Spark 2020: Grit to Great

Five Fresh Innovators to be recognized for impact

Cleveland Leadership Center launched its summer symposium on civic leadership and innovation as an in-person event in 2016. Innovation became even more central to this year’s annual symposium, Spark: Grit to Great, which will be presented virtually on September 3, 2020.

The event, sponsored by Marcum LLP, will be from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. EDT. Registration is open at, or by calling (216) 592-2289.

“Whether in-person like the past few years or virtually, Spark will challenge hundreds of people to explore innovation and disruption as ways to move the community forward,” said CLC President and CEO Marianne Crosley. “We are excited that through a virtual platform, Spark will generate innovative thinking, collaboration, and action that can impact individuals, organizations, and the greater community.”

The mobile app will encourage participants to network and share ideas in advance of the event. The app can also be used to register for Spark Labs, which are interactive sessions facilitated by business and community leaders who have leveraged innovation concepts. Labs will cover topics such as human-centered design, creativity, collaboration, and community change.

Spark also will showcase the second cohort of Fresh Innovators. Cleveland Leadership Center collaborated with FreshWater Cleveland and WKYC Channel 3 Studios to recognize five change makers who are digging into Cleveland’s challenges, creating solutions, and turning ideas into action:

  • Alysha Ellis and Jasmin Santana are being recognized as Co-Founders of S.E.E.D.S (support, empower engage, develop, sustain), a women’s empowerment program offered by Freshly Rooted. S.E.E.D.S. uses an innovative approach to community engagement aimed at creating a community of women equipped with the necessary leadership skills to make economic, healthy, and other meaningful changes that can sustain themselves, families, and communities. Ellis is Co-Founder and Strategic Planner of Freshly Rooted, and Santana is a Cleveland City Council member.
  • Archie Green is being recognized for his work with “My Violin Weighs A Ton,” which focuses on the mental health and suicide rate of students in Cleveland Metropolitan School District. The initiative is an expansion of Peel Dem Layers Back, the organization he founded to break the stigma of mental health through hip-hop. Green is a hip-hop artist who was diagnosed with depression and created the organization to culturally educate, empower, and equip adolescents and young adults with essential tools necessary to live a mentally healthy life.
  • Cait Kennedy is being recognized for her innovation with several projects: [unBail], a mobile app to help defendants navigate Cleveland’s legal system; a “Smart City Catalog Project” to help public service organizations collaborate better; and the “Filer Voter 2020” project to measure the effectiveness of offering voter registration to low and moderate-income households when filing taxes. She is a Ph.D. Candidate at Cleveland State University.
  • Michael Sering, VP Housing & Shelter, Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry, aims to end homelessness through a variety of housing options. His innovations include a shared housing model, a privately funded subsidy program, 3D printed housing, using hotels to protect the homeless during the pandemic, and more.
  • Doan Winkel oversees the Neighborhoods Project, which leverages resources of the John Carroll University community to address poverty, inequality, and civic disengagement in specific Cleveland neighborhoods. The initiatives engage youth to collaboratively develop solutions using a human-centered design thinking approach so they can experience ownership of the results. Winkel is the John J. Kahl, Sr. Chair in Entrepreneurship & Director of the Edward Muldoon Center for Entrepreneurship at John Carroll University.

The honorees are scheduled to be profiled in August in FreshWater, the online publication covering people, places, and projects driving Cleveland’s transformation; and featured in a FreshWater podcast. They are slated to be interviewed in October on WKYC Studios’ We the People program, which introduces the community to Northeast Ohio innovators.

Justin Massa, Executive Portfolio Director of IDEO Chicago, will set the tone for the day and encourage participants to flip their thinking with his keynote, “Design Thinking 102: Research & Prototyping.” During the keynote, participants will engage in design-thinking activities. IDEO is a global design company committed to creating positive impact through a human-centered, interdisciplinary approach. (For more about design thinking, see the book “Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential With Us All” by IDEO founder David Kelley and IDEO partner Tom Kelley.)

A closing keynote will feature an interactive discussion on a collective path forward, facilitated by Peter Rea, Vice President of Integrity and Ethics at Parker Hannifin Corporation; and Dr. James Stoller, the Cleveland Clinic’s Executive Director of Physician Leadership Development and Chairman of its Education Institute.

Parker Hannifin is providing additional event support.

Event details        

  • What: Spark: Grit to Great leadership symposium presented by Cleveland Leadership Center with support from Marcum LLP; and Fresh Innovators recognition in partnership with FreshWater Cleveland and WKYC Channel 3 Studios
  • When: Thursday, September 3, 2020, 7:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. EDT
  • Where: Virtual, accessible via a website and mobile app
  • Cost: $75; $25 for students
  • Information and tickets: Direct questions to (216) 592-2289 or
  • Twitter and Facebook: @cleveleads

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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. CLC inspires and connects people to transform Cleveland by developing leaders of all age through learning and community engagement opportunities.

 Media contact

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