Skip Navigation

Catalyst Fund Grantees

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

The Franklin Institute

Arts & Culture
June 2019 $150,000 / 24 Months

Through NOW/NEXT the Institute will test four new models of flexible, time-limited exhibitions that engage visitors in current science and technology topics. They plan to upend the traditional museum model that depends on core exhibitions that last a decade. If effective, they will create a new approach for museum visitors’ experience—one where the majority of space is dedicated to relevant, hands-on learning and much less on static or long-term installations.


Community Legal Services

Human Services
March 2019 $250,000 / 24 months

Community Legal Services and Regional Housing Legal Services will test a proactive approach to mass evictions in Philadelphia while advancing creative strategies to preserve affordable housing. The approach will leverage a unique moment related to the housing affordability crisis, making Philadelphia among the first cities to employ a preventative approach to mass evictions that engages both tenants and landlords in solutions that work for all and pave the way for sustainable investment.


Orchestra 2001

Arts & Culture
March 2019 $65,000 / 18 months

As the music ensemble-in-residence at the new Cherry Street Pier, Orchestra 2001 has a unique opportunity to experiment in this new space and leverage its exposure to diverse audiences. By engaging viewers in the creation of new music, the Composer at Work window provides an opportunity to raise funds from audiences and gather the data to track future engagement. If they are successful, the model can be easily adapted by others. This project leverages technology to fill a gap between performers and audiences so that the excitement and energy generated by experiencing something new, is not lost when a viewer walks away.


Temple University, Institute on Disabilities

Arts & Culture Education
January 2019 $225,000 / 18 Months

The National Theater in London recently launched a new technology that allows hearing impaired audience members to access captioning through smart glasses that harness augmented reality to project captions within the user’s line of vision. Working with the local office of the National Theater’s technology partner, Accenture, the Temple University Institute on Disabilities will adapt the technology for use by regional theaters, who might not otherwise have the resources to develop such a tool. This approach overcomes existing cost and staffing barriers to providing closed captioning at every performance, allowing more equitable access for hearing impaired audiences. The Institute will extend the technology to include American Sign Language and Spanish language captioning.


Mural Arts Advocates

Arts & Culture Human Services
September 2018 $300,000 / 24 months

Day wage programs are being tested in cities around the country as a means to reduce street homelessness, increase connections to services and housing, and encourage re-entry into the workforce. Unlike traditional workforce development programs that seek to move participants into structured work environments, day wage programs recognize that participants first need to build a connection to basic services—in time, they will hopefully move towards readiness for employment. Together with Mental Health Partnerships (MHP), Mural Arts will introduce a day wage program in Philadelphia which will tap into Mural Arts’ experience providing training to marginalized populations. Prior to launching the program, a research and design phase will result in a white paper outlining policy, practice and evaluation recommendations. The City of Philadelphia’s Office of Homeless Services, Commerce Department and Office of Workforce Development as well as representatives of civic, behavioral health, workforce development and college/university partners will be consulted throughout the project. Following the design process, there will be two pilots of the program to allow for testing and learning.


AIM Academy

September 2018 $200,000 / 24 months

AIM Academy has developed a research-based methodology that has proven to be successful in helping children with learning challenges succeed. Through their AIM Institute for Learning & Research, AIM has taken this approach and piloted it in the School District of Philadelphia to address struggling readers from low socioeconomic backgrounds who have a cognitive profile that is similar to children with learning differences. Given the limited reach of in-person trainings, AIM is developing AIM Pathways, a robust online platform that will decouple the opportunity to learn AIM’s approach from in-person courses allowing for more teachers to engage with this pedagogy. Because AIM Pathways is an online resource that is available anytime, anywhere, teachers will be able to continue to engage with the content and use its case study based curriculum in real time when identifying learning barriers in the classroom. AIM’s relationship with the Haskins Lab at Yale University’s Global Language and Literacy Innovation Hub provides a strong partner for designing the platform and dissemination model. The platform’s alignment with the goals of the national Grade Level Reading campaign provides opportunities for nationwide dissemination.


Kencrest Centers

Health Human Services
June 2018 $50,000 / 18 months

There are 14,000 people with autism or intellectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD) waiting for services in Pennsylvania due to lack of funding or staff. In AVAIL technology, a start-up based in Ireland, KenCrest sees a new way of providing services, empowering their clients, measuring outcomes and reducing costs. Through AVAIL’s simple-by-design mobile application, KenCrest’s staff will help clients set up goals, record personalized tutorials and then monitor the client’s independent progress. From setting the table for dinner to assembling a product at a work site, AVAIL helps clients accomplish activities that they might otherwise depend on others to help them complete. KenCrest will partner with another human services, JEVS, to pilot this new technology, which they believe has the potential to provide a more person-centered and person-driven approach to client care—and one that could be adopted by others in the field.


Prosecutor Impact

Human Services
June 2018 $250,000 / 24 months

Adam Foss’s experience as an Assistant District Attorney (ADA) in Boston convinced him that prosecutors are the most influential actors in the criminal justice system. One ADA’s discretion and decisions can make the difference between a young person being charged with multiple felonies and beginning their adulthood in prison, or being diverted from the system without a criminal record and giving them second chance. By providing ADAs with the training and resources to approach their jobs with compassion, knowledge and creativity, he believes he can make a substantial impact on thousands, if not millions, of lives. Foss founded Prosecutor Impact in 2016 and began to seek partners who would be willing to test a radical new way to prepare ADAs for work. PI’s model is very new, but grounded in experience and research and tested on a small scale in other cities. This proposal would support an unprecedented partnership in Philadelphia’s District Attorney’s office that will allow them to credibly test their eight-week program for incoming prosecutors.


CultureWorks Greater Philadelphia

Arts & Culture
June 2018 $200,000 / 18 months

CultureWorks’ management commons approach—which is grounded in fiscal sponsorship—is a potential re-definition of capacity building: one in which they start to look at how to encourage capacity growth and scale for the field as a whole through local management commons, rather than the growth and scale of individual cultural organizations. CultureWorks will create a cohort commons model to address the needs of midsize organizations. They will serve as the partner—or “Copilot”—to organizations by providing back office services while the organizations retain all of the key elements of independence when it comes to mission, programs, constituent relationships and governance. In addition, CoPilot participants become part of a cohort with access to learning and networking opportunities with their peers and the chance to pursue solutions to common problems that they would normally struggle to tackle individually. This new model for management of midsize cultural organizations will be deployed simultaneously in two newly established CultureWorks’ programs in other cities, allowing for testing and growth across markets.



June 2018 $380,000 / 60 months

There is a growing interest in microcredentialing through online learning. It has the potential to provide educational opportunities for those who need more flexibility; however, retention for online learners is low. HospitalityTogether (HT) brings together nontraditional online learning through MIT’s edX with the Checkpoints student program to create opportunities for youth who choose to explore pathways other than college due to financial and personal barriers. The curriculum will be developed by a Credentialing Committee that includes Philadelphia’s top chefs and restaurateurs, who have the credibility to define new signals and standards for the hospitality marketplace. HT will expose participants to career pathways in the hospitality industry and provide access and encouragement to ongoing learning in support of career advancement. Ultimately HT envisions their program eventually serving as a model for the national restaurant industry.



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.

1 2 3 4