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Catalyst Fund Grantees

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


Human Services
March 2018 $350,000 / 36 months

Rapid Rehousing for Reunification is a three-year pilot that will adapt the rapid rehousing model to reunify families involved with the child welfare system swiftly and successfully. Many cities face delays in reunifying families after foster care due to housing-related barriers, including housing quality and safety. However, this is the first time that rapid rehousing has been attempted in a child welfare setting. If successful, this model would offer a systemic, cost-effective solution to reduce the impact of substandard housing on families involved in the child welfare system. The team, led by Stoneleigh Fellow and former Deputy Health Commissioner Nan Feyler, will design, implement and evaluate the model in partnership with CHOP PolicyLab. The program design and lessons-learned will be disseminated locally and nationally.


Food Connect

Health Human Services
March 2018 $191,050 / 24 months

Food Connect is a nonprofit start-up that provides a simple and safe way for restaurants, caterers and grocers to donate food directly to homeless shelters, emergency meal sites and food pantries. Using technology, Food Connect bridges the gap between surplus food and hunger to support a sustainable secondary food economy in Philadelphia.


Pennsylvania Environmental Council

Arts & Culture
March 2018 $150,000 / 24 months

The Pennsylvania Environmental Council, in partnership with Swim Pony, will develop ten unique sound walks to draw new and diverse audiences to locations they might not otherwise visit. Each selected path will feature writing from a local artist along with underscored music and sound design, all tailored to sync to the movement of an audience member as they travel along a trail. Opening a door to a new experience through something familiar—like a storyteller or poet they already know—could lead to increased and, perhaps, repeat engagement. By thinking creatively about how the arts and emerging technologies can draw audiences into nontraditional spaces, this unusual partnership could lay the groundwork for parks elsewhere to encourage visitation by constituencies they currently have a hard time reaching.


Philadelphia Chamber Music Society

Arts & Culture
November 2017 $125,000 / 24 months

The national trend of the decline in the traditional subscription model not only affects earned revenue from ticket sales but also customer loyalty and longevity. PCMS seeks to re-invent its business model in a way that will build and maintain the type of strong relationships with audiences that the traditional subscription model yielded. Using new software and building on recent limited experiments with flexible passes offered to students and young professionals, PCMS will create a Concert Pass. For a set fee, Concert Pass holders will be able to attend any number of PCMS’ 55+ concerts, but unlike traditional subscribers, holders can book at the last minute, providing the flexibility consumers seek. In the past, allowing such flexibility in ticketing proved difficult as available software did not easily allow for last minute ticketing across venues. New ticketing and donor software upgrades will allow PCMS to manage seating in multiple venues, manage transactions from multiple sources, and track customer data. The software required for the project is being developed using open source software, so other presenting organizations may use and adapt it.


Philadelphia Contemporary (2017)

Arts & Culture
November 2017 $210,000 / 36 months

Philadelphia Contemporary is an emerging art museum founded on the conviction that contemporary art is multidisciplinary and multicultural, and should be made widely accessible. To broaden its disciplinary range beyond the boundaries of what is typically defined as contemporary art and make the museum relevant to a wider audience, Philadelphia Contemporary will establish the position of Curator of Spoken Word. They are creating the position to celebrate poetry as a contemporary art form, create a regional focal point for the spoken word, and make contemporary art more accessible to diverse communities. Rather than presenting poetry intermittently, through exhibitions and temporary projects that briefly highlight the spoken word, this position will ensure that language itself is integrated into the conversation at Philadelphia Contemporary. Since this position is new in the museum field, Philadelphia Contemporary will hire an evaluator to work with them to help fine tune programming and to determine if the position is beginning to break down the barriers to contemporary art.


Turning Points for Children

Human Services
September 2017 $220,000 / 24 months

Kids in Philadelphia’s foster care system typically “age out” of foster care at 18-years-old. These kids’ lives can get scary fast, many losing jobs, facing unplanned pregnancies, struggling with addiction or finding themselves homeless or in prison. Of the roughly 850 kids who age out of foster care in Philadelphia each year, 250 have no resources to fall back on. This group is at greatest risk of falling through the cracks. Turning Points for Children (TPFC), a child welfare agency, believes that the frayed safety net for young people “aging out” must be redesigned to meet the social and developmental needs of this group of young people. TPFC partnered with Youth Villages to pilot their evidence-based YVLifeSet program in Philadelphia.


Recycled Artist In Residency

Arts & Culture
July 2017 $40,000 / 12 months

Recycled Artist in Residency (RAIR) is a unique partnership that highlights the intersection of socially engaged art and recycling. Working with Revolution Recovery—a recycling center which aims to keep as much construction job site materials out of landfills as possible, RAIR is an on-site space for artists. This allows RAIR to achieve several goals: (i) increasing artists’ access to materials; (ii) diverting more resources from the waste stream; and (iii) growing the public’s knowledge of sustainable practices. They have seen increasing demand for sourcing materials from the waste stream for use in projects in both public and private spaces such as office buildings and parks, as well as an increasing demand for planning, design and fabrication services that utilize waste materials to create design elements such as lighting and flooring. To support this emerging practice, RAIR will undergo a market analysis process to identify a sustainable path forward. Undertaking this step would be particularly timely because Revolutionary Recovery recently acquired additional land and will be expanding its operations, providing RAIR even more fodder for its work. Such an endeavor would be the next iteration of this unique early stage organization, which has the potential to serve as a model in this field of art and sustainability practices.


University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology

Arts & Culture
June 2017 $195,000 / 36 months

Like many museums, a majority of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology’s (Museum) staff and volunteer docents are significantly less diverse than the communities whose cultural heritage they steward. Global Guides: Immigrant Stories Tour Program (Global Guides) will pilot a new model for recruiting and training immigrants and refugees to give guided interpretation of galleries that showcase collections from their country of origin. The Global Guides program requires the Museum to let go of some authority over how its objects are interpreted to make space for the guides to share their personal experiences, a significant paradigm shift in the field. This program has the potential to catalyze change in the arts and culture field by demonstrating success in introducing new interpretations as well as the roles immigrants and refugees can fill at museums. The Museum hopes that in addition to informing the national and international conversation about how to interpret holdings, that they are able to impact the lack of staff diversity at museums, especially in roles that interact with the public.


Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy

June 2017 $150,000 / 15 months

There are 36 million low-literate adults in the country, and literacy service providers serve only 2 million of them. In Philadelphia alone, 550,000 adults lack the literacy skills needed to succeed in today’s economy. The Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPRIZE (ALXP) is an unprecedented project that will test, at an unparalleled scale, the effectiveness of mobile learning solutions among native and non-native speaking adults who lack basic English literacy skills. During the field test in Philadelphia, Dallas and San Francisco, eight mobile apps using new approaches to adult literacy will harness technologies like smartphones and tablets that low-literate populations use every day to address the language skills gap. These solutions will address the main obstacles to achieving literacy: access, retention and potential for scale. The most effective apps will be made available for use by literacy programs across the country allowing these tools to supplement and complement the limited resources currently available. Barra’s grant will support the Philadelphia field test.

In order to leverage the opportunity presented by the field test, additional funding of $60,000 was awarded to the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Adult Education (OAE) in November 2017. XPRIZE worked in close collaboration with the OAE for over a year to design the operations and processes of the Philadelphia field test. This funding will allow the OAE to promote effective integration of the apps into adult basic education and English language instruction.



Human Services
May 2017 $125,000 / 18 months

Nearly one in six Americans turn to payday lenders when they need cash for everyday and unexpected expenses. This seemingly quick and easy money comes at a major price to families, who pay exorbitant interest rates and fees. FINANTA, a Community Development Financial Institution located in Kensington, believes that they are uniquely suited to create safe alternatives for their North Philadelphia community. With support from this grant, FINANTA will develop a plan to provide unbanked and underbanked individuals access to a full range of financial services. They will explore models including credit unions and shared branch partnerships, each representing a significant shift to FINANTA’s business model. What they learn along the way will inform the field of practitioners, researchers and policymakers working in this arena—in and beyond Philadelphia. If successful, FINANTA will provide a much-needed solution for Philadelphians, and hopefully slow the tide of families falling victim to predatory lenders.


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.


GreenLight Fund Philadelphia

Human Services
March 2017 $100,000 / 18 months

Pay-for-Success (PFS) is an emerging financial tool for funding social services. GreenLight Fund Philadelphia and Social Finance will partner to support the launch of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s first PFS pilots: one focused on reducing adult recidivism with the Center for Employment Opportunities and the other on reducing juvenile recidivism with Youth Advocates Program. GreenLight and Social Finance will not only help ensure the success of CEO and YAP, but will aim to spur new ways of thinking about social service interventions both in and between government, providers, funders and investors in Philadelphia. The grant will support the costs of project development, development of financial structures, investor convenings, contract development and contract negotiation.


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.


First Step

Human Services
December 2016 $280,000 / 12 months

First Step was founded in Atlanta, Georgia on the principle that people who want to work to end their homelessness should be connected to work and any necessary supports as soon as possible. From 2007 to 2015, First Step operated similarly to a small staffing agency, except that they prioritized people who had had no home address for 36 months and had been unemployed for 24 months or longer. In that period they helped 2,400 homeless individuals reenter the workforce and secured benefits for more than 1,200 people. Next, First Step took a bold move to get their operations to scale and acquired a for-profit staffing agency and converted it to a nonprofit. Since the acquisition, employment has grown to 1,000 individuals working daily, revenues have increased to over $21 million and First Step is nearly 100 percent self-sustaining. First Step is exploring launching a similar venture in Philadelphia. Barra’s grant will support their hiring of a broker to identify a firm for acquisition and subsequently provide initial seed funding to help attract additional investors.


Child & Family Connections

Health Human Services
December 2016 $130,000 / 24 months

Custody loss rates for parents with mental illness can be as high as 70-80 percent, even when evidence of neglect has been refuted and the court has acknowledged the parent’s adequacy. Recognizing that family reunification is a slow and costly process, Child and Family Connections (CFC) will take a different approach. CFC wants to reduce emergency removals in the first place by intervening while parents are healthy—before a crisis occurs. CFC will work with a partner organization to finalize the program design, conduct a year-long pilot, complete evaluation and disseminate lessons learned.

December 2016 $125,000 / 18 months

Frustrated by continued blight and the many barriers to residential redevelopment in Germantown, real estate developer Ken Weinstein founded Jumpstart Germantown. Jumpstart is a new model of community development that trains, networks and finances local aspiring developers to rebuild their neighborhood and become successful developers themselves. Jumpstart’s success is due largely to the resources—experience, connections and capital—provided by Weinstein as well as suitable market conditions in Germantown. Excited about the model’s impact, community leaders from across the city have asked Weinstein to duplicate the program in their communities. Happy to have sparked imaginations, but also recognizing that each neighborhood has diverse needs and assets, Weinstein partnered with LISC to develop tools to help community leaders adapt and implement Jumpstart programs for themselves.


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.


Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

September 2016 $175,000 / 24 months

Adolescents’ unreliable use of healthcare comes at a time when they are at particularly high risk for health problems such as unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections and mental health disease. Unfortunately, adolescents tend to view the doctor’s office as a place to go only when they are sick and not for wellness and preventative healthcare. At the new South Philadelphia Community Health and Literacy Center, CHOP’s Adolescent Initiative will test a new model of adolescent care: Prevention Health Link for Youth (PHLY). PHLY will demonstrate whether an integrated location of library, recreation center and health center, connected by integrated services, can produce significantly better outcomes than a health center alone. This unique space allows the Adolescent Initiative to design and implement a model that can overcome longstanding barriers to adolescent health, increase participation in services and ultimately result in better health.


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.


Big Picture Philadelphia

June 2016 $200,000 / 15 months

Big Picture Philadelphia will plan for the K-12 Community School of Sharswood (Sharswood School). The Sharswood School will adopt and adapt the nationally recognized Big Picture Learning (BPL) model, including BPL’s Learning Through Internship (LTI) approach which places students in internships aligned with growth fields to provide pathways to living wage jobs. The school will also include grades 13 and 14 through a collaboration with the Community College of Philadelphia, which will allow students to stay at the school while pursuing post-secondary education. The Sharswood School will be the first K-12 school of The School District of Philadelphia and the first to provide extended learning for an additional two years. This project is part of the Philadelphia Housing Authority’s $500 million investment in the redevelopment of the Sharswood/Blumberg neighborhood.

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