2017 Catalyst Grants

Every year, through our Catalyst program, we select a small group of organizations that inspire us by creatively working to solve entrenched or chronic social issues in new and promising ways, and send each organization an unexpected gift to support their incredible work. The 25 grantees for 2017 are listed in alphabetical order.
BOUNCE, The Basketball Opera: BOUNCE, the Basketball Opera was created by Brooklyn-based nonprofit, Ardea Arts, and the University of Kentucky Opera Theatre. Performed on a basketball court, BOUNCE is grounded in contemporary issues facing today’s youth, particularly teen violence. The production, which pairs diverse casting with a fresh approach to arts education, integrates high school students into the world of opera using the powerful medium of basketball.
Breakthrough Christmas Store: Breakthrough Urban Ministries uses an innovative gift-giving strategy at its annual Christmas Store: instead of pre-selecting gifts for families, Breakthrough asks donors to help with a gift drive. Then community members and homeless guests are invited to shop for and purchase gifts for their families at a greatly reduced price. This empowers parents, grandparents, and caregivers to be part of the gift-giving process, and is a dignifying and practical way for shoppers to provide gifts for loved ones or themselves. Each year, Breakthrough needs about 5,000 gifts for 500 shoppers. Breakthrough’s other services include homeless intervention, youth development and neighborhood transformation.
BUILDSince 1999, BUILD has used entrepreneurship to engage historically disadvantaged youth, decrease high school dropout rates, and increase college enrollment. BUILD combines academic instruction with real-world business experiences and critical skill-building in order to prepare students for the future. BUILD operates three San Francisco Bay Area sites, and one site in each of Washington, DC and Boston, MA and serves over 1,000 students over twenty public high schools. Over 90% of its seniors have applied to and gone on to college.
Center on Halsted: Founded in 1973 as Gay Horizons, Center on Halsted is the Midwest’s most comprehensive community center dedicated to advancing community and securing the health and well-being of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) people of Chicagoland. Approximately 1,400 community members visit the Center every day, located in the heart of Chicago’s Lakeview Neighborhood. Center on Halsted also serves as an incubator for a number of smaller LGBTQ non-profit organizations, called Resident Partners. Resident Partners provides operational support, space and resources for organizations that may otherwise find it difficult to interact and grow.
Community Activism Law Alliance: Chicago-based Community Activism Law Alliance (CALA) brings together lawyers and activists in a collaborative pursuit for justice by leveraging legal services to benefit the most marginalized communities and individuals, while addressing funding and impact limitations. CALA is community-located, community-collaborative, and community-directed. The organization uses free, existing neighborhood spaces, and the community provides staffing, language and administrative support, and office supplies. CALA’s partners decide the hours, areas of law, priority areas, eligibility criteria, location, and types of services.
The Dream.USTheDream.US is the nation’s largest college access and success program for DREAMers. TheDream.US, works to help over 4,000 highly motivated DREAMers graduate from college with career-ready degrees. In three years the organization has awarded $19.3 million in scholarships and has committed an additional $50 million. Students achieve a 94% first year persistence rate.
Edesia: Edesia is a non-profit organization that manufactures specialized ready-to-use foods (RUFs) to change lives. Each year, millions of “miracle packets” leave Edesia’s Rhode Island factory and are delivered to malnourished children all over the world by humanitarian aid workers serving the hardest-to-reach and most inhospitable places on the planet. Edesia currently employs 70 people hailing from over 23 countries. Since 2010, Edesia’s RUF’s have reached over 5.5 million children in over 50 countries.
Experimental StationExperimental Station is working to build independent cultural infrastructure on the South Side of Chicago. It does this by connecting educational and cultural programs, small business enterprises, and community initiatives. Initiatives include a farmers market, a community bike shop, a coffee shop, a multimedia documentary production company, a nonprofit print magazine, and regular free community events. The organization’s goal is to become operationally self-sustainable by building their revenue base through building and event rentals.
Greater Chicago Food Depository: The Greater Chicago Food Depository, Chicago’s food bank, is a nonprofit food distribution and training center that provides food while striving to end hunger in the community. The Food Depository makes a daily impact across Cook County with a network of 700 pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, mobile programs, children’s programs, older adult programs and innovative responses that address the root causes of hunger. In fiscal year 2015 – 2016, the Food Depository distributed 70 million pounds of shelf-stable food, fresh produce, dairy products and meat, the equivalent of 160,000 meals every day.
Guitars Over GunsGuitars over Guns provides mentoring for at-risk youth through music and arts education. The GOGO program is designed to engage youth through culturally relevant artistic mediums, using a hands-on approach to learn music, dance, and visual arts. Professional artists are paired with small groups of students for the school-year, using this unique arts-learning process to build strong mentoring relationships. Through this connection, mentors are able to help students navigate the obstacles standing between them success.
Himalayan Cataract Project: Himalayan Cataract Project works to overcome barriers impeding delivery of cataract care to underserved, needlessly blind people in the developing world. At the core of the work is the goal to achieve high-quality, low-cost eye care that can be sustained in the developing world for the long-term. In 2015, HCP and its partners provided more than 940,000 screenings and performed more than 83,000 surgeries across Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. In order to strengthen and grow eye care systems in these regions, HCP also provides education and training. Since 2005, HCP has trained over 300 ophthalmic personnel from 19 countries.
Illinois Business Immigration CoalitionThe Illinois Business Immigration Coalition (IBIC) represents a diverse set of businesses and business associations promoting sensible, comprehensive federal immigration reform to benefit the people and economy of the state of Illinois. The organization aims to unite key groups across diverse sectors – high-skilled and low-skilled, large corporations and small businesses – in a push for sensible immigration reform alongside elected officials and immigrant advocates. The organization’s goal is to provide a strong and effective voice for Illinois businesses in the national immigration conversation and to urge elected officials to vote for the US economy and local communities by supporting comprehensive, sensible immigration reform.
Latinitas: Based in Austin and El Paso, TX, Latinitas is dedicated to empowering Latina youth using media and technology. Latinitas serves approximately 500 girls daily through after school clubs. Club leaders work with girls in interactive lessons on blogging, photography, graphic and web design, filmmaking, podcasting, game and app design and new lessons in coding, virtual and augmented reality. Girls in Club Latinitas publish on bi-lingual platforms, and broadcast on radio and YouTube based channels. Attendees also share their work locally and nationally through city-wide photo shows and film festivals.
Legal Service Corporation National Public Libraries Training Initiative: While public libraries are a place where visitors, often low-income, seek information on questions, interests, and problems, librarians are not equipped to support personal issues like finances, health or family matters. Legal Services Corporation (LSC), the nation’s largest funder of civil legal aid, is partnering with the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC), a nonprofit global library cooperative that provides high-quality, free online professional development to librarians across the US, to train librarians on how to identify certain civil legal issues and direct their patrons to appropriate resources to help them with their civil legal problem.
My Block, My Hood, My City: My Block, My Hood, My City provides youth from under-resourced neighborhoods with new experiences to expose them to possibilities beyond their own communities. The mission is to help teenagers overcome poverty and isolation by boosting educational attainment and providing opportunities that make a difference in their lives. Recent explorations include visiting art galleries, learning how to sail, serving meals to the homeless and taking students to the National Museum of African America History and Culture in DC. In addition, the organization sells hoodies and sweatshirts for revenue and produces a regular TV series around ‘hood’ exploration.
National Suicide Prevention HotlineThe National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, across the United States. The Lifeline is comprised of a national network of over 160 local crisis centers, combining custom local care and resources with national standards and best practices.
Nerdy Media: 88% of Chicago’s black and Latinos aged 16-19 are unemployed and 98% of employers surveyed say they look for mindset over skill set when searching for new talent. Nerdy Media helps Chicago’s teens and young adults connect the dots between aspiration, action and achievement. Nerdy Media provides experiential development workshops, as well as through a youth collective that provide students between 16 and 24 who live on Chicago’s South Side with real world work experience via real projects.
News Literary ProjectThe News Literacy Project (NLP) is a nonpartisan national education nonprofit that works with educators and journalists to teach middle school and high school students how to sort fact from fiction in the digital age. NLP provides these students with the essential skills they need to become smart, active consumers of news and information and engaged, informed citizens. The model provides real-world learning experiences for students and connects them with journalists who reinforce these lessons by drawing on their own experiences and on recent examples from the news media.
ProjectFIREProject FIRE (Fearless Initiative for Recovery and Empowerment) is an artist development and employment program that offers victims of violence healing through glassblowing. The organization combines glass arts education, mentoring, and trauma psychoeducation to support trauma recovery and create jobs for youth injured by violence, providing a holistic model of care and opportunity.
Re-imagining Migration: Re-Imagining Migration seeks to foster understanding and the successful inclusion of migrant youth across the globe. RIM provides educators with the resources, training, and tools to engage the children of migration and their peers to learn from one another in reflective learning environments. The goal is to empower students to become ethical, engaged, and active civic participants in the interconnected world. The project is currently developing rigorously vetted resources for classrooms and opportunities for lifelong learning and quality professional development to foster the civic skills, social, and intellectual habits necessary for democracy to flourish in the age of mass migrations.
Root & Rebound: Root & Rebound’s goal is to increase access to justice and opportunity for people in reentry from prison and jail, and to educate and empower those who support them. Root & Rebound also seeks to advance and strengthen the reentry infrastructure across the state of California. The organization’s model of support and empowerment goes beyond the traditional 1-1 client-attorney relationship and is based on the idea that a small group of attorneys and advocates could disrupt cycles of poverty and incarceration by transferring powerful knowledge and skills to the people directly impacted by the criminal justice system, and the families and communities that support them.
Symphony for a Broken Orchestra: There are over 1,000 musical instruments owned by The School District of Philadelphia that cannot be played because they are broken with no available budget to fix them. Symphony for a Broken Orchestra is a city-wide effort initiated by Temple Contemporary in partnership with the School District of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Boyer College of Music & Dance, the Curtis Institute, and numerous professional/amateur musicians throughout the city. In December 2017, these hundreds of musicians performed a composition written by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang to unite generations of Philadelphia musicians and audiences in support of music education for public schools.  Following the performance, Temple Contemporary, in collaboration with instrument repair professionals throughout the region, will repair all of the fixable instruments and return them back to the public schools they came from in the fall of 2018. Instrument repair kits will also be installed in every public school offering instrumental music classes, allowing any minor repairs to be fixed in the future.
Thistle Farms: Based in Nashville, TN, Thistle Farms has developed a comprehensive model to offer women survivors of trafficking, prostitution, and addiction, hope and healing through a holistic residential program, employment with one of four social enterprises (natural body and home product company, the Café at Thistle Farms, the Studios, and Thistle Farms Global), and a growing national and global network. Last year 59 women employed by Thistle Farms earned over $1 million a year in salary and wages. In addition, Thistle Farms provided 9,215 nights of safe, supportive housing, and 14,100 hours of counseling and therapy. Finally, 40 organizations across the country have replicated the housing model, offering 185 beds.
Unchartered: Drawing from a vast network of people from companies, foundations, governments, policy makers, etc., Unchartered (formerly The Unreasonable Institute) builds coordinated movements of people to address big, entrenched problems. Current programs include addressing unchartered food access, developing a future cities accelerator, an agribusiness partnership in Ghana, and 5-day accelerator labs made up of teams around the world.
Vox Teen Communications: Founded in 1993, VOX Teen Communications is based in Atlanta, GA. The organization started as a monthly newspaper and has evolved into a multi-platform media enterprise with daily and weekly digital publishing. VOX 20/20 prepares teens for future success through experiences including publishing and leadership opportunities, job shadowing with Atlanta media professionals, college and career readiness workshops, financial literacy training, skills-based training, crisis intervention, and social and emotional support. Through VOX’s publishing opportunities, teens research, write personal and journalistic features, create art, and design publications to grow personally and inform and inspire a citywide audience.