Arctic Inspiration, ‘leaving money on table,’ seeks more applicants

The Arctic Inspiration Prize is struggling to attract enough applications to give away all of the available funding each year, particularly in the youth category.

Youth awards of up to $100,000 each are given out at the Arctic Inspiration Prize’s annual spring ceremony. At last month’s virtual announcement, two NWT projects received funding in the category.

This year’s ceremony gave out more than $3 million in total for the first time. The other two categories are the AIP award, worth up to $500,000, and the Arctic Inspiration Prize itself, which awards $1 million.


However, Glen Abernethy – the former Northwest Territories health minister, who is now the Arctic Inspiration Prize’s NWT regional manager – said much more money could have been handed out.

“Normally we try to get to $700,000, that would be seven prizes in the youth category. This year, we only got two applications that met the evaluation criteria for consideration,” Abernethy told Cabin Radio.

“We’re leaving money on the table.”

Abernethy said the Covid-19 pandemic had reduced the number of applicants in the past year, which he said was understandable. Now, the prize is launching a drive to attract new applicants for the year ahead.

The prize is open to people from the NWT, Yukon, Nunavut, Nunavik and Nunatsiavut. Projects must be new – they can’t be existing initiatives – and must “have primary impact” in those regions.


Teams “must be led by a northerner with a majority of northern team members, but can include members from the south,” organizers state on the prize’s website.

Abernethy said projects with the best chance of success are those that already have some funding lined up from other sources, and which can demonstrate how the Arctic Inspiration Prize’s money would fit into their overall long-term plan for success.

“Any idea that you think will benefit your community, your residents, people of the Arctic – in this case, the people of the Northwest Territories – then we want you to get prepared, we want you to build a team, we want you to find supporters, which in many cases would be financial supporters,” he said.

“We want you to have gone out and made sure that you have an idea of a project that is sustainable.

“If you look at the different prizes we’ve awarded in the youth category, we’ve had lots of variety. This year, we had music groups and art groups coming forward. In previous years, we had groups who wanted to do on-the-land programming or train people how to run a small business. There’s no limit to what your creativity can bring forward.”

The initial deadline for the next Arctic Inspiration Prize, by which letters of intent must have been submitted, is September 7, 2021. A full nomination package is due by October 13, 2021. There are application guides on the prize’s website.