2018 Catalyst Grantees

SCE sends year-end grants to 21 organizations who are solving critical social challenges

In 1986, while recalling a childhood story, TV host Fred Rogers offered what would become a timeless piece of wisdom. As a tragic world event unfolded on TV, his mother turned to him, sensing his uneasiness, and said, “Look for the helpers. There is always somebody trying to help.” In 2018, the SCE Catalyst awardees did more than just help. They sacrificed, they solved, they led, and they inspired.

As part of the SCE Catalyst program, each year we select a small group of organizations from across the country who are pursuing innovative solutions to our most critical social challenges. Each one receives an unexpected gift to support – and validate – their impressive work, and throughout the year, SCE will feature awardees on our website. From criminal justice to immigration to civic engagement, these 21 organizations are catalysts for social progress.

Civic Engagement: Generation Citizen, IssueVoter, The People’s Supper

Community and Youth Development: Beyond the Ball, Kusanya Cafe, YR Media

Criminal Justice: Prosecutor Impact, Restorative Justice Community Court, The Bail Project

Education: Beyond12, Posse Foundation, TalkingPoints


Health: Canine Therapy Corps

Immigration: GirlForward, REFUNITE, Upwardly Global

Legal Aid: Upsolve

Social Services: CASA, mRelief

Workforce Development: Techtonica


Generation Citizen: We admire Generation Citizen’s (GC) innovative way to empower youth to become more engaged and effective citizens.  Their mission is to ensure that every student in the United States receives an effective action civics education. GC does this by directly engaging schools in action civics while simultaneously building the demand for the concept across the country. Standardized and vetted by civics experts, educators, and academics, its curriculum is taught by motivated college student volunteers. Student experiences include meeting with legislators, writing opinion articles, and filming documentaries. The organization aims to reach 30,000 youth by 2020.

IssueVoter: Founded in 2016, IssueVoter gives people a tool to track what’s happening in Congress and weigh in on issues that matter to them. The platform is designed to make it simpler to follow what elected officials are doing, easily share opinions about proposed bills, and track the results of votes. It translates bills into plain language, along with bullet points from both sides, and creates a custom scorecard of your rep’s voting record. IssueVoter is a nonpartisan online platform, and we admire its mission to give everyone a voice in our democracy by making civic engagement accessible, efficient, and impactful.

The People’s Supper: We are impressed by The People’s Supper authentic approach to improving civil discourse.  This project started in January 2017 as #100Days100Dinners, and since then it has partnered with individuals and community organizations to host more than 1,000 dinners and events across the country. It aims to repair the breach in our interpersonal relationships across political, ideological, and identity differences, leading to more civil discourse.  Whether at a kitchen table, at a library or in a conference room, trained hosts guide small groups of six to eight guests as they listen to one another’s stories. With the support The People’s Supper, friends, neighbors and members of different communities come together to hear and be heard.


Beyond the Ball: We believe in Beyond the Ball’s commitment to using the power of sport and play to reclaim space, unite the community, change lives, and develop a culture of opportunity that cultivates hope. Beyond the Ball provides a variety of programming from ages 5-24 in the Little Village and North Lawndale neighborhoods of Chicago. More than 1,500 youth are served each year. The organization’s goal is to use its programs to develop relationships with youth to strengthen their leadership skills, create a bond to the community, and construct positive identities.

Kusanya Cafe: Kusanya Cafe is more than a place to meet for coffee or good food in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood. It is a symbol of community, creativity, and promise. Founded by Englewood residents in 2013, Kusanya Cafe is a nonprofit coffee shop and creative community gathering place. Its mission is to provide a place where great people can come together over great food, in addition to hosting community-born events. Every month, Kusanya is home to a variety of community-driven arts, culture and educational events. The cafe is sustained by sales, individual donations, and small grants, and we admire the cafe’s grand vision for the residents of Englewood.

YR Media: We are impressed by YR Media’s national network of young journalists and artists. The organization collaborates with youth around the country and top media professionals to create content that matters. It partners with outlets like Teen Vogue, NPR, Pandora, and New York Times to further amplify its work. YR Media prepares diverse young people for the 21st-century digital workplace by offering them hands-on education and employment in journalism, arts, and technology, as well as access to support services like academic advising and mental health care.


Prosecutor Impact: District Attorney offices often do not have the time or resources to train new prosecutors or collect data that measures the true impact of their decisions. As a result, traditional incentives in DA’s offices yield traditional results: too much crime in concentrated areas, too much wasted expense with little benefit, too many people in prison, too many unjust outcomes. Founded in 2016, Prosecutor Impact aims to improve community safety through education, training, and improved access to technology for new prosecutors. We are impressed by its comprehensive and strategic approach to foster a fairer justice system.

Restorative Justice Community Court: We are proud to support the Restorative Justice Community Court (RJCC), a groundbreaking collaboration between Chicago’s community-based service providers and the court system. The RJCC will serve 18-26 year olds from Chicago’s North Lawndale community who are charged with non-violent felonies and misdemeanors. The RJCC engages participants in restorative justice practices, coupled with social services to heal and strengthen all affected, and it is the only court in the country that is 100% based on the restorative justice model. Defendants enter the program voluntarily. Those who successfully complete their Repair of Harm Agreement in the community will never have charges on their record. An equal partnership of the Cook County Circuit Court and North Lawndale Community Restorative Justice Hub members leads the RJCC.

The Bail Project: The Bail Project combats mass incarceration on the front end by paying bail for tens of thousands of low-income Americans at risk of pretrial detention. This allows individuals to fight their cases without feeling pressured to plead guilty. The organization grew from the The Bronx Freedom Fund, which began in 2007. In 2017, it received funding for a national expansion under the name The Bail Project. The organization’s goal is to help more than 160,000 people, making The Bail Project the largest non-governmental decarceration of Americans in history. We are honored to play a small part in their efforts to support low-income Americans at risk of pretrial detention.


Beyond 12: We are impressed by Beyond 12’s innovative approach to improving college completion rates. Beyond 12 addresses the college completion challenge by acting as a data and service bridge between K-12 and higher education. The organization advances its mission through 3 core activities: Track , Connect, and Coach. All three activities are linked to a data analytics engine that provides both quantitative and qualitative data about students’ postsecondary success to education administrators to help them better prepare and support their students for college success.

The Posse Foundation: Founded in 1989, The Posse Foundation believes that to foster leaders who better represent the demographics of the United States, we must broaden the pool of students who enroll at the best institutions of higher education. The organization identifies, recruits and trains individuals with extraordinary leadership potential. Posse Scholars receive full-tuition leadership scholarships from Posse’s partner colleges and universities. With support from Posse, Scholars excel at school, win competitive internships, earn prestigious awards, and are hired for top jobs. There are nearly 8,490 Scholars and alumni, 57 college and university partners, and 190 corporate partners in the Posse network. We admire Posse’s continued impact in the field of higher education.

TalkingPoints: The correlation between student success and parent engagement is well researched.  For parents who do not speak English, however, engaging with teachers can be overwhelming – or seem impossible. TalkingPoints drives student success for low-income, diverse families by reducing the language barrier through an online communication platform that translates teacher messages into the parent’s home language. The tool then translates the parent’s response back into English. The platform allows teachers to regularly stay in touch with parents, whether sending updates, reminders, or check-ins. It offers 20 languages through human and machine translation, and more than 20,000 teachers and 120,000 parents were on the platform in 2017. We believe its innovative communication platform to connect schools and families can be a driver for student success.

ENVIRONMENT We are impressed by’s commitment to solving the climate crisis through grassroots organizing. Its online campaigns, organizing efforts, and mass public actions are led from the bottom up by thousands of volunteers in over 188 countries. The organization focuses on projects that oppose new coal, oil, and gas; takes money out of the companies that heat up the planet; and build 100% clean energy solutions. was founded in 2008 and is known for global days of action that link activists and organizations around the world. These include the International Day of Climate Action in 2009, the Global Work Party in 2010, and Moving Planet in 2011. It also provides guides, templates, visuals, and resources to help individuals organize against the climate crisis.


Canine Therapy Corps: Since 1991, Canine Therapy Corps’ volunteers and certified therapy dogs have been serving the Chicago metropolitan area, working with health care, education, and social services professionals to help people recover from physical and emotional trauma. The organization customizes and tailors its programs to meet the therapeutic objectives of the special needs population served. Programs are goal-directed and interactive, making the experience an important part of recovery. Approximately 65 active volunteer teams work in programs across the Chicago metropolitan area. Each year, the organization provides 1,400 hours of therapy to more than 5,000 individuals at no charge to any client or facility. We are honored to support their work.


GirlForward: Working in both Chicago and Austin, TX (with plans to launch a third location in 2019), GirlForward is an organization that supports young women within refugee populations through three core programs. Its Mentoring Program focuses on planning and acting for a fully-realized future, its Camp GirlForward encourages the development of English skills, and its Safe Spaces project provides the opportunity to connect with others in the community and organization. Founded by Blair Brettschneider, a Forbes 30 Under 30 recipient, we believe in GirlForward’s leadership and commitment to empowering refugees.

REFUNITE: REFUNITE is the world’s largest missing persons platform for refugees and displaced populations. Working in off-grid countries through partnerships with the private sector and with twenty mobile operators globally, it has more than 1 million registered users. REFUNITE works across 19 countries and has access to an estimated 360 million mobile subscribers. The organization works to provide a global, anonymous and secure network to assist refugees in reconnecting with missing family members. It has reunited an estimated 40,000 families, often after months or years of searching. We are impressed by REFUNITE’s innovative approach to this humanitarian crisis.

Upwardly Global: We admire Upwardly Global’s mission to eliminate employment barriers for skilled immigrants and refugees and integrate this population into the professional U.S. workforce. There are about 2 million immigrants and refugees currently in the U.S. who have college degrees from their home countries but are unemployed or working far below their skill level. Upwardly Global is the first and longest-serving organization that helps work-authorized immigrants, refugees, asylees, and Special Immigrant Visa holders (SIVs) restart their professional careers in the United States. The organization works with employers such as Accenture, Levi Strauss, Wells Fargo, WeWork and many others to connect them to skilled candidates. It has placed more than 5,600 people. Upwardly Global has offices in Chicago, New York, DC and San Francisco.


Upsolve: Upsolve helps low-income Americans in financial distress get a fresh start through Chapter 7 bankruptcy at no cost. It does this by combining the power of technology with pro bono attorneys. Upsolve was founded out of Harvard Law School’s Access to Justice Lab in 2016. The process looks like this: an individual is referred to Upsolve by local nonprofits, Upsolve operates an online platform that helps the individual complete all relevant forms, and then a pro bono attorney reviews and files the forms. In its first 12 months, the organization helped erased $2M in debt for 60 low-income New Yorkers, averaging a $40K increase in net worth per user. In 2018, it is expanding across America, starting with 14 legal aid organizations in 11 states. We are proud to support their work.

CASA: We believe CASA’s work is vital to the soul our nation. The National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association promotes court-appointed volunteer advocacy so every abused or neglected child in the United States can be safe, have a permanent home and have the opportunity to thrive. CASA and guardian ad litem (GAL) volunteers make sure children don’t get lost in the overburdened legal and social service system or languish in inappropriate group or foster homes. Volunteers stay with each case until it is closed and the child is placed in a safe, permanent home. Founded in 1977, today there are nearly 950 CASA/GAL programs in 49 states recruiting, training and supporting volunteers. In total more than 85,000 volunteers support 260,000 children each year.

mRelief: It is mRelief’s mission to simplify the burdensome process of applying for food stamps to ensure that anyone can access the safety net without it contributing to the already stressful circumstance of poverty. mRelief has built an easy-to-use platform on web and text messaging for families to find out if they qualify and enroll in food stamps. Instead of a 20 page application, mRelief texts 10 simple questions that take less than 3 minutes to answer. Over 260,000 families in 42 states have used mRelief to secure food stamps and other public support. We admire their innovative and efficient solution to address this challenge for low-income Americans.


Techtonica: We are impressed by Techtonica’s efforts to reduce the “tech gap” in the Bay Area for low-income women and non-binary, feminine-adjacent adults. The tech industry in the Bay Area is causing displacement and increasing income disparity. The industry also needs to build more diverse technical teams. Techtonica aims to close this gap by partnering with tech companies to provide a 6 month apprenticeship, living stipends, and job placements. Techtonica vets candidates and then collaborates with the corporate partners to design the apprenticeship experience. Corporate partnerships for apprenticeships and placements include Pantheon, Redfin,, HUGE, mixpanel, and Rally.

Check back throughout the year for features on each organization.