Civic visionaries to pitch at Accelerate

Event returns to in-person February 24, 2022

CLEVELAND – Individuals with creative visions to improve lives in Greater Cleveland will pitch their ideas at Accelerate: Citizens Make Change on February 24, 2022.

The eighth annual civic pitch competition, presented by the Cleveland Leadership Center in partnership with Citizens, returns to downtown Cleveland’s Global Center for Health Innovation and Huntington Convention Center after being presented virtually in 2021.

“At Citizens, we help our customers, colleagues and communities reach their potential because when we do, families are stronger, businesses grow, communities prosper and economies thrive,” said Jim Malz, President of Citizens, Ohio and Accelerate Co-Chair. “We are proud to support Accelerate because it provides a platform for individual citizens to share ideas to help our community reach its potential.”

The event is open to the public. Tickets, $35 general registration and $20 students, can be purchased at Strict COVID protocols will be in place. As part of its CLEAN COMMITTED program, Destination Cleveland will offer masks and hand sanitizer packets to attendees.

The 25 pitches touch nearly everyone in NEO. The initiatives address a wide array of subjects, including family and youth wellness and empowerment, diversity and inclusion, environmental action, entrepreneurism, and supporting immigrants. They will be presented by individuals ranging in age from 7 to 71 from across Cuyahoga County. Pitch details are at

Pitch competitions begin at 4:30 p.m. in each of six Accelerate categories: Authentic Cleveland Experiences, Economic Prosperity, Education, Health & Well-being, Quality of Life, and Social Change. Panels of judges drawn from community leaders will select one finalist in each category. After a 6:30 p.m. networking reception, the six finalists will pitch to the full event audience, which will vote on the winner. The winner receives $5,000 and the five finalists each receive $2,000. All presenters can make connections with people who can help bring their ideas to life.

A Technovation competition sponsored by the Cleveland Foundation will feature five pitches from among the six categories that leverage technology to address a community challenge. A panel of judges will select the Technovation winner, who will receive $3,500. 

The event is offered in partnership with several other sponsors: Construction Employers Association, Destination Cleveland, Growth Opps, Jackson Lewis P.C., KJK, The Lubrizol Corporation, MAGNET: The Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network, Nordson, The NRP Group, Oatey Co., Oswald Companies, Thompson Hine LLP, and Westfield.

The Burton D. Morgan Foundation is sponsoring a Teen Enterprise Pop-Up shop – drawn from Tory Coats’ winning pitch at Accelerate 2018 to support young entrepreneurs. Other past presenters sharing the impact of their pitches include Antwoine Washington and Michael Russell, Accelerate 2021 finalists, showcasing art from their MOCHA Gallery – The Museum of Creative Human Art, which supports Black visual artists. Accelerate 2019 finalist Allison Meyer Hite will feature her interactive storytelling project, Never, Ever Give Up, which celebrates perseverance and hope against struggles.

Cleveland Leadership Center launched Accelerate in 2015 as its signature annual event to promote social innovation and support the Center. Presenters have represented a broad diversity of age, race, gender identity, and background. Accelerate has been a catalyst for ideas that impact everyone from pre-kindergarteners to senior citizens. Dozens of projects have become reality in the months and years after being presented. Updates on past pitches are at


Accelerate 2022 by the numbers

  • 25 creative ideas
  • 31 presenters
  • 55% women / 45% men
  • 52% people of color / 48% white
  • 19% teenagers / 9% 50 and over (ages 7-71)
  • 23% identify as LGBTQ+

Event details        

  • What: Accelerate: Citizens Make Change, presented by Cleveland Leadership Center and Citizens Bank
  • When: Thursday, February 24, 2022
    • 4:30 and 5:45 p.m.: Category pitch competitions
    • 6:30 p.m.: Networking reception
    • 7:00 p.m.: Finalist competition and audience vote
      Ticket enables you to attend any or all portions of the event.
  • Where: Global Center for Health Innovation and Huntington Convention Center, downtown Cleveland
  • Cost: $35 general registration, $20 students, $50-$100 Patrons
  • Information and tickets: Direct questions to (216) 592-2243 or
  • Twitter: #AccelerateNEO, @CitizensBank, @cleveleads
  • Facebook: @CitizensBank, @cleveleads

Media contact
Michael E. Bennett, VP of External Affairs, C: (216) 408-3874,