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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.

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.


Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education

Health Human Services
June 2016 $175,000 / 36 months

Nature Rx will prescribe outdoor recreation to thousands of Philadelphia patient families, reconnecting them to the outdoors through doctors’ “prescriptions.” This online portal for clinicians will be connected to a comprehensive database of the city’s green spaces, the first of its kind in Philadelphia. The partners, Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the City of Philadelphia, will develop a new tool to connect families to Philadelphia’s wealth of green space, maximize scarce clinical time with patients and help ensure patient adherence with support from “Nature Navigators.” Nature Rx will also help ensure that the city’s most underserved communities—those with the most to gain in health outcomes—will share in Philadelphia’s rejuvenated public spaces. Barra funding will allow the Schuylkill Center and its partners to pilot Nature Rx in three communities.


Autism Village

Health Human Services
June 2016 $50,000 / 12 months

Autism Village, based in Chester Springs, Pennsylvania, is a website and mobile application for the autism community. Autism Village’s innovative core is a Yelp-like service that helps families find resources such as dentists, restaurants and playgrounds that are welcoming and suitable for their child with autism’s particular needs. Autism Village has had strong early traction, with more than 10,000 users and a successful Kickstarter campaign backed by more than 1,200 supporters. If they have another year of successful fundraising, Autism Village will put the finishing touches on their platform including several features to attract new users and generate revenue from the business community. Autism Village plans to formally launch in early 2017.


Impact Services Corporation

Human Services
June 2016 $205,000 / 24 months

Three nonprofit organizations–Impact Services Corporation, The Common Market and Philabundance–have joined forces to launch a new social enterprise: Community Partnership Kitchen. The project is the first of its kind and leverages the distinct and complementary strengths of the three organizations. Community Partnership Kitchen will provide training and jobs to residents of North Philadelphia, value-added food products to institutional customers and new and expanded business to regional farmers. Barra’s grant will enable Impact to complete the planning phase of the project, including the development of partnership agreements.



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.


Drexel University

March 2016 $300,000 / 26 months

Drexel University (Drexel) will lead the efforts of the Digital On-Ramps (DOR) collaborative network of 13 agencies and employers to test digital badging in Philadelphia. Like Girl Scout badges (but virtual), digital badges are designed to demonstrate skills and provide opportunities that follow from completing the badge. Digital badging is gaining recognition as an innovation for reimagining education; integrating formal, informal and blended learning; and recognizing industry credentials. In an era when schools are looking to broaden modes of learning and the internet provides an ever-expanding pathway to learning, traditional resumes and transcripts are no longer enough. Badging is a practical approach to capturing a more complete picture of an individual. It has the potential to transform how employers and admissions officers evaluate applicants. Drexel will work with LRNG, which is creating a digital platform that combines in-school, out-of-school, work-based and online learning opportunities in a manner that is visible and accessible to all. By partnering with LRNG, Drexel becomes part of a national network of communities implementing badging.


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.


Abington Art Center

Arts & Culture
March 2016 $150,000 / 39 months

Abington Art Center has served as a traditional community arts center in Montgomery County for over 75 years. Building on its recent designation as a Penn State Invent Center and increasing demand for creative engagement and makerspace-oriented arts programming, they have identified a need for significant adaptation. The Center will rethink, retool and evolve its space and business model to meet the needs of changing audiences by forging creative partnerships and learning from peer urban organizations who are embracing technology, entrepreneurship and imaginative programming. If the Center can successfully make this shift, they can become a richer resource for their community and serve as a model for other suburban arts centers as they consider how evolve in a changing arts and education environment.


Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia

Education Human Services
March 2016 $75,000 / 18 months

The Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia (Law Center) has an illustrious history of ensuring vulnerable populations have access to fundamental resources, particularly special education. Like many legal services agencies, the Law Center possesses deep knowledge in a specialized area of the law that is of interest to varied constituencies (parents, educators, lawyers, social workers, etc.). However, they do not have the resources to create a training delivery model that is self-sustaining. To do so requires understanding marketing, event planning and curriculum development—all areas that are outside the mission of a legal services organization. Further, the training they conduct is not like traditional legal training geared towards attorneys—it is meant to bring the range of constituencies together to build networks and understanding, making it different from other legal education providers. The Law Center proposes creating a separate entity to further their mission of delivering specialized information to the widest audience possible. To do this, the Center hopes to further its mission while creating a stronger business model. As a social enterprise of this type is a new approach for a legal service agency, but one that others could emulate, the research into the viability of this model can serve to inform this sector.


Temple Contemporary

Arts & Culture Education
March 2016 $180,000 / 26 months

Through “Symphony for a Broken Orchestra,” Temple Contemporary seeks to answer the question “How can we get more music back into the schools?” in a creative, sustainable way. In support of and in partnership with The School District of Philadelphia (District), this project will teach music teachers in the District how to repair some of the District’s 1,500 broken musical instruments, returning them to the classroom and the hands of children. How-to videos will be created and music repair kits will be provided to all District schools with music programs. Opportunities will also be provided for the public to learn more about the District’s music programs and instrument repair. The program has the potential to spark a chain reaction in other cities facing financial challenges in providing music education by creating a low-cost, replicable, school-centered and sustainable model.



March 2016 $150,000 / 24 months

Private insurers are increasingly motivated to pay for services that improve health outcomes and ultimately decrease costs. Through an independent evaluation, MANNA has demonstrated that its medically appropriate meals and nutrition counseling create such cost savings. Through partnerships with organizations such as Health Partners Plans, a managed care organization, MANNA will be able to receive reimbursement for the cost of their services. Such partnerships have the potential to transform MANNA’s business model and dramatically increase its impact in the next five years. Funding will allow MANNA to modernize its in-house data collection systems, enabling them to monitor, improve and communicate the quality of their services to private insurers—a new market of institutional customers and an accompanying stream of revenue.


The Fund for the School District of Philadelphia

December 2015 $300,000 / 24 months

While the number of K-12 schools adopting innovative approaches to education continue to expand, training for teachers in these methodologies has not kept up. In collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education and Drexel University School of Education, The School District of Philadelphia will design and pilot a program for training pre-service teachers which aligns with the varied modes of learning now being offered in schools. The program will leverage Penn and Drexel’s deep expertise while supporting the District’s development of creative new approaches to education. The project has the potential to inform how other schools of education partner with school districts.

December 2015 $185,000 / 36 months

Tiny WPA’s Building Hero Project provides design, leadership and entrepreneurship skills to individuals ages 16 and up who want to be part of a diverse community of civic change agents. The Project harnesses the enthusiasm of those interested in the maker movement by providing deeper learning and connections to a trade. The Project centers on an 8-week training program where participants acquire the design and fabrication skills needed to create products and the know-how to undertake neighborhood revitalization and design-build improvement projects for the community. Using lessons learned from national models, Tiny WPA will build the Project into a sustainable social enterprise that provides fabrication services by Building Heroes to the design and manufacturing sector.


Mental Health Association of Southeastern PA

Health Human Services
December 2015 $50,000 / 6 months

Panhandling is an age-old and complex challenge faced by cities worldwide, but the founders of StreetChange believe that technology could provide new solutions that benefit everyone. In partnership with the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania (MHASP), StreetChange will use mobile technology, e-commerce and Bluetooth technology to incentivize Philadelphians who are both homeless and panhandling to visit or return to social services. StreetChange will also provide pedestrians with a modern and simple way to make donations and ensure that their generosity has a positive impact. By facilitating beneficial transactions between homeless individuals and the pedestrians and social services organizations wishing to assist them, this solution has the potential to positively impact the way cities address panhandling nationwide.

Update: Led by its Founder Andrew Siegel and Managing Partner Dan Treglia, StreetChange has taken major strides since it received its first funding, from Barra, in December 2015. In addition to completing the app’s development and launching their website, StreetChange has conducted a beta test with support from Mental Health Association of Southeastern PA, which informed improvements to the app and helped them strengthen proposals to funders, investors and partners. They have engaged critical stakeholders including the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Homeless Services and Center City District and have begun meetings with other homeless services providers to understand how the platform could provide greater value to this group. They have also received strong media coverage, including several local publications and a video produced by Verizon and Upworthy that has been viewed more than 3.5 million times. StreetChange is in the process of developing a business plan, including formalizing partnerships with providers. StreetChange is seeking funders and investors so that it can build its team and launch the app in summer of 2017.


Center for Architecture

Health Human Services
December 2015 $175,000 / 24 months

Healthy Rowhouse Project, a collaborative hosted by the Center for Architecture, aims to tackle the barriers preventing Philadelphia from repairing rowhouses at scale in order to improve the health of residents and preserve critical affordable housing. They aim to improve 5,000 houses per year—thousands more homes than any other U.S. city has been able to repair—at an average cost of $10,000 per home. Building from their preliminary research and with the support of their multi-disciplinary coalition, in the next two years Healthy Rowhouse Project will develop a new home repair infrastructure, including an organized network of service delivery partners, new program designs and creative financing for property owners and investors. This grant was originally made to the Center for Architecture, the initial fiscal sponsor of Healthy Rowhouse Project, but was transferred to Clarifi, Inc. when the project relocated.

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