Three Catholic Charities agencies win 2023 Innovation Challenge

November 27, 2023

On October 5, during the 2023 Annual Gathering in Cleveland, Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA) named three Catholic Charities agencies as the winners of the 2023 Innovation Challenge: Catholic Charities, Diocese of Nashville; Catholic Charities Eastern Washington; and Catholic Social Services of Rapid City. In recognition and support of their award-winning program proposals, the three agencies each will receive $633,000 from CCUSA.

Announced in September 2022, the second Innovation Challenge called on Catholic Charities agencies around the country to explore innovative solutions in the area of workforce development, one of CCUSA’s strategic priorities. Workforce development provides programs designed to foster the sustainable economic security of individuals and communities. Social services, community collaborations, training, an array of job strategies and industry-driven education all are elements of a successful workforce development program.

After a rigorous application process, nine finalists were invited to present final pitches for their programs at the Annual Gathering before a team of outside judges and all those assembled at the national conference. The three winners were chosen through a combination of the judges’ scoring and votes cast by the in-person audience. After the announcement of the winners, the other six finalists — Catholic Charities Archdiocese of Hartford; Catholic Charities, San Antonio; Catholic Charities, Boston; Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc.; Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan; and Catholic Social Services, Columbus, OH. — learned that they each would receive $100,000 from CCUSA in support of their programs.

“It was inspiring and energizing to see so many exciting examples of innovative programming across our network,” Catholic Charities CEO and President Kerry Alys Robinson said. “I’m thrilled and grateful that Catholic Charities USA is able to provide funding to support not only the three winners but all the finalists as they seek to provide transformative workforce development opportunities in their communities.”

Catholic Charities, Diocese of Nashville’s winning program, Public Sector Pathways to Prosperity (PSP2P), provides direct pathways to public sector jobs in four largely rural Middle Tennessee communities. By leveraging partnerships with American Jobs Centers and the nation’s first federally registered teacher apprenticeship program, Grow Your Own Tennessee, the agency will help 40 households move out of poverty to economic stability in the first year and will expand the model by 50% each year moving forward.

Catholic Charities Eastern Washington developed “From PSH to Paycheck: Activating a National Partnership between Source America & CCUSA Housing” to support people with disabilities, who often opt out of work for fear of losing disability and housing benefits. The agency crafted a partnership with Skils’kin — a Source America affiliate and part of the federal AbilityOne program — to welcome into the workforce low-income people with disabilities in Catholic Charities Eastern Washington housing. Skils’kin helps people with disabilities enter the workforce without risking benefits. Catholic Charities Eastern Washington brings Skils’kin to permanent supportive housing sites and provides a warm introduction for qualified residents who want to work.

The goal of the Uplifting Parents Certificate Program (CSS-CP), the initiative from Catholic Social Services of Rapid City, is to empower single parents to achieve greater financial and socioemotional stability and aid in ending generational poverty by assisting parents in advancing their education and careers through certificate programs and wraparound services. Participants receive comprehensive support services such as mentorship, stipends, community referrals and other wraparound services as they work toward completing their respective certificates.

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