SCE Announces 2020 Catalyst Grants

Each year, our staff and board nominate organizations to receive Catalyst Grants: 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 by a global pandemic, an economic crisis, a contentious election, and a growing movement for racial justice, the work of these 27 organizations feels urgent and critical. We’re proud to support their exemplary work.

  • Arts and Culture: The Barat Foundation, Free Write Arts & Literacy, the National Museum of Mexican Art
  • Community and Economic Development: Bunker Labs, I Grow Chicago, PCs for People, Resurrection Project, Southern Smoke Foundation
  • Education: Communities in Schools of Chicago, Get Schooled, Global Nomads
  • Environment: California Fires Foundation, The Ocean Project, Urban Growers Collective
  • Health and Human Services: Between Friends Chicago, CareMessage, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless
  • Immigration: RAICES Texas
  • Journalism and Civic Engagement: Living Room Conversations, Rock the Vote
  • Social Justice: Fresh Lifelines for Youth (FLY), It Gets Better Project, TrueChild, Uptown People’s Law Center
  • Youth Development: Chicago Voyagers, The Conscious Kid, Sports Shed


The Barat Foundation: Animodules Peace Project: This project’s mission is to beautify public space, unite communities and empower under-represented youth through collaborative public art. “Public art by the public” promotes peace making through the arts, diversity, inclusion and creative placemaking, highlighting a city’s unique history and culture. The Newark Animodule™ program serves as a model of civil rejuvenation through collaborative art that can be implemented in other cities and municipalities.

Free Write Arts & Literacy: Free Write Arts & Literacy engages incarcerated and criminalized youth and young adults in the performing, visual, and literary arts so that they become the narrators of their own stories and the authors of their futures. By co-designing with their students, Free Write supports them as they develop educational and career opportunities that reduce recidivism.

National Museum of Mexican Art: Yollocallí Arts Reach: Located in the heart of Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood, the museum serves as an open community center with studio spaces, a computer lab, radio production studio, a large art library. The award-winning Yollocallí Arts Reach has a creative, supportive staff that helps, encourages, and inspires young people through a variety of arts and media programs.


Bunker Labs: Bunker Labs is a national network of veteran and milspouse entrepreneurs dedicated to helping the military connected community start businesses. Since 2014, they’ve helped more than 6,000 veterans and military families found enterprises that have raised more than $135M in revenue.

I Grow Chicago: The mission of I Grow Chicago is to grow the Chicago neighborhood of Englewood from surviving to thriving through community connection, skill building, and opportunity. Using a tailored, culturally-competent approach, they identify and remove the barriers to success in a person’s life, empowering them to change their outcomes and giving them the tools to change the outcomes of their community as well. They serve 3,000 Englewood residents each year.

PCs for People: PCs for People provides affordable computers and low-cost internet eligible individuals and nonprofits. Through an unwavering commitment to the communities they serve, they have distributed over 115,000 computers, subscribed 96,000 of families to low-cost internet, and recycled 7 millions of pounds of electronics.

The Resurrection Project: The Resurrection Project provides services that stabilize and protect families, help them acquire assets and improve their financial health, and mobilize them to advocate for long-lasting, positive change. To a network of largely Latinx, low-income, and/or immigrant families, they offer financial wellness workshops, legal counsel, and affordable housing.

Southern Smoke Foundation: Chicago Restaurant Workers’ Relief Fund: Southern Smoke is a nonprofit 501c3 foundation created to raise funds for those in the food and beverage community and their suppliers. This fund provides emergency relief grants to Chicago restaurant and bar employees who have lost wages or employment due to the shutdown for the pandemic.


Communities in Schools of Chicago: Through several interconnected programs, Communities in Schools decreases dropout rates and increases graduation rates – helping students stay in school and succeed in life. Their Partnership Program links essential support programs and services, provided by a strong network of community partners, to public schools across the city. Their Intensive Program places a dedicated staff person in a school to provide one-on-one and group counseling to specific students.

Get Schooled: Get Schooled helps young people get to college, find first jobs, and succeed in both. Founded in 2010 through a strategic partnership between Viacom and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Get Schooled has helped more than one million young people on their path to college and first jobs, targeting youth from low-income families, racial minorities, and first-generation college students.

Global Nomads: Global Nomads leverages technology to foster authentic, global, youth-driven dialogue. Their programs focus on storytelling, an interdisciplinary and powerful vehicle for young people to build empathy, global awareness, and action orientation skills. By exchanging their personal stories with one another, youth reflect on their families, cultures, communities, and contexts and allow them to make global issues personal, relevant, and actionable.


California Fire Foundation: The California Fire Foundation brings immediate, short-term relief to victims of fire and other natural disasters throughout California. Through this program, frontline firefighters in California provide $250 gift cards to eligible victims of fire and natural disasters so they may purchase basic necessities such as food, clothing or medicine.

The Ocean Foundation: Ocean Project: The Ocean Project supports youth leaders and others in a network of partners to accelerate youth engagement and leadership, with a special focus on the World Oceans Day Youth Advisory Council, aquarium and zoo partners, and many other youth leaders and youth-serving organizations worldwide.

Urban Growers Collective: Urban Growers Collective is a Black- and women-led non-profit farm in Chicago, Illinois working to build a just and equitable local food system. They cultivate eight urban farms on 11 acres of land, predominantly located on Chicago’s South Side. On these farms, they primarily employ young Black and brown men from areas suffering high rates of gun violence.


Between Friends Chicago: Between Friends is dedicated to breaking the cycle of domestic violence and building a community free of abuse. In the past year, they have supported over 700 survivors with legal cases, helped more than 2,000 people through their hotline, and educated more than 3,000 teens about healthy relationships.

CareMessage: CareMessage leverages technology to bridge the needs of safety net organizations and underserved populations. CareMessage is the largest patient engagement platform for low-income populations in the United States, reaching millions of patients every month.

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless: Chicago Coalition for the Homeless is the only non-profit in Illinois dedicated to advocating for public policies that curb and can ultimately end homelessness. Since 1980, the organization has led strategic campaigns, community outreach, and public policy initiatives that target the lack of affordable housing in metropolitan Chicago and across Illinois.


RAICES Texas: RAICES promotes justice by providing free and low-cost legal services to underserved immigrant children, families, and refugees. With legal services, social programs, bond assistance, and an advocacy team focused on changing the narrative around immigration in this country, RAICES is operating on the national frontlines of the fight for immigration rights.


Mediators Foundation: Living Room Conversations: Living Room Conversations are conversations developed by dialogue experts to facilitate connection between people despite their differences, and even identify areas of common ground and shared understanding. They have developed over 100 conversation guides on various contentious topics.

Rock the Vote: Rock the Vote is the most trusted and effective nonpartisan nonprofit dedicated to building the political power of young people. Founded by music industry executives, Rock the Vote draws on decades of experience to deploy the most effective and impactful messages, tactics, and technology to uplift and empower the largest, most diverse generation in U.S. history.


Fresh Lifelines for Youth (FLY): FLY’s mission is to prevent juvenile crime and incarceration through legal education, leadership training, and one-on-one mentoring. They are one of the Bay Area’s longest-standing, most respected agencies working with youth who are currently, formerly, or at risk of involvement in the juvenile justice system.

It Gets Better Project: The It Gets Better Project is a nonprofit organization with a mission to uplift, empower, and connect LGBTQ+ youth worldwide. What began as a wildly successful social media campaign to provide hope and encouragement to young LGBTQ+ people has evolved into a major, multi-media platform that reaches millions of young people every year.

TrueChild: TrueChild is a network of experts and reseachers dedicated to helping funders, policy-makers, and practitioners challenge rigid gender norms through intersectional approaches that reconnect race, class and gender. TrueChild is especially interested in structural inequality and its impact on at-risk youth, including those who are people of color, live in low-income communities, and/or identify as LGBTQ+.

Uptown People’s Law Center: UPLC was founded in 1975 by former coal miners and their widows in an effort to secure black lung benefits for disabled workers. Over the years, UPLC grew into a full-service, community based, legal clinic. Its lawyers and support staff now advocate for prisoners, tenants, and disabled people denied public benefits.


Chicago Voyagers: Chicago Voyagers offers outdoor adventure programs that promote key SEL skills like confidence, communication skills, teamwork, and personal responsibility. Each year, Chicago Voyagers serves more than 400 at-risk teens from Chicago and the surrounding area. 

The Conscious Kid: The Conscious Kid is an education, research, and policy organization dedicated to equity and promoting healthy racial identity development in youth. This nonprofit supports organizations, families, and educators in taking action to disrupt racism in young children.

The Sports Shed: Youth sports are on the decline in urban areas due to the high cost of uniforms, footwear and equipment necessary to outfit a team. In response, the Sports Shed provides quality sports gear and resources to schools and organizations who lack the funding to provide safe and successful sports programs.