The Arctic Inspiration Prize team is calling on northerners to use their time in isolation to come up with ideas that will make their communities better.
Organizers have been spending the past few weeks trying to decide whether to go ahead with the prize this year amid the Covid-19 pandemic and resulting lockdown.
Glen Brocklebank, a past winner, is now in charge of a committee of past winners – or laureates – who look at improvements to make the prize even stronger.
“We all sort-of agreed that it’s a good time to get together and come up with projects that will help make communities stronger,” Brocklebank said from Chesterfield Inlet.
He added that instead of people getting together in groups, they should get together virtually to come up with ideas or programs to submit to the Arctic Inspiration Prize team in September.
The isolation time can be used as an ideas incubator.
“Try to think of ideas that you may have had in the past but didn’t have enough time, because life gets in the way,” Brocklebank said.
“This is an amazing time to try and do that.”
Even at the best of times, Brocklebank said, it’s really difficult in the North to leverage funds through grants.
He is speaking from experience. Brocklebank’s team won $140,000 in the 2017 prize cycle for the Chesterfield Inlet Qajaq program, which has been in existence since 2004.
The program teaches young people how to build qajaqs and how to paddle. It got more funding through the Arctic Inspiration Prize than the entire time it had been in business, Brocklebank said. “It rejuvenated our project.”
Before the prize, he said the group used duct tape to hold together qajaqs and paddling gear.
“It made all the young people really happy that we could paddle without getting cold or soaked, and we could build more boats,” Brocklebank said.
There are three categories in the Arctic Inspiration Prize: the youth category, where up to seven teams can win up to $100,000; the AIP category, where up to four teams can win up to $500,000; and the grand prize of $1 million.
Organizers plan to go ahead with this season’s prize cycle as usual. That means teams should have letters of intent submitted by September, and the deadline for final applications will be in October.
They hope to go ahead with an awards ceremony in Whitehorse in 2021.
“This is such a huge thing and it can do so much good,” Brocklebank said.