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Poverty Solutions Announces Munger Case Competition

Munger Case Competition: Poverty Solutions

Poverty in Michigan, and across the United States, remains a pernicious challenge. High levels of inequality, low levels of intergenerational mobility, and entrenched systemic challenges prevent many from reaching the better future that they dream of for themselves and their children.

Poverty has deep, complicated root causes that don’t have easy answers. In Detroit, much of the poverty can be traced back to systemic racism and segregated neighborhoods. In the Upper Peninsula, rural poverty is exacerbated by lack of infrastructure and investment. In Southeastern Michigan’s suburbs, automation has recently contributed to the decline in well-paying manufacturing jobs.

Overall, Michigan’s poverty rates are relatively average – ranked 33rd out of 50 states. To understand the size and scope of poverty in Michigan, consider the below statistics:

Poverty Level Rounded Dollar Amount for a Single Person Rounded Dollar Amount for a Family of Four Percent of the Population in Michigan
125% of Federal Poverty Line $15,000 $30,000 21.3%
100% of the FPL $12K $24K 16.7%
50% of the FPL $6K $12K 7.6%
Note: Data are from 2015 5-year ACS estimates, dollar amounts are from 2017 federal guidelines on poverty level.

The overall rates, however, mask the deeper pockets of poverty across subgroups. Flint and Detroit have poverty rates three times as high as the national average. The poverty rate for children has risen 15% in seven years, from 19.3% to 22.2% according to the Michigan League for Public Policy.[1] In mostly urban counties, Michiganders make $51,538 on average. In “mostly rural” counties, that drops to $45,646 and in completely rural counties, it’s $38,145.[2]

Challenge for Student Teams

There are bright spots in this bleak horizon – there are strategies and interventions that have been found to be effective in alleviating and addressing poverty. These strategies have emerged from across sectors including business, nonprofit, and government stakeholders to address the root causes of poverty.

Using a fictional $100,000 of seed money, your challenge is to create an action plan to effectively address the root causes of poverty and move the needle on poverty alleviation using a strategy of your choosing.

You may choose a strategy that has been shown as effective, one that you design yourself, or an innovative combination of both.


  • Michigan is a big state with diverse needs. You may focus on a broad state-wide initiative or a regional effort. For example, you may focus on an urban core, like Grand Rapids, or a rural area, like Benzie County, a suburban region like Pontiac, a neighborhood in Detroit, or a region like the Upper Peninsula.
  • There are many sources of data to start you off:

Guidelines for Submission

  • Your team’s action plan should contain the following:
    • Problem Statement: what is the particular challenge are you trying to address and what data show that the problem you’ve chosen exists?
    • Action Plan: what is the proposed intervention strategy and implementation plan?
    • Case Statement: What are the top 1-2 convincing reasons to invest in this strategy Financial Case: how are you going to use the $100,000 and how will that make a difference? What is the return on investment and why is the proposed strategy a sound investment?
    • Sustainability: how will the intervention be sustained beyond the initial seed investment?
    • Metrics: how will you measure and assess the success of your intervention? These should be both qualitative and quantitative in nature.
  • Create an electronic poster (40’’ x 30’’) that Munger will print and display
    • PowerPoint, Illustrator, InDesign and Photoshop are most frequently used to create posters
    • Image resolution of 150ppi is preferred
    • PDF your final format
    • Submit your poster to Lindsay Trahan ( no later than 11:59p.m. EST on Sunday, December 3, 2017.


  • Teams must consist of 2-5 University of Michigan graduate or professional students, including one Munger resident.*
  • At least one team member must be available to present the team’s poster during the Case Competition Showcase on the evening of Thursday, December 7, 2017.
    • Posters will be judged by the following criteria: coherence of plan, multidisciplinary aspects addressed, logic, analyses/metrics, realistic impact calculus, and overall impressions.

*Please contact Lindsay Trahan ( if you need assistance meeting this eligibility requirement.


  • The winning team will be awarded $5000
  • Two runners-up teams will be awarded $1000

Registration Information

Registration opens on September 14, 2017 at 5:00p.m.
Registration closes on October 9, 2017 at 11:59p.m.

Timeline of Related Events

September 14:          Graduate Opportunity Fair/Competition Introduction/Registration Opens

October 4:                 Poverty Solutions Policy Talk

October 6:                 Poverty Simulation

October 9:                 Competition Registration Closes

October 10:               Mini Lecture Series Part One: Urban Planning

October 27:               Mini Lecture Series Part Two: Economics

November 7:             Mini Lecture Series Part Three: Public Health

November 10:            Networking Dinner

November 16:           Poverty Solutions Olivia Golden Talk

December 7:              Case Competition Showcase. Free & open to the public.