Accelerate accepting civic pitches

December 2 deadline to submit ideas to improve region

Individuals who have great ideas to improve Northeast Ohio can submit those ideas to compete in Accelerate: Citizens Make Change, a civic pitch competition scheduled for Thursday, February 27, 2020. The annual competition, presented by the Cleveland Leadership Center (CLC) in partnership with Citizens Bank, provides seed funding and broad exposure to help people bring their ideas to reality.

Pitch submissions are being accepted November 1 through 9:00 a.m. December 2, 2019. Any individual with an idea to improve the community can enter. Proposed ideas cannot be affiliated with an established business or nonprofit and should offer compelling, innovative, and even wild ideas that address a community issue.

Pitches can be for one-and-done projects or sustainable, ongoing efforts. Details and a short application are at The Leadership Center will provide a coaching session on November 20 for those seeking advice on how to make their pitch submission more compelling.

Pitches will be accepted in six categories:

  • Authentic Cleveland Experiences: Initiatives that provide residents and visitors with immersive and emotionally impressive experiences that evoke the essence of Cleveland. Sponsored by Destination Cleveland.
  • Community Change: Initiatives that make a meaningful change in people’s lives and neighborhoods. Co-sponsored by Oswald Companies and Westfield.
  • Economic & Workforce Development: Initiatives that stimulate economic growth, promote economic self-sufficiency, encourage neighborhood development or address poverty. Co-sponsored by Oatey Co. and The Lubrizol Corporation.
  • Educating for Tomorrow: Initiatives that advance pre-kindergarten through college education, including literacy, numeracy, access, readiness, and success. Sponsored by Nordson.
  • Health & Wellness: Initiatives that promote the physical and behavioral well-being of individuals and their communities.
  • Quality of Life: Initiatives that create positive life experiences through arts, culture and social services. Sponsored by Thompson Hine LLP.

Pitches presented at the event can win a top cash prize of $5,000, runner-up prizes of $2,000, and exposure to potential supporters. Ideas that use technology for social good will also be eligible for a $3,500 award from the Cleveland Foundation, which is collaborating with CLC to support a Technovation Competition at Accelerate.

Since 2015, individuals representing a broad diversity of age, race, gender identity, and background have submitted projects to Accelerate. Their pitches address a variety of issues, including making newcomers feel welcome, kindergarten readiness, workforce training, caregiving, healthy eating and exercise, neighborhood beautification, and supporting marginalized communities. To see the impact of previous pitches, visit

The Leadership Center is collaborating with Social Venture Partners to include its bigBANG! social innovation competition in Accelerate 2020; with the Burton D. Morgan Foundation to present a Teen Enterprise Pop-Up Shop that grew out of an Accelerate 2018 pitch; and with Jackson Lewis P.C. on a Past Presenters Showcase.

Ira Kaplan, Cleveland Leadership Center Board Chair and Co-Chair of the event with Malz, said the event furthers the Center’s efforts to provide experiences that engage and inspire people to transform Cleveland. “Presenters will connect not just with financial resources, but with civic leaders who can help them make things happen,” said Kaplan, who is Partner and Executive Chairman, Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aronoff LLP.

Event details

  • What: Accelerate: Citizens Make Change, presented by Cleveland Leadership Center and Citizens Bank
  • When: Thursday, February 27, 2020
    • 4:30 p.m. – Technovation pitches
    • 5:30 p.m. – Pitch category competition
    • 7:00 p.m. – Finalist competition
  • Where: Global Center for Health Innovation, 1 St. Clair Avenue NE, Cleveland, OH 44114
  • Information: Direct questions to (216) 592-2289 or
  • Twitter: #AccelerateNEO, @CitizensBank, @cleveleads
  • Facebook: @CitizensBank, @cleveleads
  • NOTE: Pitch submissions accepted November 1 – December 2, 2019.

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About the Cleveland Leadership Center (CLC)

The Cleveland Leadership Center’s mission is to build a continuum of civic leaders committed to our community’s excellence by serving as a catalyst for civic engagement. The Leadership Center inspires and connects people to transform Cleveland by developing leaders of all ages through learning and community engagement opportunities.

 Media contact

  • Cleveland Leadership Center: Michael E. Bennett, Vice President of External Affairs
    Work: (216) 592-2426, Cell: (216) 408-3874,