What is The Innovators Society 2.0?
The Innovators Society 2.0, a program of Community First Foundation, invests in promising, but not yet proven, nonprofit innovations to change perceptions of mental health and mental illness while reducing mental health stigma.

Six nonprofit innovators who provide services in the Denver metropolitan area are selected to participate in an accelerator experience to develop their innovative ideas to reduce mental health stigma. The program invites over 250 community leaders to act as investors and help allocate $450,000 of Community First Foundation’s grant dollars to the six innovators after hearing their “pitches” of how they plan to change perceptions of mental health and mental illness while reducing mental health stigma.

What does 'a promising, but not yet proven, approach to mental wellness' mean?

  • It has legs to it, meaning it is beyond the concept phase.
  • It may have internal support from the organization and board, but lacks the funding resources required and/or the time and talent necessary for further development.
  • It may have some traction in a beta or test phase but needs resources to scale.
  • It has the ability to improve or innovate preventive, promotional and early intervention approaches to mental wellness primarily in the context of early childhood.

What were the eligibility requirements for innovators?
Innovators must work for a designated 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, or charitable organization with a fiscal sponsor. They must also be headquartered or providing services in the Denver metropolitan area (Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas, and Jefferson counties).
Are for-profit social innovation businesses eligible to receive grants?
No. Community First Foundation is a grantmaking public charity that allocates grants only to tax-exempt, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations.
How were applicants selected as innovators?
Once eligible applicants submitted a completed application (deadline of January 9, 2018), their application was forwarded to a community review committee.  The committee evaluated each innovation based on the following criteria:

  • The Lightbulb Effect:
    • The innovation demonstrates a promising approach to changing public perception of mental health and mental illness for greater parity with physical health. It shows potential to reduce mental health stigma
    • The innovation is captivating, novel and/or unique
    • The innovation leads the reviewer contemplating, “why didn’t I think of that?”
  • Societal Footprint:
    • The innovation demonstrates the potential to have a broad, societal impact by either being:
      • Replicable – other organizations/programs could produce the same results in their own settings.
      • Scalable – the innovation has promise for broader impact in the Denver metropolitan region or beyond with a relatively small change in the size or scope of the organization proposing the innovation.
    • The WOW Factor:
      • The organization’s proposal and presentation excites, inspires and merits the opportunity to receive coaching, mentoring and support by The Innovators Society.

After some discussion on the merits of each innovation, the committee chose six innovators to advance to the Showdown and compete for a share of $450,000.

What happens once the innovators are selected?
The innovators begin their nine month accelerator experience which includes investor pitch coaching, innovation impact coaching, nonprofit development and hands-on workshops. White River Strategy operates the accelerator program and relies on seasoned coaches, entrepreneurs and experienced executives to help innovators take their innovations to the next level.
What is a pitch?
While the “pitch” concept may call to mind anxiety-inducing images from ABC’s show Shark Tank, this experience is intended to build up nonprofits by taking their innovative idea, cultivating it and elevating it to the next level of implementation. Once the pitch and innovative ideas are refined and packaged, there is no telling who or what opportunities may come knocking at the door!

The accelerator experience also includes the opportunity to develop a peer support group to network during scrimmage events. Innovators will compete for a portion of $450,000 during The Community Pitch Showdown plus an additional grand prize of $50,000 which will be awarded based on the progress of their implementation plan during the months of June through December 2018.

How is The Innovators Society supported?
Community First Foundation, its staff and a volunteer steering committee support the operations and logistics associated with The Innovators Society. All grant dollars and budgets for the program are approved by the Community First Foundation Board of Directors.
How can I get involved if I'm not a nonprofit?
If you’re interested in joining the mailing list or lending your skills and talents to The Innovators Society, please complete this form
Why is The Innovators Society dedicated to elevating mental wellness and not any other important social, public and community issue like affordable housing, education or community economic development?
In 2014, Community First Foundation conducted a community listening tour to learn about the mental health environment in the Denver metropolitan area. The Foundation identified mental wellness as an area in which it can make a tangible impact that will affect the well-being of the entire community.
Why mental health stigma?
Mental health stigma is a significant barrier to changing public perceptions of mental health and mental illness. It often prevents individuals from seeking and/or receiving adequate treatment. Innovators Society 2.0 builds on the Foundation’s goal to build strong communities by showcasing innovations that are changing public perceptions of mental health and mental illness while reducing mental health stigma.
Are there other events similar to The Innovators Society in Denver or around the U.S.?
Not quite! One can look at other communities in the state, nation and abroad who are creating pitch competitions or sparking movements around innovative ideas that inspire The Innovators Society’s concept—think of Art Tank, Techstars, Social Venture Partners and TED. As far as we know, The Innovators Society is the first to focus purposefully on innovative concepts in mental health and wellness, specifically to help reduce stigma associated with mental health. In addition, The Innovators Society is unique in that it is a program designed by and for the community-at-large. It empowers hundreds of community members to allocate Community First Foundation grant dollars based on where they think impact will be greatest. It elevates innovative mental health and wellness ideas to a broad-based and diverse community so that learning, knowledge and shifting perceptions occur on an ongoing basis as the program develops.
What are the short- and long-term goals for The Innovators Society?
The Innovators Society seeks to develop an innovative network that works together to promote mental health and physical health parity. A network comprised of nonprofit organizations, private and public entities and most important, people like you.  The Innovators Society strives to reduce the stigma associated with mental health to encourage all people to take care of themselves both physically and mentally.