SCE Announces 2023 Catalyst Awards

Each year, our staff and board nominate several organizations to receive Catalyst Awards: one-time contributions made as part of our year-end giving. These organizations typically work on issues beyond our primary program areas. What unites them is their distinct and promising approaches to chronic social problems.

In a year marked with vast challenges, the work of these 23 organizations feels urgent and critical. We’re proud to support their exemplary work.

Arts and Culture

Red Door Project: The Red Door Project leverages the arts to bridge the divide between the public and law enforcement. Their core program, The Evolve Experience, presents live and filmed first-person narratives from police officers, judges, and Black community members describing their lived experiences at the intersection of race and the justice system.

SkyART: SkyART uses free visual arts programming as a vehicle for young people to create, to communicate effectively, and to learn the essential skills and creative expression.

OneTable: OneTable’s mission is to make Shabbat dinner accessible to tens of thousands of people who otherwise would be absent from Jewish community. They are the “AirBnB for Shabbat dinners” and provide hosts and guests with easily accessible tools and resources, making these rituals not only attainable, but sustainable and support in creating offline communities.

Community & Economic Development

Project Blue: Project Blue’s Healthy Room Project empowers at-risk youth aged 5-16, living in dangerous communities, by transforming their bedrooms into clean, safe, comfortable, and personalized spaces that promote positive physical and emotional well-being collaboratively with police officers and mentors.

Folded Map Project: Folded Map Project visually connects residents who live at corresponding addresses on the North and South Sides of Chicago. The project investigates what urban segregation looks like and how it impacts Chicago residents.

Future Founders: Future Founders fosters inclusion in the entrepreneurial community and seed more diverse founders into the startup ecosystem. Founded in 2011, their programs immerse youth in experiences that inspire and empower them to adopt an entrepreneurial mindset and create their own opportunity.

Impact Justice’s Building Justice Project: The Building Justice project partners with architects such as Frank Gehry and architecture students at Yale to re-design prison environments to nurture people’s growth and return home.

Strides for Peace: Strides for Peace convenes and provides capacity building to organizations working to prevent gun violence across the city to support pilot programs, program enhancements, community and social cohesion, resilience and collaboration.


Unite Against Book Bans: Unite Against Book Bans is a national initiative to empower readers everywhere to stand together in the fight against censorship.

GripTape: The GripTape Learning Challenge provides young people with up to $500 to pursue an interest or learn something their passionate about and pairs them with a Champion to support throughout a 10-week Learning Challenge.

The Hidden Genius Project: The Hidden Genius Project was founded by Black male technologists to address the dramatic juxtaposition between the high unemployment of Black male youth and the plethora of career opportunities within the local technology sector.

Once Upon Our Time Capsule: Each June, they launch a new Youth Time Capsule, with a new theme, creating an outlet for youth to share their stories and discover the stories of others.


Well Done Foundation: The Well Done Foundation works with farmers and landowners, local and state governments, and corporations to locate abandoned wells, measure and document the CO2 emissions, then plug the wells and restore the surrounding surface area to its original state.

Health and Human Services

TaskForce Chicago: TaskForce offers a range of programming, including services that tackle the root contributors to HIV/STI risk and the growing hostility toward the LGBTQ+ community.

Healing to Action: Healing to Action promotes the individual and collective transformation of survivors through an eight week leadership program that builds relationships between survivors, facilitates their collective healing from trauma, and provides training so survivors can organize against structural barriers that perpetuate gender-based violence.

Beauty 2 The Streetz: Beauty 2 The Streetz aims to serve the homeless by providing necessities alongside the things that make us feel inherently human: a hot shower, a hearty meal, the hope-inducing feeling of looking in the mirror and loving what you see. They provide mobile beauty and hair services to the homeless across Los Angeles.

iFoster: Their mission is to ensure that every child growing up outside of their biological home has the resources and opportunities they need to become successful, independent adults. iFoster provides a free platform of resources for foster care youth, caregivers, and organizations.


Chicago Refugee Coalition: Their mission is to provide innovative, dignity-centered relief services for refugees in the Chicagoland area.

Journalism and Civic Engagement

Center for Scholars and Storytellers: The Center for Scholars & Storytellers is the only youth-centered organization that bridges the gap between social science research and media creation. Their focus is on doing work that has a positive impact on the entertainment industry and on youth who consume popular media.

The Center for New Data: The Center for New Data, a non-partisan and non-profit organization, makes big data accessible to nonprofits involved in protecting voting rights and strengthening democracy.

Braver Angels: Their mission is to bring Americans together to bridge the partisan divide and strengthen our democratic republic. They organize thousands of citizens at the grassroots level across all 50 states through membership recruitment, local alliance-building, regional leadership development, convention delegation, including Red-Blue workshops, debates, community events, and town halls.

Youth Development

Save Streetball Initiative by My Block, My Hood, My City: The Save Streetball Initiative’s mission is to restore basketball courts across Chicago.

Crushers Club: Crushers Club arm’s young people with the support and skills they need to restore their lives and improve their neighborhood. Crushers Club started as a boxing program and has expanded to meet young people’s needs. That includes Life Coaches, Mentoring, Entrepreneurship Training, Music Studio, a Construction Program, Crushers Kitchen, Crushers Clothing Boxing, College Prep and Field Trips.

Young Leaders in Technology Granted $2 Million to Create Safe and Inclusive Online Spaces 

We are thrilled to be a part of The Responsible Technology Youth Power Fund (RTYPF) which today announced our inaugural cohort of 26 youth-led initiatives receiving a total of $2 million to support their advocacy for a more inclusive, equitable, and accountable technology ecosystem.

“We – and so many others in our generation – believe technology can and should be a force for good. This grant empowers us to do bigger and better things to build, shape, and steward our work that safeguards our collective wellbeing,” said Sneha Dave, Founder and Executive Director of Generation Patient, one of the 26 organizations in the inaugural RTYPF cohort. “We sincerely thank the Responsible Technology Youth Power Fund and its investors for their support and recognition of youth-led organizations at the forefront of this movement.”

The 26 organizations will use these funds to advance their work with projects focused on an array of technology issues ranging from: 

  • Ensuring responsible use of artificial intelligence 
  • Protecting human rights and removing barriers to safety and well-being 
  • Improving education access
  • Leveraging platforms to address social and environmental challenges, among others

Video of The Archewell Foundation co-founders Prince Harry and Meghan, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex congratulating members of the inaugural Responsible Technology Youth Power Fund cohort. The Archewell Foundation is on the RTYPF Advisory Committee.  

“Societies globally are wrestling with major issues like the youth mental health crisis and the decay of our information environment. What and who can we trust online? Can online spaces be truly safe and affirm wellbeing? And what new systems can we create with, instead of for, young people?” said Emma Leiken, RTYPF Co-founder; Responsible Technology Team at Omidyar Network. “These questions touch on issues ranging from platform accountability to cybersecurity, privacy, digital literacy, data equity, algorithmic bias, and digital well-being and that’s what this fund’s grantees will tackle.”

The full list of 26 organizations receiving grants and joining Responsible Technology Youth Power Fund’s inaugural cohort are:

  • 5Rights Foundation has three interconnected and indivisible areas of work: data and privacy, child-centered design and children’s rights. The organization reimagines the digital world as a place children and young people were afforded their existing right to participate in the digital world creatively, knowledgeably and fearlessly.
  • AI Consensus, a student movement sponsored by Minerva University, is dedicated to transforming education by empowering the ethical and responsible use of AI tools. Their mission is anchored in fostering dialogues that bring together diverse perspectives and a deep passion for learning.
  • Center for Educational Equity, Teachers College, Columbia University (Youth Empowerment Initiative) is a research and policy center at Teachers College, Columbia University, whose mission is to strengthen educational rights and is the convener of DemocracyReady NY, a statewide, nonpartisan, multigenerational coalition committed to civic education and preparing all students to live engaged civic lives. 
  • Center for Intimacy Justice is a nonprofit changing tech platforms’ discriminatory suppression of women’s health information online. They lead investigations, legal actions, and multi-pronged media and advocacy strategies to change biased tech practices that censor women’s health.
  • Civics Unplugged provides young people with the training, funding, and  community they need to become civic innovators.
  • Connected Camps leads with the mission to build a safe and empowering global online community where kids build, code, play, mentor, and learn from one another. To accomplish this, they tap the power of youth tech experts to teach and mentor.
  • Cyber Collective translates complex tech topics around cybersecurity and data privacy to empower people to think critically about the internet and inspire a more socially responsible future. 
  • Design It For Us are young people taking on Big Tech. They aim to drive and achieve key policy reforms to protect kids, teens, and young adults online through the mobilization of youth activists, leaders, and voices. 
  • Detroit Heals Detroit exists to foster healing justice for Detroit youth and transform their pain into power. With a goal to combat trauma, they use healing centered engagement to share their greatest vulnerabilities with the rest of the world while simultaneously working to dismantle oppressive systems for marginalized Detroit youth. 
  • Encode Justice is a coalition of youth activists and change makers fighting for human rights, accountability, and justice in artificial intelligence. Harnessing a global network of volunteers from all over the United States and world, they champion informed AI policy and encourage youth to confront the challenges of the age of automation through political advocacy, community organizing, educational programming, and content creation.
  • Future Incubator is the leading resource hub for youth-led organizing projects and groups across the US. They aim to lower the accessibility barrier to organizing by acting as a bridge between young people organizing at the grassroots, and resources, funding, and institutions often inaccessible or unavailable to youth. 
  • Gen-Z for Change is a collective of Gen-Z activists that leverages the power of social media to drive progressive change. The organization uses innovative digital tools to build generational power and disrupt existing power structures.
  • Generation Patient represents adolescents and young adults with chronic conditions across the United States and internationally. They focus on peer support, advocacy, and access to educational information and resources as fundamental pathways to empowerment.  
  • GoodforMEdia is a youth-driven peer-mentoring program that supports young people’s healthy social media engagement by creating a space where older teens and young adults share personal stories, insights, and strategies with younger teens and tweens.
  • #HalfTheStory is the pioneering non-profit on a mission to empower the next generation’s relationship with technology through research, education, and advocacy. 
  • Institute for Strategic Dialogue is an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to safeguarding democracy and human rights and reversing the rising tide of polarization, extremism and disinformation worldwide.
  • Log Off empowers young people to rethink and rebuild their relationship with social media.
  • NextGen Connect is a youth-led, intergenerational think tank that provides youth with a runway for their ideas, energies, and endeavors, so that they can effectively educate and advocate for tech accountability. Their program is grounded in the belief that youth have a vision for responsible technology, and we offer them the resources they need to succeed as well as the respect and freedom to execute their projects and make real changes. 
  • Our Subscription to Addiction is a documentary that depicts the raw and vulnerable experience of a student filmmaker grappling with phone addiction after deleting her social media. As she discovers three members of her generation that have joined forces to lead a digital wellbeing movement, she is inspired to publicize their activism and empower the rest of her generation to take back control of their relationship with their phone. 
  • Public Knowledge promotes freedom of expression, an open internet, and access to affordable communications tools and creative works. They work to shape policy on behalf of the public interest.
  • Reboot is a publication and community reimagining techno-optimism for a better collective future.
  • ReThink Citizens leads with a mission to tackle cyberbullying and foster digital literacy by equipping all youth with the tools and education they need to safely take on today’s digital world.
  • Seattle Student Union fights for student needs, uniting the south and north ends of Seattle. They stand up for abortion rights, climate justice, mental health support, Black Lives Matter, gun violence prevention, and other progressive causes.
  • Seek Common Ground and its Student Action Network for Equity supports student organizers advancing democracy, racial justice, and education equity. 
  • The STEAM Connection is on a mission to make technical education accessible for Indigenous youths through the power of culturally responsive robotics. 
  • Young People’s Alliance Education Fund empowers young people through student-led organizing and advocacy. Their student advocates work at colleges across North Carolina, state legislatures, and on Capitol Hill to amplify youth voices.

Learn more about the Responsible Technology Youth Power Fund and their inaugural cohort at:

Defining Thriving in the Digital Age

Thriving as humans, according to Daniel J. Brown, co-author of Human Thriving: A Conceptual Debate and Literature Review, is simply “feeling good about life and yourself and being good at something.”

Today, we know that many adolescents across the United States are not thriving. The U.S. Surgeon General declared a mental health crisis for children and youth, saying there are “alarming increases in the prevalence of certain mental health challenges.” The American Psychological Association says that children and youth have been increasingly reported “persistent sadness and hopelessness—as well as suicidal thoughts and behaviors” for more than a decade before the Surgeon General’s declaration.

Many factors are contributing to this crisis. It’s difficult to identify the role of digital technologies in its creation, but we know that new technologies and social media can have both negative and positive effects on young people and that the challenges in the digital world are tough to navigate.

Our partners in the Youth Voice in the Digital Age Challenge committed to improving the digital experiences of children and youth. Their goal was to equip those who teach youth with the tools to help young people create digital experiences where they can thrive. The toolkit created by the initiative’s partners helps educators and afterschool providers facilitate intentional self-reflection about digital life, support mindful tech habits, create space for meaningful peer connection and validation, cultivate awareness about habits, coping strategies, and help adults understand current stresses, including related to tech, from teen’s perspectives. A critical piece of this initiative which is often missing was how the partners centered youth voice and experiences, and invited students to design their own solutions and to advocate for themselves.

Our partners at Spy Hop in Salt Lake City are a great example of how to bring this approach to life. They are a digital media arts center working with children ages 9-19 in schools, after school programs, summer camps, and other youth-centered programs. Fostering a fun culture that nurtures creativity and individuality of students, they provide the opportunities for young people to engage in open conversations about their use of digital technologies and how they affect their ability to thrive. 

Spy Hop’s programs directly address youth’s need to thrive based on creating digital products, which builds their confidence and pride at being good at something. Students are mentored through the complicated process of producing a short film, creating electronic music, designing a video game, or producing a podcast. This allows youth to express and utilize their own thoughts and experiences using the varied tech landscape to create products that ultimately support them to thrive – not hinder it.

Spy Hop and our other partners in this initiative continue to transform students’ digital experiences from the negative experiences that lead to poor mental health into ones where adolescents can create, have fun, and thrive.

Take a look at the full toolkit here with resources from each of the initiative’s partners here!

Million Coaches Challenge Releases Belief Statement

A good coach can change everything. While most coaches recognize the key role they play in promoting youth development and social and emotional skills, they often don’t feel supported in doing so. This is a missed opportunity.

It’s time for big, bold action from across the youth sports sector. The first step: train one million coaches in youth development techniques through the Million Coaches Challenge. Together, with our partners, we have embarked on a journey to grow a generation of coaches trained in youth development. Coach training is essential to creating quality sports experiences and we envision a world in which all young athletes, regardless of their family’s income, their gender, their race, or their ability status. In our Million Coaches Challenge belief statement, we explain why we believe youth should have access to coaches who are well-versed in youth development and skill-building techniques that help kids succeed on and off the field. 

Together, we are the Million Coaches Challenge. Learn more the Million Coaches Challenge and our shared vision at:

New Resource: Ready to Implement Toolkit for OST Leaders

With support from The Wallace Foundation and the Susan Crown Exchange, American Institutes for Research (AIR) developed the Ready to Implement Toolkit for out-of-school time (OST) leaders and staff. 

The field of out-of-school time (OST) is often the champion for new initiatives—from social and emotional learning (SEL) to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), to college and career readiness and beyond—given the creativity and flexibility that is inherent to OST programming. As new initiatives gain popularity and increase in prevalence, OST practitioners, intermediaries, and funders embrace these ideas, committing resources to learn new content and adopt new practices only to be hindered by implementation issues.

Research and experience suggest that readiness is a critical factor for quality implementation. The need to implement new initiatives successfully is not something that is going to change or go away. So, what can we do? We can overcome these hurdles if we recognize the importance of readiness and then work to understand, measure, build readiness for implementation going forward.

AIR’s Ready to Implement Toolkit is a research-based resource for out-of-school time (OST) leaders, staff, and teams who want to make data-driven decisions as they prepare for change. Use the toolkit to:

  • Stop: Learn more about what readiness is and why it is critical when making a change.
  • Think: Measure your readiness with AIR’s reliable and validated readiness assessment, then receive actionable scores and access to resources that will help you build readiness for change.
  • Act: Use the Ready Resource Library to identify tools that will help you build readiness and make changes with confidence.

Take a look at the toolkit and learn more here.