The Redwoods Group Foundation 2018 Innovation Challenge: Taking Brave Steps

Innovation Challenge Application

“We seek to cultivate brave spaces rather than safe spaces.” Arao and Clemens (2013)

At Redwoods, we spend a lot of time talking about safety. And safety is important. However, for this year’s innovation challenge, we want to talk about being bold—which is at least as important to our communities in a couple of ways:

  1. First, if we want to drive change faster and more effectively in the future than we are today, we have to continue to try new things, which means being courageous and willing to tackle challenges, even when it’s uncomfortable. The innovation process—of developing, testing and learning from new ideas and new ways of working—is essential to creating a future that’s closer to the vision we have for our communities than where we are today. But with innovation also comes risk, because trying new things and implementing new approaches means investing in efforts that might not work. If we play it safe and avoid being uncomfortable, then we lose out on the opportunities to find breakthrough solutions that open up greater possibilities for the communities we serve.

  2. Second, tackling some of our deepest challenges effectively often requires taking brave steps to show up differently. As Arao & Clemens write in their chapter “From Safe Spaces to Brave Spaces,” doing social justice work effectively “often requires the very qualities of risk, difficulty and controversy that are defined as incompatible with safety.” Disrupting a status quo that, on a daily basis, is safer for some than it is for others is a hard thing to do from within our comfort zones. Changing the conditions that are most challenging, sensitive and difficult to change often means taking unpopular stands, opening ourselves up to uncomfortable vulnerability, and questioning assumptions and traditions we’ve relied on.

For this year’s innovation challenge, we are looking for brave, innovative approaches that your organization is taking to change your community in new and important ways. The following suggested possibilities might help you narrow in on your proposal:

  • Creating new and unlikely partnerships that allow your organization to have an impact in a different sphere or at a different level; or engaging in a collaborative or novel way that requires your organization to adapt and shift the approach and model it’s most comfortable with
  • Taking a leadership role on a difficult or sensitive topic or issue; or taking on ownership of an initiative or effort to tackle a particularly daunting problem; or confronting an uncomfortable status quo in a new way
  • Including and empowering different voices and leaders in your work; and/or giving others the control to shape the direction and focus of your efforts
  • Going beyond inclusion in terms of numbers and representation in your organization or your work, and actively working to openly discuss and address the issues underlying the need for that inclusion
  • Any other innovative way your organization is stepping out of your comfort zone to take a brave new stance or make a courageous new effort to solve a problem in your community

It’s important to note that we are looking for innovative approaches that are:

  • Unique and distinct at your organization. Something that you’re creating, rather than a signature or nationwide program that is common across other similar organizations.
  • New and early stage. An effort that has launched or is ready to, rather than an idea that hasn’t taken much shape yet or an approach your organization has successfully implemented for some time.
  • Scalable and significant. Efforts that other communities could consider adopting, and that have the potential to address an important problem at a significant level in the communities you serve.

We will award up to four $25,000 prizes to innovative strategies focused on creating brave spaces.

Applications will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

  1. Innovation – The program or project is a new and creative approach.
  2. Brave – The project or program requires a courageous approach to be able to contribute a new level of success.
  3. Scalable – The approach is scalable within a community and replicable across communities, even if the issue or groups engaged might be different elsewhere.
  4. Collaboration – The effort brings together partners whose mutually reinforcing efforts and diverse perspectives create collective impact.
  5. Impact – The change you’re working to create matters, and comes with a multiplier effect that ripples out across your community. The effort and its resulting change will be lasting, and are set up to sustain themselves for the long term.

The Innovation Challenge is open to Boys & Girls Clubs, Jewish Community Centers, Non-Profit and Certified B Corp Camps and YMCAs. Applicant organizations do not have to be a Redwoods customer, and customer status will not be a factor in the decision making process.

2018 Innovation Challenge Timeline
NOW: Begin thinking deeply about your innovative ideas to create brave spaces in your community.
Applications open: March 20-August 24
Finalists notified: by October 8
Awards announced: Week of October 22
For questions about the grant application forms or process, please contact: Robin Rennells,
[email protected]

Innovation Challenge Application