Five new community ventures will get $10,000 each and the help of a paid consultant this summer to help implement their plans to bring Chattanoogans together "to live, work, play and learn."
Causeway Challenge, a social innovation incubator that supports groups that go for bold community solutions, announced the winners Thursday from among nearly 90 groups that submitted suggestions about how to answer the question: "How can we make Chattanooga a city where people from all backgrounds live, work, play and learn together?"
"The Challenge has introduced us to an entire network of new ideas and passionate people who want to create positive change in Chattanooga," said Abby Garrison, Causeway's executive director. "We were really impressed by the quality of the applications, and we are excited about the potential of not only the five winning projects, but of the entire pool of applicants that we hope to engage in other ways."
Taking a page from other entrepreneurial-focused venture funds, Causeway is not only giving seed money to each winning team but also providing a paid consultant and other guidance during a four-month incubation program for each of newly formed community causes. The assistance includes a one-on-one consultant, specialized workshops, 24/7 access to Causeway's workspace as well as a temporary membership to Society of Work, access to Causeway's network of pro-bono advisers, a $100 gift card to The Camp House to host meetings, and increased connections to Causeway's network of investors, supporters and advisors.
"The money is certainly huge for us, but we're even more excited about the assistance and help we'll be getting during the incubation period to give us the professional help and advice we need to get organized and to be ultimately be successful," said Katie Cowley, a mother, nursing student and community organizer who is part of the winning team known as ALICE (The American Legislative Initiative for Community Empowerment).
Led by Cowley, Trish Bazemore and Kate Sheets and Judith Pederson-Benn, ALICE will try to help average citizens develop and pass local and state legislation, ordinances and budgets that help improve local neighborhoods, workplaces and schools.
"There are a lot of national groups like ALEC (the American Legislation Exchange Council) and Americans for Prosperity that are backed by wealthy national donors, but there really aren't any locally based alternatives in the state Legislature or on a local level," Cowley said.
In addition to ALICE, other community projects selected to be included in the Causeway Challenge this year include:
* 100(100s). Led by Ashley Conrad and Rondell Crier, the idea of this project is to help 100 youth, working on projects to impact 100 people each. 100(100s) will pair youth from intentionally diverse backgrounds, and give them the chance to build leadership skills and bond over a common goal.
* Friends of Rivermont Elementary. Led by Catherine Bentley, Jeannine Alday and others, this is a group of parents, community members, church leaders, retirees, and young adults rallying to improve Rivermont Elementary as an example of what can be done with a diverse mix of people within a school zone to improve public education.
* 800. Led by Josiah Golson, this is an artist collective that will build personal bonds between diverse artists in Chattanooga and mobilize those artists to create consistent community-based art projects that invite the broader Chattanooga community into a dialogue around important issues. 800 was founded in collaboration with Build Me a World and the name was taken because of the group's meeting spot at 800 Market St. and by "The Eight" an early 20th-Century group of artists who pursued "art for life's sake" instead of "art for art's sake."
* Wildcard!. Led in collaboration by Roe Anderson, Harlan Breaux, Tenesha Irvin and Anthony Byrd, Devon Kronenberg, and Marty and Donna Lowe, this superteam combines five team ideas to get Chattanoogans to socialize in a more diverse and inclusive environment.
James Chapman, Causeway's program director, said this year's challenge is larger and more focused than the first year when recipients were given $2,500 each.
"We see ourselves as the first step in a much bigger picture," he said. "We put a lot of emphasis on feedback and iteration, so that people have a safe space to test their ideas. We want the projects to launch with the confidence that they are putting their best foot forward."
Founded in 2010, Causeway began as an online platform that helped connect causes to the resources they needed to get their project off the ground. Causeway helps direct about $200,000 a year in online contributions to designated charities and local causes. With local foundation funding for three years, Causeway has a four-person staff to help study, develop and fund local initiatives for smarter solutions to the city's toughest challenges, Garrison said.
Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6340.