35 civic visionaries to pitch at Accelerate

  • Audience to vote on winners Feb. 27; tickets on sale now

  • New this year: Technovation competition, Social Venture Partners bigBANG!

CLEVELAND – Thirty-five individuals with visions to create positive change in Cleveland will pitch their ideas at Accelerate: Citizens Make Change. The sixth annual civic pitch event will be presented by the Cleveland Leadership Center in partnership with Citizens Bank beginning at 4:00 p.m. on Thursday, February 27, 2020, at the Global Center for Health Innovation in downtown Cleveland.

The 31 ideas they propose touch nearly everyone in NEO. Pitches address social issues, build a stronger future, and expand on Cleveland’s diversity, history, and assets. Pitch details are at www.cleveleads.org/Accelerate.

“Citizens Bank is committed to helping our communities reach their potential, and what better way than to provide a platform like Accelerate, where individual citizens can share visionary ideas to make our region a better place,” said Jim Malz, President, Citizens Bank, Ohio, and Accelerate Co-Chair.

The event is open to the public. Tickets ($35 in advance; $20 for students) are on sale at www.cleveleads.org/Accelerate. The Leadership Center launched the event in 2015 as its signature annual event to support the Center and to promote social innovation. Accelerate has been a catalyst for dozens of ideas to take flight and directly impact everyone from pre-kindergarteners to senior citizens. Updates on past pitches are at www.cleveleads.org/AccelerateUpdates.

At Accelerate, panels of prominent community leaders will judge preliminary competitions beginning at 5:30 p.m. to select one finalist in each of six categories: Authentic Cleveland Experiences, Community Change, Economic and Workforce Development, Educating for Tomorrow, Health & Wellness, and Quality of Life. The six finalists will make their pitches to all in attendance at 7:00 p.m., and the audience will vote to select the winner. The winning pitch receives $5,000, and the five runners-up each receive $2,000.

In addition to Citizens, the event is offered in partnership with sponsors for each pitch category: Cuyahoga Community College Metropolitan Campus, Destination Cleveland, The Lubrizol Corporation, MAGNET: The Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network, Nordson, Oswald Companies, Westfield, Oatey Co., and Thompson Hine LLP.

Accelerate 2020 debuts two new partnerships that create opportunities for further positive community impact:

  • The Cleveland Foundation is sponsoring a Technovation competition at 4:30 p.m. that will reward $3,500 to a pitch that uses technology for social good. Four of the five Technovation presenters will also pitch during the category competition at 5:30 p.m.
  • Social Venture Partners is bringing its annual bigBANG! competition to Accelerate, rewarding nonprofits that share impactful ideas for social innovation with funding and mentoring. bigBANG! will take place at 5:30 p.m., with the winner sharing the pitch during the 7:00 p.m. finalist competition.

Returning for a second year is a Teen Enterprise Pop-Up shop, which was the result of the 2018 winning Accelerate pitch. Tory Coats pitched his vision of preparing tomorrow’s business leaders today by offering mentoring and a place to sell products they create. Coats returns to Accelerate with several teen entrepreneurs who will sell clothing, artwork, and other products before the final competition begins at 7:00 p.m. The Burton D. Morgan Foundation is sponsoring the pop-up.

In another youth-business venture, greeting cards created by children in the Door of Faith Orphanage in La Mision, Mexico, will be sold at Accelerate. Accelerate 2019 winner Karson Baldwin, a high school student, traveled to the orphanage and helped create a micro business to provided funding and skills so the children are more easily employable when they age out of the orphanage.

Allison Meyer, a 2019 Accelerate finalist, will return to Accelerate to share the impact of her pitch, “Never, Ever Give Up.” Meyer invites people to leave handwritten stories answering the question “What is the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do?” to motivate others who face adversity. She launched her project at Hart Crane Park in the Flats last summer, and has since collected hundreds of inspirational stories.

Jackson Lewis P.C. is sponsoring the Past Presenters Showcase, where those who pitched at previous Accelerate competitions will share the progress of their vision and how they are impacting the community. JumpStart Inc. will host a post-event launch party for the presenters, the Accelerate Host Community, and other leaders.

Accelerate 2020 by the numbers

  • 30 creative ideas
  • 35 presenters
  • 68% women / 32% men
  • 57% people of color / 43% white
  • 11% teenagers / 19% 50 and over

 Event details     

  • What: Accelerate: Citizens Make Change, presented by Cleveland Leadership Center and Citizens Bank
  • When: Thursday, February 27, 2019
    4:00 p.m., Doors open; 4:30 p.m., Technovation pitch competition; 5:30 p.m., Category pitch and bigBANG! competitions; 6:30 p.m., Networking reception; 7:00 p.m., Final competition
  • Where: Global Center for Health Innovation, 1 St. Clair Avenue NE, Cleveland, OH 44114
  • Cost: $35 public, $30 CLC Members, $20 Students. All tickets at the door are $40.
  • Information and tickets: cleveleads.org/Accelerate. Direct questions to (216) 592-2289 or nboyd@cleveleads.org
  • Twitter: #AccelerateNEO, @CitizensBank, @cleveleads
  • Facebook: @CitizensBank, @cleveleads
  • Updates on past presenters: cleveleads.org/AccelerateUpdates

Media contact
Michael E. Bennett, VP of External Affairs, C: (216) 408-3874, O: (216) 592-2426, mbennett@cleveleads.org