Filling concrete needs for


Millennials and post-millennials want to be involved in service and philanthropy, but there aren’t many mechanisms designed to support young people—even though they have an abundance of skills, energy and passion.

For example, students who have completed our online course on Global Poverty and Inequality, an immersive field study experience, or our Global Scholars Program are often inspired and enthusiastic about taking further action, but lack the capital to tackle concrete, outcome-focused projects. So the Blum Center has decided to introduce a new model for harnessing student passion and capacity to achieving measurable gains along clear trajectories.

The model—Small Change, Better World—was conceived a decade ago by three humanitarian workers—Michael Beevers, Richard Matthew and Renard Sexton—working in Sierra Leone. After visiting many villages impacted by a decade of civil war, they realized that most existing programming cannot undertake very small projects, even when these are important to the community and require some external support. From replacing lost musical instruments to finding the parts to a piece of heavy equipment donated from abroad, opportunities exist for small changes to create a better world.

We believe our students can identify and solve challenges at this scale.

Small Change, Better World provides seed grants for one-time, limited scope projects that address a specific need. Funded projects must require less than $3,000 and be achievable within a short period of time, such as a quarter or semester.

Small Change, Better World seed grants give students an opportunity to meet tangible needs in their own communities or in places they have visited and worked in. We hope that the experience gained through these projects will inspire students to continue to take actions to address 21st century challenges in ways that are effective, fair, and appropriate.

Read about some of the inaugural recipients on our Medium, or view a map of projects.



Open to undergraduate and graduate students at UC Irvine and UC Merced. Applicants who receive funding must be in good academic standing. Students who will graduate within a quarter of submitting their proposal are not eligible to apply.

Specifically, Small Change, Better World grants:

  • Address a finite, one-time need
  • Address a gap in support rather than a travel expense or programmatic activity that the partner institution already has the jurisdiction and/or capability to support
  • Have a clear vision for impact and social change in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)



Proposals are accepted twice per year. Applications are due November 25 and May 25.

Download a sample proposal here. Components of the proposal include:

  • Describe your proposed project. Include a discussion of why you want to do this project and what problem this project addresses.
  • Budget narrative
  • Who do you plan to work with (e.g. organization or community leaders) to implement this project?
  • What category does this project fall under (e.g. Education, Food Systems, Health)?
  • Do you have any other funding sources for this project (e.g. GoFundMe)?
  • Will the proposed project be completed within 10-15 weeks of receiving the award?
  • Student Bio (name, GPA, major, campus) with photo

We are no longer accepting applications for the November deadline. We are currently reviewing the submissions and will notify the applicants soon. The next application window will open Spring 2020.


"This was a life changing experience for me. It has left me with a thirst to do more, and the confidence to know that I can make a small difference in the world. Because of this grant, I also went on to design a small anti-poverty program intended to counter the psychological affects of poverty in at-risk youth."

Michelle Krehbiel, Backpacks for Success

"Today I handed over activity books for 76 students of Roman Catholic Tamil School Rajagiriya from Grade 1 to 5 based on the principals request. This will enable them to do more activities in the classroom with the teachers and share knowledge with other students. Thank you SCBW for your support in making it possible."

Danushi De Silva, The Literacy Project

"With funds received from SCBW, we were able to replace and refresh medical equipment and supplies needed to ensure we take accurate vitals and help monitor the conditions which our patients face at our monthly free clinic in the El Niño community of Tijuana, Mexico."

Dean K. Wong, Flying Samaritans at El Niño Clinic


Small Change

The next round of proposals will open Spring 2020. Apply by May 25, 2020.

Funds can be used to support such expenditures as the purchase of materials and supplies, project-related travel, and the costs incurred in the implementation of project activities. These funds cannot support major hardware purchases, salaries or stipends, or travel expenditures only.

We’re looking to fund projects that cost under $3,000. You will need to provide an itemized cost estimate to justify the total amount requested.

Your itemized budget will be unique to the goals of your project. Budget should include reasonable estimated costs for any necessary materials, supplies, equipment, taxes, transportation, shipping, delivery, etc.

Currently, applications are open to students at UC Irvine and UC Merced. We anticipate expanding to additional other UC campuses soon. Check back in the coming weeks for an updated list of participating campuses.

There are many resources at UCI and beyond for funding and support. Depending on the type of project you have in mind, you may want to consider:

You may be able to utilize Zotfunder, a UCI fundraising platform. Contact the Blum Center staff at to discuss whether Zotfunder is the right fit for your project.