Spark: Grit to Great

Innovation is not just about creating new technology. It’s about flipping your mindset, sparking new ways of doing things, and taking risks. Once a way for organizations to set themselves apart, innovation is now a necessary survival skill for organizations. At Spark 2020, learn to:

  • Flip your perspective and learn to look at challenges from different angles and view points.
  • Spark new ideas and start thinking outside the box and create a culture of creativity.
  • Leap into action and overcome the inertia of uncertainty and view failures as learning opportunities.
  • Team up and collaborate and discover how working collectively with others can yield greater impact.

Get out of your comfort zone, be curious, and start innovating.

Did you miss out on Spark 2020? 

Good news! You can still gain access to the event platform where you can join in the conversations on the community board and get access to the recordings of the Opening Keynote, all six Spark Lab workshops, the Fresh Innovator Showcase, and the Closing Keynote

  • $75 General registration
  • $25 Student registration (available to current high school, undergrad, and graduate students)
7:30 A.M. – 1:30 P.M.

7:30 a.m.: Networking and community conversations
8:00 a.m.: Welcome + Fresh Innovator Awards
8:15 a.m.: Opening keynote
9:15 a.m.: Spark Lab session 1
10:15 a.m.: 15-minute break
10:30 a.m.: Spark Lab session 2
11:30 a.m.: 15-minute break
11:45 a.m.: Fresh Innovators showcase
12:15 p.m.: Closing keynote
1:00 p.m.: Networking & community conversations


Presented in partnership with FreshWater Cleveland and WKYC
The Fresh Innovator Awards recognize people who are creatively tackling local issues big and small. The Fresh Innovators were selected by a panel of community leaders from a pool of nominations, accepted April 1-30.

Alysha Ellis and Councilwoman Jasmin Santana

S.E.E.D.S. (Support. Empower. Engage. Develop. Sustain.) is a women’s empowerment and development program of Freshly Rooted, in partnership with Councilwoman Jasmin Santana, which aims to develop women in low-resource neighborhoods personally, professionally, and socially. S.E.E.D.S.’ mission is to create equitable opportunities through a community of women equipped with the leadership skills to make economic, healthy, and other meaningful changes that can sustain themselves, their families, and their communities. The program is rooted in the belief that as we continue to invest in people, they will invest in their own community.

Archie Green

Peel Dem Layers Back (PDLB)
The “My Violin Weighs A Ton” project is an expansion of Peel Dem Layers Back (PDLB). First executed in partnership with Lexington-Bell Community Center and The Cleveland Orchestra in 2019, this program focuses primarily on students within the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD), motivated by CMSD’s alarming suicide rates. “My Violin Weighs A Ton” aligns with PDLB’s mission of breaking the stigma by infusing hip-hop in an innovative way while blending elements of classical music through instruction for participants. This unique program challenges participants to try something new while addressing areas of mental illness for communities in need.

Cait Kennedy

Cleveland State University + [unBail]
Cait Kennedy is Co-Founder of [unBail], a startup that is creating a user-centric wayfinding mobile app to guide defendants through Cleveland’s criminal legal system. As the Brookings Institution’s Ohio Program Manager, she led the Filer Voter 2020 project, which measures the effectiveness of offering voter registration and reminders to low and moderate-income households when filing taxes. As a Ph.D. student at Cleveland State University’s Levin College of Urban Affairs, Cait is also leading the creation of the Smart City Catalog Project which helps public service organizations better work together to solve community problems.

Michael R. Sering

Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry
Michael’s goal for his work with Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry is to end homelessness for everyone by addressing the variety of housing options necessary. His innovations to achieve this goal include:

  • Implementing a shared housing model.
  • Devising one of the only privately funded shallow subsidy programs in the country.
  • Working on bringing affordable 3D printed housing to Cleveland.
  • Using hotels to protect the homeless during the pandemic.
  • Helping to transform a shipping container into a bike livery for the homeless.
  • Teaching people who need a job how to weld bike racks and sell them to area businesses.
  • Designing a portable bike-powered watering machine to provide jobs and encourage greenspace in the St. Clair-Superior neighborhood.
  • Running a shuttle bus on home-grown and processed sunflower oil fuel.

Doan Winkel, Ph.D.

John Carroll University
The Neighborhoods Project leverages resources of the John Carroll University community to address poverty, inequality, and civic disengagement in specific Cleveland neighborhoods. The initiatives target youth to collaboratively develop solutions using a human-centered design thinking approach so they experience ownership of the solutions deployed. Young people have amazing ideas but are rarely invited to share them or given the resources and confidence to test them out. The Neighborhoods Project invests in the future by investing in the ideas and the potential of young residents to break the cycle of poverty, inequality, and civic disengagement in their neighborhoods.

Thank you to Spark 2020 sponsor, Marcum LLP, Closing Keynote sponsor, Parker Hannifin, event support Weiss Movers and Storage, and our Fresh Innovator Awards partners, FreshWater Cleveland and WKYC.