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Innovation is iteration: What’s new in The Innovation Mission

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Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland, in collaboration with the Cleveland Leadership Center, launches its next round of The Innovation Mission applications on February 3, 2020. Foundation president Susanna Krey reflects on some of the greatest lessons from the first fellowship, and the ways SOCF is changing its approach to address those lessons.


If there is one thing we learned from our first iteration of The Innovation Mission, it’s that there is no shortage of big ideas for change among Clevelanders – they just need the time and space to put their ideas into practice. That is how change happens, and that is why we are launching another round of The Innovation Mission this year.

We now know that iteration is key to innovation, and we will continue to grow our ideas and build our model in light of what the first Innovation Mission taught us. That means you will see some slight changes in the way we structured the fellowship this time around, in the hopes that our participants feel empowered to do the work required to disrupt the status quo in our communities.

Through evaluations from external partners, staff and our first Innovation Mission fellows, we have learned:

Innovation requires many iterations, to be sure, but it does thrive on urgency and momentum.

With this in mind, we are changing the full length of the fellowship from 18 months to 12 months. The first three months of the fellowship will host up to 10 rising fellows, those with the most promising ideas and applications, to participate in a series of workshops with innovation instructor Dennis Beatrice. Through this process, each rising fellow will have a project plan to pitch at the end of three months, and the final four fellows will be selected from this pool. The four Innovation Mission fellows will use the remaining nine months to plan collaborations, partnerships and implementation strategies for their projects.


The innovative process is difficult, and a fellow maintaining a full-time job that may not align with their project can be challenging.

Social innovation aligns people, sectors and resources around a solution through collaboration and a long-term commitment to the work. To ensure momentum is generated around each project, we are increasing the focus on employers this year. Those applicants with projects that align closely with their organization’s mission or values (whether in public or private-sector companies) will be prioritized, and employers will be required to document clear understanding of the project and agree to champion the fellow and their work throughout the 12-month process.


Collaboration is key, and both internal and external partnerships are important to us as we support the work to make systems change.

Our community’s most successful social innovations for systems change can only happen when several partners work together to achieve the same goal. We are grateful for our partners at the Cleveland Leadership Center and their willingness to share support of the fellows through their significant network of public- and private-sector leadership across Northeast Ohio. This year, they will provide each fellow with a team of supporters tailored to the needs of the fellow’s project. These subject-matter experts will help counsel and connect fellows to solve problems and locate necessary resources to implement their projects and make change. Additionally, this year’s fellowship is spearheaded within the foundation by our director of knowledge and learning, Christine Mitton, PhD. Her leadership offers the opportunity to encourage knowledge-sharing across all program areas within the foundation, and engage the experiences and expertise of foundation staff with fellows’ issues. It also helps our previous fellowship leader, Margaret Eigsti, who will continue to provide advice and counsel, to remain focused on her essential work as the foundation’s senior program officer for Catholic sisters and their ministries.

As always, we will continue to challenge ourselves to adjust to the needs of the fellows and the fellowship, and we anticipate learning even more about the issues Clevelanders face – and the great ideas to help make lasting change.

Applications open February 3; I’m looking forward to reading yours.


Susanna Krey, President, Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland

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