Chad;
  • Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin are transforming the face of public education by preparing over 50,000 students in underserved communities for success in college and in life;
  • Jared Genser has campaigned to free more than 29 prisoners of conscience;
  • Sasha Chanoff's organization was responsible for 16% of Africa's refugee resettlement numbers in 2013;
  • Karen Tal is creating national and international models for educational success in 14 schools in Israel;
  • Eric Greitens has shifted how veterans are perceived at home, awarding over 1,000 fellowships to veterans who continue their service in their local communities; and
  • Eric Rosenthal has brought attention to the human rights of one billion people with disabilities.

As the prize has evolved, so have our nominees and our evaluation process. Philanthropy and humanitarian work are increasingly taking new shapes and forms. 2014 marked the first time The Charles Bronfman Prize was awarded to a for-profit social enterprise as we honored Sam Goldman, who has improved the lives of more than 37 million people by providing reliable solar power. This decision taught us that commitment to finding solutions to social problems does not have to follow traditional philanthropic models.

Much of the success of the prize can be attributed to the wisdom and commitment of our distinguished international panel of judges including Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella, from the Supreme Court of Canada; James Wolfensohn, former President of the World Bank; Dan Meridor, former Deputy Prime Minister in the Israeli Cabinet; Professor Amitai Ziv, a former prize recipient who founded the Israel Center for Medical Simulation, which has contributed to patient safety and quality of care by training over 140,000 healthcare professionals; and Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat, former Deputy Secretary of the Treasury and former Ambassador to the European Union. Collectively they have world-renown expertise in fields ranging from debt relief to poverty alleviation, from world economies and culture to justice and human rights, from medical education to technology and spirituality, and over the past ten years, they have done an exceptional job of selecting a group of laureates who continue to make a tremendous mark on the world.

The search for the 2015 recipient who will usher in our second decade is underway with the global call for nominations closing January 15. Nominating teams are a critical asset to the success of the prize. They come from the public and private sector, foundations, non-profits, religious institutions, and community organizations, and without them, the prize could not have become what it is today.

We don't know who the next ten years will introduce, but we do know that the recipients' work will be an inspiration to our family, to the community, and to the next generations -- generations who we hope through the prize and the efforts of our laureates will inherit a better world.

Please help us recognize those who improve the world and learn more about the Charles Bronfman Prize, and our nomination process by visiting:

CORRECTION: A previous version of this post incorrectly identified Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella as the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Ellen Bronfman Hauptman is Co-Chairman of Andell Inc. and Co-Founder of The Charles Bronfman Prize

Stephen Bronfman is Executive Chairman of Claridge and Co-Founder of The Charles Bronfman Prize