How it Works


The American Dream Ideas Challenge involves a multi-round selection process, with the ultimate goal of selecting the best ideas for up to $1 million in funding. In the first round, 10 ideas will be selected, each eligible for a $10,000 grant. In the second round, the Community Advisory Board will choose the three top ideas, eligible for up to $30,000 in additional funding. The finalists will participate in a national pitch to Schmidt Futures, with at least one team advancing to the final round to be considered for up to $1 million in funding.



5/13/19 - 11/15/19: Call for proposals

11/15/19: Proposals due by 11:59 p.m.

November 2019: Top 10 ideas selected and each team receives $10,000

December 2019: Public announcement of Top 10 ideas


December 2019 - January 2020: Round 2 participants develop ideas and prepare for 10-15 minute pitch to Community Advisory Board

Late January 2020: Top 10 pitch ideas to Community Advisory Board

February 2020: Public announcement of Top 3 ideas that will advance to Round 3. Top 3 ideas selected and each team receives $30,000


February - March 2020: Round 3 participants refine idea for national pitch session with Schmidt Futures advisory board

Late March 2020: Top 3 pitch to Schmidt Futures advisory board, with other top 3 ideas from the Alliance of the American Dream universities

Late March 2020: Final 4-5 ideas chosen to advance to final round


June 2020: Top teams will pitch ideas to Schmidt Futures for the opportunity to be awarded up to $1 million


Below are answers to commonly asked questions about the American Dream Ideas Challenge.
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What is the American Dream Ideas Challenge?

The American Dream Ideas Challenge, run by the University of Utah, is a statewide call for innovative policy ideas or investable concepts that have the potential to increase net income for 10,000 middle-class households in Utah by 10 percent by 2022. Utah’s participation in the Alliance is made possible through an initial gift of $1.5 million from Schmidt Futures to the University of Utah.

We are seeking innovative ideas to be developed through a multi-round challenge, with the ultimate goal of selecting three ideas to compete nationally to receive up to $1 million from Schmidt Futures. The Top 10 proposals will be selected in the first round, each eligible for a $10,000 grant to help refine the idea. In the second round, the selection committee will choose the three best proposals, each eligible for an additional $30,000 to use in further development. These proposals will then advance to the national pitch round. For more detailed information, download the information packet.

The Alliance believes the best ideas will come from people working together using an interdisciplinary approach grounded in facts, data science, and diverse perspectives to expand access to and increase stability of the middle class in Utah. We are particularly interested in innovative solutions in the areas of health care, workforce development/education, transportation, housing and supports for families.

The university welcomes proposals from individuals, organizations, and entities serving communities throughout Utah. We are looking to engage a broad range of perspectives and encourage ideas from community members, government agencies or entities, nonprofits, business and thought leaders, as well as faculty, staff and students from universities and colleges from across the state. Organizations must be based in the United States or its territories and must serve communities in Utah.

Over the past 50 years jobs that once provided a living wage and benefits, with some discretionary income leftover, have dwindled. Pew Research Center found the American middle class lost ground in 203 of 229 U.S. metropolitan areas between 2000 and 2014. Many workers once considered middle class—teachers, police officers, fire fighters, correctional officers, social workers, nurses, etc.—struggle to make ends meet given the costs of housing, transportation, health care and food. Supporting their families often requires working multiple jobs.

The Alliance for the American Dream is based on the concept that a healthier and more robust middle class reduces income disparity and provides enhanced opportunity and economic mobility. Its goal is to increase shared prosperity and American competitiveness by generating and investing in ideas that strengthen the middle class by giving more Americans the skills and opportunities they need to improve their lives.

For more information on the middle class in Utah, read Defining Utah's Middle Class by the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute. Pew Research defines middle class as adults with an annual household income that is two-thirds to double the national median, after adjusting incomes for household size. In 2014, it described that range as $24,000 to $72,000 for an individual and $54,000 to $161,000 for a family of five. Other scholars note there are a range of ways to define the middle class that go beyond income.

Schmidt Futures launched the Alliance for the American Dream in April 2018 to seed ideas that have potential to support and grow America’s middle class. The Alliance consists of four public universities that are soliciting and developing policy and technology ideas in their respective states to ensure a vibrant middle class. The other universities selected to participate are The Ohio State University, Arizona State University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Schmidt Futures is a venture facility for the public benefit working to advance society through technology, inspire breakthroughs in scientific knowledge, and promote shared prosperity. To achieve these goals, it uses a broad set of tools —including gifts, grants, investments, and startup activity — for charitable, educational and commercial efforts with a public purpose.

An innovation leader for nearly four decades, Eric Schmidt has been executive chairman of Alphabet, CEO and chairman of Google, and in leadership positions at Sun and Novell. He is currently a technical advisor at Alphabet. Wendy Schmidt, a business woman and philanthropist, is the president of The Schmidt Family Foundation, where she works to advance the development of renewable energy and the wiser use of natural resources. She is also the co-founder of the Schmidt Ocean Institute, which advances oceanographic research, discovery, and knowledge, and catalyzes sharing of information about oceans.

Eric Schmidt served as the chief executive officer of Novell, based in Provo, Utah, from 1997 to 2001.



Schmidt Futures launched The Alliance for the American Dream in April 2018 to seed ideas that have potential to support and grow America’s middle class. The Alliance consists of four public universities: the University of Utah, The Ohio State University, Arizona State University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.



Schmidt Futures is a philanthropic initiative, founded by Eric and Wendy Schmidt, which bets early on people who will make our world better—helping people to achieve more for others by applying advanced science and technology thoughtfully and by working together across fields. To realize this vision, Schmidt Futures uses a broad set of tools—including gifts, grants, investments, and startup activity—for charitable, educational and commercial efforts with a public purpose.