Up to $3M up for grabs as Arctic Inspiration Prize money rises again

Up to $3M up for grabs as Arctic Inspiration Prize money rises again

The prize money for the Arctic Inspiration Prize has risen again, to up to $3 million.

The prize has been awarded to projects in Canada's North for the last five years, and the foundation has made some changes for its sixth year, including the addition of awards for youth teams.

"We want solutions coming from the North and not from the south," said Kevin Kablutsiak, the executive director of the Arctic Inspiration Prize. "We believe that Northerners can find their own solutions, and they know what is relevant, and this is why it's so successful because ideas and solutions are coming from the Arctic."

This isn't the first time the prize money has increased. In 2014, Yellowknife's FOXY program (Fostering Open eXpression among Youth), which brings sexual health and leadership education to young people, won the entire $1 million prize. Last year, a $1.5 million prize was split between a safe house for Nunavik families, a computer science curriculum in Nunavut and a Nunatsiavut sea ice project.

Ellen Hamilton, the executive director of Nunavut arts group Qaggiq — the first arts organization to win the Arctic Inspiration Prize, in January of 2016 — says the money can completely transform a Northern organization.

"It can take you from struggling as a group of volunteers with a good idea to really achieving something that seemed impossible when you first started, but now becomes reality," she said.

In a news release Thursday, the foundation behind the prize said the money will be awarded in three categories: one "exceptional" team will win $1 million for a project that leads to an "immediate and long-term impact across a large geographical area or a profound impact in a smaller Northern area;" up to $500,000 will be awarded to up to four teams; and up to seven youth teams will be awarded $100,000.

"I am most excited about the introduction of a youth category, and I hope it will help to inspire a new generation of Arctic innovators," said Kevin Kablutsiak, executive director of the Arctic Inspiration Prize, in the news release.

Arnold Witzig and his wife Sima Sharifi founded the prize in 2012. Both immigrants, they created the prize as a way to contribute to the future of their adopted country.

The award is meant to help groups that are working to better the lives of Northerners. To date, 14 teams have been awarded $6 million to support projects in Arctic communities.

The nomination period for the 2017 Arctic Inspiration Prize is open until Oct. 23.