Help us engage younger Americans on the problem of a growing national debt
humanities & arts policy analysis policy budget legislation national debt
top 50%
entries reviewed
4 days ago
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NOTE: This challenge is open to US college students and recent graduates. No other submissions will be accepted. 

The generation of Americans in college or just beginning their professional lives will be the one facing the greatest impact of a large increase in the national debt. However, it is difficult to make the  case to individuals that they have a tangible, individual economic stake in seeing the national debt problem addressed, especially when the solutions sometimes seem to involve tangible economic "pain." The Concord Coalition wants to hear ideas on how to best engage younger Americans on these issues.

At The Concord Coalition, we have engagement tools, such as an interactive budget exercise and chart presentations, and we regularly facilitate forums with policy experts and former members of Congress. However, we find that large numbers, like the $22 trillion total national debt, can be difficult to grasp at an individual level. When you hear a number that big, it almost seems unfathomable, and dividing that number into a per-person portion of the debt isn't an accurate way to describe the impact the debt has on each of us as individuals. 

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This project was funded in part by grants or donations from:

The Richard C. Munroe Foundation

Peter T. Paul

The New Hampshire Charitable Foundation's Geoffrey E. Clark and Martha Fuller Clark Fund

Paul and Sandra Montrone

New Hampshire Senator Daniel E. Innis


Tell us how to better engage younger Americans on the subject of the national debt. Specifically, answer the following questions in detail:

  1. How should we connect with this target audience in a way that resonates? What will most effectively capture their attention? Explain what media avenues, in-person events, and student groups we should use for our approach.
  2. Then, how can we put the national debt into perspective for this younger audience? How can we accurately make the national debt feel tangible and pressing?

Your idea must be inexpensive enough to replicate at scale. (ex. at multiple locations or campuses across the country)

Here's an example of making a large economic issue feel tangible/pressing: Recently, economists devised a metric to explain the state of Venezuela's worsening economy. Instead of simply pointing to an inflation rate of over 1 million percent to highlight the dire economic conditions, they framed it in terms of how many calories a person could purchase in a single day if they spent 100 percent of their income on the cheapest available calorie. At minimum wage, a person in Venezuela can purchase 900 calories, compared to 200,000 calories in one day on minimum wage in the United States. The normal person needs approximately 2,000 calories a day, so people trying to live on minimum wage in Venezuela are literally starving.

    Submissions will be graded on the following criteria:
  • Practicality
  • Creativity
  • Clarity
Top 10% share $1,000 Next 15% share $400 Next 25% share $200
Leaders will be displayed here once submissions are reviewed...
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