The Innovate United Fund

Innovate United is an opportunity for creative thinkers, emerging leaders, and visionary philanthropists to participate strategically in high social impact solutions and contribute to the transformative thinking that will shift the lives of children and their families in low income households. Breakthrough ideas, sustainable programs, deepened engagement, and scalable solutions are all part of this framework because innovation is a critical element for solving our community issues.

Solutions to complex social issues require significant changes to approaches in the social sector—collaboration, creative thinking, new sources of revenue, and long-term investment strategies—all driven by community will across sectors to make real, lasting change. United Way of the Greater Triangle (UWGT) is uniquely positioned to connect multiple sectors (including underrepresented communities, emerging leaders, and nonprofits) with vital resources through connections with businesses, entrepreneurial organizations and universities—making them part of the innovative, problem-solving approach.

Innovate United represents a three-pronged approach to social change:

  • Community Engagement: A new platform for connecting, involving, and collaborating with the entrepreneurial segment in our community in solving local social issues.
  • Innovative Idea-Generator: An opportunity to use innovative and entrepreneurial mechanisms (e.g. accelerators/incubators) to help bring solutions to social issues and to inform UWGT’s Community Impact Plan’s two-generational approach to breaking the cycle of poverty.
  • Social Innovation Funds/New Revenue Streams: Creating a space for current and new partners to generate innovative solutions also allows for the opportunity to fund both philanthropic seed ideas and identify opportunities for impact investments as demonstrated below.

Innovate United in Action (2014 – 2015)

Several initiatives created an important foundation:

  • 2014 100k Kids Hungry No More Social Innovation Challenge generated over 50 ideas and funded a $50,000 innovative approach to bring universal breakfast to the classroom. That funding supported 172,260 breakfasts during the school year and brought summer breakfast (112,756) and lunch (146,411) meals to the Durham community. (Source: DPS first year report)
  • UWGT launched plans for a fund focused on new integrated approaches to financial stability for populations at high risk of generational failure — youth in foster care transitioning out of the system. $750k has been raised and invested in the first two years of new collaboration of 15 partners across the Triangle.
  • In 2015, UWGT shifted more than 80% of our $7.0m annual discretionary community investment funds to Changing Generations collaborative partnerships among nonprofits focused on better long term outcomes through a two-generational model.

Innovate United Plans (2016 – 2017)

This year, we are accelerating efforts to help build a social innovation ecosystem in the Triangle that reflects the strong innovation infrastructure in the business community.

Initiatives include:

  • 2nd Social Innovation Challenge to end childhood hunger. Prize pool doubled to $100,000 of available funding for more directed solutions.
  • A pitch competition that highlighted social entrepreneurs who are women and people of color to help fund their ideas. $14K raised from audience members.
  • Social Innovation Challenge for college students, with focus on HBCUs
  • Launch $1.5 million Innovate United Fund (in the works)

For more information about innovation initiatives and the Innovate United Fund, contact Cassie Proper.