The CCUSA Innovation Challenge encourages member agencies to develop innovative, integrated service-delivery solutions that focus on workforce development, one of the CCUSA’s strategic priorities.

Workforce development provides programs designed to foster the sustainable economic security of individuals and communities. Social services, community supports, training, an array of job strategies and industry driven education all are elements of a successful workforce development program.

Preference will be given to programs that demonstrate innovative and holistic best practices that:

• Are scalable, replicable and sustainable
• Will use partnerships with employers and other community organizations
• Will be measurable and outcomes-focused
• Have a demonstrated impact in poverty reduction

Programs customized to the needs of various employers and job seeker groups within the context of community are encouraged. In keeping with our rich history of Catholic Social Teaching on the dignity of work, these programs should result in individuals, families and communities having the human, financial and social capital to reach their full potential.

These innovations will generate new knowledge in the field of workforce development to share with the Catholic Charities network and our public and private sector collaborators.

Eligibility: The Challenge is open to new programs and ideas. To be eligible, the applicant must be:

• a Catholic Charities member agency,
• a community partnership in which a Catholic Charities member agency is the lead or
• a partnership of two or more Catholic Charities member agencies.

Submissions will be grouped into three categories — small, medium or large — based on the number of full time employees (FTE).

Please note: If 2 or more agencies submit jointly, the FTEs of the largest agency will determine the category into which the submission is placed.

Small agencies

50 or fewer FTEs

Medium agencies

50 – 170 FTEs

Large agencies

170 or more FTEs

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the CCUSA Innovation Challenge?

The CCUSA Innovation Challenge (Challenge) is a program meant to encourage
member agencies to explore bold, innovative service-delivery solutions that have the
potential to alleviate, reduce or eliminate poverty.

The Challenge celebrates the transformative power of innovative thinking within the
Catholic Charities network. It is an opportunity for our agencies to be recognized for
leading in their communities through precedent-setting, game-changing programs
and initiatives.

When was the Challenge announced?

The Challenge was announced by Sr. Donna Markham, OP, PhD, CCUSA President
and CEO, at the 2022 CCUSA Annual Gathering in Baltimore, Maryland. All rules,
expectations and application materials were made available at that time.

Where can information about the Challenge be found?

The Challenge material can be found online at

Who can apply for the Challenge?

The Challenge is open to Catholic Charities member agencies or community
partnerships in which a Catholic Charities member agency is the lead.

What type of programs will be considered?

Submissions must meet CCUSA’s commitment to alleviate, reduce and prevent
poverty as detailed in the Challenge submission packet available for download at Innovative/new ideas and programs in workforce development
must be achievable, replicable, sustainable and scalable. The size or budget of the
agency will not be heavily weighted in the evaluation process.

How many program ideas can an agency submit?

Only one Challenge submission per organization will be accepted.

How is an agency’s submission transmitted to CCUSA and officially entered?

All submissions must be made through the entry portal at

What is the prize?

Three prizes of $633,000 each ($1.9 million total) will be awarded to Catholic Charities agencies with the best innovative ideas (small, medium and large agency categories).

Six runner-up prizes of $100,000 each ($600,000 total) will be awarded to two small, two medium and two large agencies with the best innovative ideas.

What are the important dates/deadlines?

Submission deadline for completed applications: Friday, February 10,
2023, at 11:59 pm ET

February 11 – March 19, 2023: Judges review and score entries,
then select finalists.

Spring Gathering, March 20 – 22, 2023:

    • Three finalist agencies from each of three categories (small, medium
      and large) will be notified during the Spring Gathering

March 23 – June 30, 2023:

      • Finalists prepare “Big Idea” video pitches
        • Videos must include: Project description, impact and why
          finalist should be selected
        •  Length: 90 seconds or less


July 1 – September, 2023:

          • Video will be promoted online.
          • Online voting by general public (a percentage of overall
            judging criteria)


October 3 – 5, 2023: CCUSA Annual Gathering in Cleveland, Ohio

    • Finalist teams will present live pitch during second day
      of CCUSA Annual Gathering.
    • Online voting of pitch by audience members through CCUSA
      Annual Gathering App (a percentage of judging criteria)
    • Scoring of pitch by judges (a percentage of judging criteria)
    • Winners will be announced on final day of CCUSA Annual Gathering.

What is required of finalists and winners?

Any Catholic Charities agency that submits an application certifies and agrees to the following if chosen as a finalist on March 19, 2023:.


Once notified of selection as a finalist, the organization will prepare a
“Big Idea” video pitch that will be promoted online and used for voting
by general public

Finalist teams will present a live pitch during the Annual Gathering 2023. Those attending will have a vote and judges will rate the pitches.


Between October 2023 and October 2024, winners will be partnered
with a research institution or individual who will help the agency measure
the impact of their “Big Idea”

At the 2024 Annual Gathering, winners will present on what is working
and provide opportunities for cross-learning and feedback on their projects.

At the 2025 Annual Gathering, winners will present reports on their projects, including lessons learned, metrics identified, total impact and feasibility
of replication.

At the 2026 Annual Gathering, successful “Big Idea” lessons will be promoted or possible replication and advocacy purposes.

Additional questions?