2020 Nonprofit Innovation Lab

The 2020 Nonprofit Innovation Lab, an initiative of United Way of Rhode Island and Social Enterprise Greenhouse, is a selective six-month program that will offer up to 10 Rhode Island nonprofits the opportunity to transform innovative ideas into reality, enabling them to create even more social impact as they bring innovation and entrepreneurial thinking to their organizations. Please note that organizations with budgets over $500K are strongly preferred for this program.

The program will provide participating Fellows with the knowledge, resources, and networking opportunities that make it possible for them to deliver these transformative solutions. A culminating pitch event in June 2020 will award a total of $90,000 in prizes to support the three most compelling innovation projects.

Program Goal

The goal of the Nonprofit Innovation Lab is to spark development and implementation of innovative, self-sustaining new solutions that will enable organizations to expand and accelerate their ability to create positive social impact.

Program Benefits

Opportunity to create substantial social impact: This program is designed for nonprofit executives who have identified a compelling idea that would utilize innovative business skills to solve a social problem. This program will enable these executives to dedicate the time, energy and resources required to move the needle and further their organization’s ability to achieve its mission.

Mentorship and expertise: Experienced mentors are paired with Fellows based on expertise and need. Mentoring can range from providing an overall sounding board to strategic problem solving in specific areas and will include facilitated connections with additional expert advisors as needed.

Peer network: Fellows navigate the Boot Camp and the Accelerator (described below under Program Details) as a group and benefit by learning and sharing with one another. An important component of the program is building a camaraderie with a group of like-minded leaders who serve as support and a valuable resource.

Seed funding: Stipends will be provided to each Fellow’s sponsoring nonprofit organization, in order to help support their time. They also will have the opportunity to pitch their innovation plans and receive substantial prize money.

Increased visibility: The social capital of Social Enterprise Greenhouse and United Way of Rhode Island helps to increase visibility for Fellows and their nonprofit organizations through media coverage, participation in community-wide events, and digital community engagement.

Program Details and Timeline

The Nonprofit Innovation Lab will run January-June 2020. It includes three components:

Boot Camp: January 6-February 14, 2020
The program will begin with a 6-week Boot Camp, during which Fellows will receive intensive expert instruction via two 4-hour sessions each week as well as online curriculum. Upon completion of Boot Camp, Fellows will have refined their business innovation plan and set three milestone goals to achieve during the Accelerator phase. Participants will receive a $5K stipend at the beginning of the Boot Camp to support their time away from the organization and expenses related to the early development of the concept.

Milestone Accelerator: February 17-June 5, 2020
During the 16-week Accelerator, each Fellow will meet regularly with their mentors, who will provide expert guidance as well as facilitate connections with advisors throughout the Social Enterprise Greenhouse and United Way networks. Fellows will also meet monthly with program staff, who will provide assistance and help sustain forward momentum as Fellows work toward their milestones.

Pitch Event: June 2020
Five of the ten fellows will be selected to pitch their final innovation plan in June, and the top three will receive a total of $90,000 in prize money (1st place, $50,000; 2nd place, $25,000; 3rd place, $15,000).

Selection Criteria

The ideal candidate for the 2020 Nonprofit Innovation Lab:

  • Is an executive director or other senior leader of an existing Rhode Island nonprofit whose work impacts Rhode Islanders, and who is passionate about their nonprofit organization and the work that it does.
  • Is able to effectively pitch a compelling idea that they believe will be game-changing in its ability to deliver even more effective, efficient, sustainable and/or just solutions to the problems that their nonprofit organizations are working to solve for Rhode Islanders.
  • Demonstrates strong leadership skills, resilience, a desire to learn and collaborate, and the commitment that will be required to complete this program.
  • Has commitment from their nonprofit organization to champion the new idea or program and to support the journey to achieve it.
  • Is prepared to bring their new knowledge base and connections back to their nonprofit, fostering a more innovative culture and energizing the entire organization so that staff are engaged and equipped to take their work to the next level.
Application Process

The online application will open on October 1, 2019, and close on November 4, 2019. Candidates will answer a series of questions about their organization and their idea and submit a slide deck that outlines the proposed new product or service.

Application information sessions will be held during October. To register, please go to the links below or contact Constance Ferber at cferber@segreenhouse.org.

  • Tue October 8, 2019 | 12:00-1:00 pm at Social Enterprise Greenhouse, 10 Davol Square, Providence Register here
  • Tue October 15, 2019 | 5:30-6:30 pm at Social Enterprise Greenhouse, 10 Davol Square, Providence Register here
  • Thu October 17, 2019 | 5:30-6:30 pm at Progreso Latino, 626 Broad Street, Central Falls Register here
  • Tue October 22, 2019 | 8:00-9:00 am at Innovate Newport, 513 Broadway, Newport Register here

Finalists will be notified during November and will present at a Quick Pitch selection event during December. Fellows will be announced immediately following the Quick Pitch event.

Applications Are Now Closed

For information, please contact Constance Ferber at cferber@segreenhouse.org.

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