‘What does it mean to be young in an ageing world?’ – Nine Dots Prize Offers $100,000 for the best response

2 October, 2020

The Nine Dots Prize has today (Friday 2nd October) revealed the question it will pose as part of a global problem-solving competition, offering US$100,000 and a book deal with Cambridge University Press for the winning response. The question for the 2021/2022 cycle is ‘What does it mean to be young in an ageing world?’

Launched in 2016, the Nine Dots Prize encourages innovative thinking and engaging new writing that confronts some of the most significant issues of our time. The Prize is judged entirely anonymously and seeks submissions from both established names and emerging talent, including those who may not have been published before.

Entrants must respond to the set question in 3,000 words and provide an outline showing how they would expand their response into a short book of between 25,000-40,000 words, backed up with relevant research and evidence. The winner will receive editorial support from Cambridge University Press as well as the opportunity to spend a term at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), at Cambridge University, to help develop their ideas and focus on their writing.

The Prize will be judged by a 12-strong Board of internationally recognised and distinguished academics, authors, journalists and thinkers. In 2021/2022 they will include Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Anne Applebaum; Head of the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Cambridge, Professor David Runciman; and international lawyer and writer, Petina Gappah. The Board will again be chaired by Professor Simon Goldhill, Professor in Greek Literature and Culture and Fellow of King’s College, Cambridge.

Coinciding with the launch of the question, new episodes of the Nine Dots Prize podcast will be released from October, adding to the variety of resources already available to support those considering entering the Prize. These new episodes will cover relevant topics such as how to write and present your ideas persuasively, and how to take personal stories, case studies or anecdotes and combine them with the big picture for broader resonance. Guests for the new episodes are journalist and former political speechwriter Phillip Collins, writer and lawyer Petina Gappah, economist Tim Harford, journalist and author Helen Lewis, children’s author and campaigner Onjali Rauf, and science journalist and speaker Eva Wolfangel.

The inaugural Nine Dots Prize was won by former Google employee turned Oxford philosopher, James Williams, who submitted the best response to the question ‘Are digital technologies making politics impossible?’ The resulting book, Stand Out of Our Light: Freedom and Resistance in the Attention Economy, was published in May 2018 to critical acclaim and was chosen as Princeton University’s 2019 Pre-read, sent to all incoming students as an introduction to intellectual life at Princeton.

The Prize’s second winner was Mumbai-based writer Annie Zaidi, who submitted a ‘powerful’ and ‘unique’ response to the question ‘Is there still no place like home?’ The resulting book, Bread, Cement, Cactus: A Memoir of Belonging and Dislocation, explores notions of home and belonging rooted in Zaidi’s experiences of life in India and was described by The Observer as a ‘compelling exploration of the intimate and political sides of an itinerant life’.

Professor Simon Goldhill, chair of the Nine Dots Prize Board comments: “The Nine Dots Prize began as an experiment into finding new methods of solving the big issues of our times, encouraging people to come at them in a fresh way through interesting framing – then offering them the time and support to develop their ideas fully. Our first two winners could not have been more different in terms of their backgrounds, professions and experiences. Both produced books that furthered the conversation around the questions we set in valuable, insightful, thorough and nuanced ways. Our latest question will resonate with writers around the world, and I cannot wait to see the work submitted, much of which I am sure will surprise and delight the judges.”

2019/2020 winner Annie Zaidi said of the Prize: “I had been thinking about questions of identity and belonging for a while but lacked the time and resources to develop my thoughts into something more substantial. Winning the Nine Dots Prize enabled me to pursue my research more extensively and confront these questions more thoroughly than I could have otherwise. For many writers, time, space and funding are major barriers. The support provided by the Nine Dots Prize and its partners is a vital part of meeting this need.”

The Nine Dots Prize is open to anyone worldwide aged 18 years or over writing in English. Entries must be submitted through the online submission form by midday (GMT) on Monday 18th January 2021. The winner will be announced in May 2021.