Accelerate 2021 presenters announced!

Weeklong virtual event culminates February 25, 2021


Individuals with creative visions to improve lives in Greater Cleveland will pitch their ideas virtually at Accelerate: Citizens Make Change the week of February 21, 2021.

The seventh annual civic pitch competition, presented by the Cleveland Leadership Center in partnership with Citizens, begins Monday, February 22, 2021, and culminates in a virtual finalist competition on Thursday, February 25, 2021, during which viewers can vote for the winner.

“We are committed to helping our communities reach their potential, and what better way than to provide a platform like this,” said Jim Malz, President, Citizens, Ohio, and Accelerate Co-Chair. “This year’s unique virtual event will give citizens across Ohio and even across the country an opportunity to be inspired by visionary ideas to improve communities.”

The event is open to the public. Tickets, which were $35 when the event was a physical gathering in previous years, are available on a Pay What You Can basis this year at For one purchase, an entire household can access live streams of:

  • Six preliminary category competitions.
  • A special Technovation competition.
  • The finalist competition, including virtual audience voting.

Registered participants also can access recordings of all category competition pitches throughout the week for viewing at their convenience.

The 32 ideas proposed touch nearly everyone in NEO. Pitches address subjects ranging from unique ways to connect with and support Cleveland to growing employment, promoting physical and mental health, advancing education, and addressing complex challenges by promoting equity, access, and opportunity. Pitch details are at

As in the past, panels of prominent community leaders will judge preliminary competitions in six categories and select one finalist from each: Authentic Cleveland Experiences, Economic Development, Education, Health & Well-being, Social Change, and Quality of Life. The six finalists will pitch in the final round. The winner receives $5,000 and five runners-up each receive $2,000.

In addition to Citizens, the event is offered in partnership with sponsors for each pitch category. The MetroHealth System is serving as Lead Category Sponsor. Other category sponsors are Destination Cleveland, KJK, The Lubrizol Corporation, MAGNET: The Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network, Nordson, Oatey Co., and Thompson Hine LLP.

Oswald Companies and Westfield are sponsoring the technology needs to present the event virtually. Cleveland Foundation is sponsoring the Technovation competition for ideas leveraging technology, with that winner receiving $3,500. The Burton D. Morgan Foundation is sponsoring a Teen Enterprise Pop-Up shop – the winning pitch at Accelerate 2018. Additional Accelerate support is provided by ECDI and Weiss Movers and Storage.

Cleveland Leadership Center launched Accelerate in 2015 as its signature annual event to support the Center and to promote social innovation. 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 2021 by the numbers

  • 32 creative ideas
  • 41 presenters
  • 77% women / 23% men
  • 59% people of color / 41% white
  • 15% teenagers / 17% 50 and over

Event details        

  • What: Accelerate: Citizens Make Change, presented by Cleveland Leadership Center and Citizens Bank
  • When: February 22-25, 2021
    • Monday, February 22: Authentic Cleveland Experiences, 4:00-5:00 p.m.; Education, 5:30-6:30 p.m.
    • Tuesday, February 23: Economic Development, 4:00-5:00 p.m.; Health & Well-being, 5:30-6:30 p.m.
    • Wednesday, February 24: Social Change, 4:00-5:00 p.m.; Quality of Life, 5:30-6:30 p.m.
    • Thursday, February 25: Technovation and Finalist competitions, 4:00-7:30 p.m.
  • Where: Online; link will be provided to registrants.
  • Cost: Pay What You Can
  • Information and tickets: Direct questions to (216) 592-2289 or
  • Twitter: #AccelerateNEO, @CitizensBank, @cleveleads
  • Facebook: @CitizensBank, @cleveleads

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