SoCF Cross

The Innovation Mission







Innovation Mission 2.0 is coming soon! Applications open February 2020. Stay tuned.

The Innovation Mission: Fighting Poverty with Big Ideas selected five fellows with plans for innovative projects to disrupt the cycle of poverty. This newly launched initiative from the Sisters of Charity Foundation recognizes that one big idea could change everything. 

For 18 months, the five fellows participated in professional development workshops, independent research, community collaboration and innovation coaching to grow their idea into a functional program.

Plans for the next round of The Innovation Mission are underway. Stay tuned to this space and SOCF social media channels (@SOCFCleveland) to learn more.

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Five Innovative Ideas:

  • More low-income seniors who face food insecurity, social isolation and frequent hospital stays would find the support they need through an idea being explored by Dabney Conwell, vice president of Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging and executive director of Rose Centers for Aging Well.
  • More low-income individuals with entrepreneurial minds would have the opportunity to achieve their dreams through an idea being researched by Julie Cortes, senior attorney at The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland.
  • More Cleveland Metropolitan School District students who attend college would complete their degrees through an idea being considered by Bill Leamon, college and career coach at Notre Dame College.
  • More of the 10,000-plus individuals and families experiencing evictions would have access to legal representation through an idea being explored by Hazel Remesch, supervising attorney of the housing practice at The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland.
  • More non-custodial parents facing barriers to employment would have access to job opportunities that help them support their children through an idea being researched by Penny Smith, CEO of Alegria Technologies and former executive director of academic services for Northeast Ohio Medical University.

The five fellows were selected from 36 applicants in a competitive, multi-round review process between July and September 2017.  Evaluators represented the residential, nonprofit, funding, government and business communities in Cleveland. Another 23 potential applicants submitted project summaries for feedback in the optional preliminary round in May, and over 230 individuals expressed interest in the fellowship through information sessions and inquiries.

“We want to see what seasoned professionals from diverse sectors can do when given the resources and time to create new and impactful approaches to disrupt the cycle of poverty for generations of Clevelanders,” explains Susanna Krey, president of the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland.

Krey says, “The great community response to the debut of The Innovation Mission shows the foundation how eager local professionals are to think differently about how to bring about social change to help people in our community.”

The five professionals begin their 18-month fellowship in November. They retain their jobs, while spending at least 12 weeks researching, exploring, adjusting and adapting their ideas and turning them into real-life solutions to fight poverty. They will receive up to $15,000 each from the foundation to support their research activities. Each of their employers is committed to their fellow’s participation and are eligible to receive a $15,000 stipend for that support.

At the end of 12 months, each fellow will pitch their well-researched, well-crafted big idea to the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland for up to $20,000 in seed funding and spend the following six months piloting the approach and leveraging additional investments.

Fellows will work individually and as a group with the professional guidance of Dennis F. Beatrice, an independent consultant and senior adviser at SRI International (originally established in 1946 by Stanford University, now an independent nonprofit research center).

“We don’t expect their ideas to look the same at the end of 12 months,” Beatrice says. “We are creating a workshop-disciplined environment where iteration and professional development can help the fellows improve their ideas, become more skilled innovators, and increase the chances for successful implementation of their ideas.”

Marianne Crosley, president of Cleveland Leadership Center, which is a partner in the initiative, says she is pleased to support the foundation’s innovative and inclusive approach to address the community’s greatest challenges. She adds, “Cleveland is privileged to have these five people who are so passionate about their desire to help people break the cycle of poverty that they are willing to balance work, family and the fellowship the next two years. I look forward to seeing how their ideas evolve and ultimately transform our community.”



Contact Christine Mitton, director, knowledge and learning at the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland, at 216-357-4468 or