Skip Navigation

Catalyst Fund Grantees

Read descriptions of these timely, early-stage projects that are aiming to shift practice in the social sector.

ExCITe Center

Arts & Culture
March 2017 $50,000 / 12 months

As technology evolves, there are myriad potential uses in the arts. For example, drones—with their capability for movement—can push the boundaries of artistic expression and engage audiences interested in the intersection of arts and technology. The problem is that working with drones is expensive and technically challenging. In answer to this opportunity, the ExCITe Center (Center) has developed a system for fabricating and deploying drones through a collaboration with Parsons Dance, which culminated in the creation of The Machines. The Center will take the drone system created for The Machines, which integrates drones into a dance performance, and make it broadly accessible to the artistic community as a low-cost, open source platform. In addition to sharing lessons learned on the Center’s weblog, a two-day workshop will be held for artists and organizations interested in using the drone system for arts projects. It is hoped that other artist-technologist pairings will be inspired by the Center’s work with Parsons Dance. Learn more about the collaboration between the Center and Parsons here.


The Zoological Society of Philadelphia

Arts & Culture Human Services
December 2016 $125,000 / 12 months

The Zoological Society of Philadelphia (Zoo) is challenging itself to lead the evolution of zoos from “safari-like” zoo experiences on large tracts of land remote from cities to urban assets that enhance the quality of life in more densely populated areas. By embracing its surrounding neighborhoods and working with them through community engagement, the Zoo will spearhead projects that will strategically leverage the Zoo’s assets and location for the direct benefit of its community. This strategy has been practiced by other anchor institutions, such as meds and eds, but this type of community engagement is new for zoos. Given its national leadership role, the Zoo has an opportunity to help other zoos see how they can creatively adapt their roles—and still stay true to their missions.


Pearl S. Buck International

Arts & Culture
December 2016 $250,000 / 24 months

Given its role as the guardian of Pearl Buck’s home and message of cultural understanding, compassion and advocacy, Pearl S. Buck International (PSBI) is in a unique position to lead difficult conversations in today’s charged environment that have the potential to spur change. PSBI will transform their visitor experience, moving from a traditional docent led tour that delivers information about the Bucks County site and Ms. Buck’s life and replace it with a dynamic new tour focused on social justice issues such as race, inequality and inclusion, which will be complemented by exhibitions, programming and printed materials. To highlight the creative adaptation of their model, PSBI will rebrand to reflect their new focus on the ideas championed by Ms. Buck, which are her true legacy. PSBI will share their process so as to inspire other historic sites with their willingness to reinvent their approach to the past in order to amplify its impact into the future.


National Constitution Center

Arts & Culture Education
December 2016 $125,000/24 months

Sometimes change may not seem dramatic from the outside but has the potential to shift thinking. Developed in partnership with the Philadelphia Police Department and former Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, the National Constitution Center’s program Policing in a More Perfect Union (Program) aspires to mend fractured police-community relations with training that educates Philadelphia officer-recruits in the rights and restrictions defined by the Bill of Rights and then unites recruits with students who lead an unusual conversation on police-community relations that benefits both populations. Funding will allow the Center to extend the nascent Program to law enforcement trainees throughout the Greater Philadelphia region, including in-service officers, and to students from a variety of regional high schools. The Program—the only one of its kind—has the potential to not only impact police officers and youth but also the larger community as these two constituencies build bridges and authentic engagement.


Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance

Arts & Culture
December 2016 $150,000 / 18 months

Cultural organizations significantly lag behind other parts of the entertainment sector in gathering and using data to understand and market to their audiences. They lack access to sophisticated data and are constrained by limited budgets and capacity to utilize the data that is available. The Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance will work with Jacobson Consulting Applications to develop the AIDb (Audience Intelligence Database). This will be a transformational tool for audience engagement as it can aggregate and translate complex real-time data into user-friendly dashboards, enabling arts groups to quickly understand key findings and apply them to their engagement strategies. Funding will provide for a cohort of ten museums to participate in the piloting of AIDb. Based on learnings during the pilot, AIDb will be expanded so that more organizations can participate and benefit from the large scale of data to be collected from participating organizations in Philadelphia and perhaps other cities.

September 2016 $250,000 / 60 months

Several recent developments have provided an opportunity for mission-aligned investment in Chester, PA. After many years of decline and then vacancy, entrepreneurs are returning to Avenue of the States. With strong entrepreneurial leadership emerging, the arts are poised to ignite an urban renaissance in Chester. Unlike other artist driven urban revivals, the leaders are from Chester and are dedicated to developing and showcasing local talent for local audiences, nurturing arts enterprises and creating a distinct Chester arts movement. A Program-Related Investment (PRI) in the form of a low-interest loan to New Day Chester, Inc. will provide the funding needed to continue rehabbing three of the six buildings, which will be at the core of the arts district. Since this would be Barra’s first PRI there is a significant opportunity for Barra to learn, and share its learning, about this emerging tool for foundations and nonprofits.


Barnes Foundation

Arts & Culture
September 2016 $75,000 / 6 months

Like many museums, the Barnes Foundation (Barnes) struggles with how to find the right mix of content to share with visitors without weighing them down with cumbersome audio devices or long-form content that slows the flow through the galleries. The Barnes will test a new approach for engaging visitors using short-form content and wearable technology intended to encourage visitors to engage more with the art and each other. Data will be designed to tie to the Barnes’ visitor database allowing for greater integration with evolving audience development efforts. The Barnes will share its learning in order to inspire other museum professionals to rethink how they engage with their guests—both during their visit and afterwards.


Swim Pony Performing Arts

Arts & Culture
June 2016 $55,000 / 12 months

Swim Pony will explore the intersection of art and gaming through participatory theatre. The End will use the structures of alternate reality games and simulations to build an individualized theatrical experience for each audience member. Participants will be engaged in a conversation about death through daily activities structured to engender reflection. The End has the potential to develop the emerging discipline of gaming/theater hybridization—an area that is gaining interest from those in the arts, gaming, technology and civic engagement. As people become more engaged with and through technology, the concept of using technology and related concepts to help them become a part of a narrative, create an opportunity for self-discovery, and share an experience in a new way, is an innovative way to link performance and gaming. Funding will also support the documentation and dissemination of the model so it may be used by others.



Arts & Culture
March 2016 $50,000 / 12 months

Although the cultural community is eager to innovate, the biggest obstacle to breaking into the digital arena is not just funding—for many, it is not knowing where to even begin. In April 2015 the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance (Alliance) announced their TechniCulture initiative. Through TechniCulture, the Alliance seeks to: deepen relationships between the cultural and tech communities; encourage and inspire cultural organizations to think more innovatively and entrepreneurially; and celebrate the region’s bourgeoning tech resources. To further this effort, the Alliance created the TechniCulture Innovation Residency Awards (Awards). The recipients of the Awards–which were available to organizations with budgets of under $1 million–were Christ ChurchPhiladelphia Young Playwrights and Tiny Dynamite. Foundation funding will (i) enable the Awardees to move their projects from feasibility to planning for implementation and (ii) support the Alliance’s learning and dissemination process related to bridging arts and technology.


Azuka Theatre

Arts & Culture
March 2016 $55,000 / 24 months

In 2015, ARC, Stockton Arts Centre (ARC) in Northeastern England became the first organization to implement a full season of Pay What You Decide (PWYD) performances, where tickets were not sold for the shows, only free reservations were made. Theatre-goers were given the opportunity to decide after the show what they wanted to pay for the experience. This differs from the popular Pay What You Can model which requires audience members pay as they enter. Initial results have shown an increase in new and returning audiences—something that is particularly difficult for companies focused on performing experimental work. Following in the footsteps of ARC, Azuka Theatre will launch a two-year PWYD pilot beginning with its 2016-2017 season–the first of its kind in the U.S. During the pilot, Azuka will gather data on audiences to see if they are able to maintain box office earnings while encouraging attendance by new audiences who might otherwise avoid new productions due to cost or lack of familiarity with offerings. Lessons learned will be shared with the arts community informing how similar arts organizations might use this model to support their work.

1 2 3 4