Northeast Ohioans Accelerate City Transformation

People are the heart and soul of this region; they are the leaders of change. Nothing would be possible without individuals stepping up to serve the greater good. Twenty-five such people have seized that opportunity and will offer up civic pitches at Accelerate 2017: Citizens Make Change on February 22, 2017 – and audience members will vote on the winner.

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The lobby at the Global Center for Health Innovation comes alive for a reception before the Accelerate 2016 civic pitch competition. (Photo by Turben, courtesy CLC)

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About Accelerate

This is the third year for the annual event, which helps bring to reality visions that individual residents have to improve their community. Past pitches have turned into projects such as Literary Cleveland, a nonprofit that helps writers develop their craft; Cleveland Codes: The Tri-C  Software Developers Academy, which trains and places students in coding jobs; Bus Stop Moves, which encourages exercise at bus stops and the surrounding neighborhoods; and KinderKits, which helps parents teach kids basic skills they need to succeed in kindergarten.

The event will be at the Global Center for Health Innovation and is open to the public (registration required). It’s presented by Citizens Bank and the Cleveland Leadership Center.

The ideas fall into five civic-oriented categories, and were selected from 80 entries. Below are just a few examples.  The full list of presenters and summaries of their creative ideas are here.

The Categories

Changing the narrative for moms

Colleen Carter has a plan to create a platform for mothers from all walks of life to share experiences, learn from others and grow to become even better … all without the fear of being judged for decisions they make or the things they do (or don’t do) with their kids.

Moving toward educational advancement for all

A mentorship program for students with disabilities, created by Constantine Madias and Sydney Stone, would establish a sense of independence and enable and encourage students to pursue postsecondary education.

Ensuring violence does not go unnoticed or underreported

Dr. Penny Smith wants to correct this problem by using technology to restore joy to victims of violence and allow them to report sexual or physical assault from the privacy of their own device or in cooperation with appropriate staff.

Drumming a way to intergenerational connections

Linda Thomas Jones plans to use drumming as a way to bring together girls estranged from their family or in foster care with senior citizens with limited interaction with youth. The goal? To create opportunities for self-exploration.

Showcasing ethnic crafts and other goods

Danielle Drake wants to create a global market where refugees, immigrants and all the ethnic groups that call Cleveland home can sell food, jewelry, crafts and other handmade wares in one location.

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Accelerate 2016 winner Ben Colas, center, with event co-chairs Joe DiRocco of Citizens Bank, left, and Larry Oscar of Hahn Loeser & Parks LLP

Get in on the ideation

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Accelerate 2016 finalists and sponsors celebrate their success. (Photo by Turben, courtesy CLC)

Every idea to improve Cleveland deserves to be heard and can make a major impact. All the ideas at Accelerate are full of potential; they just need community support to come to life. Five of the event’s presenters will walk away with cash prizes…but they all need people – like you – to come hear their ideas and help bring their civic visions to reality. Details and tickets are available at

Together, let’s accelerate change!

About the Author: Michael E. Bennett is Vice President of External Affairs at the Cleveland Leadership Center, which develops Cleveland’s leadership through transformative experiences that connect, inspire and challenge individuals to make a positive impact. The leadership center created Accelerate to give every individual in Cleveland an opportunity to share and act on a personal civic vision that aims to improve the community. 

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