Recent News

November 25, 2015

A Showcase of Innovation

For the past two years, United Way has partnered with Design Impact to equip local community groups and nonprofits with innovation skills and tools through a project called Studio C. Studio C provides workshops where teams can learn and apply new skills to solve real world problems.  Using Design Thinking as a key curriculum, Studio C challenges social sector groups to put the people they are trying to help in the center of solutions – to develop a greater understanding of the community and its members and use that understanding to create new or better solutions.

The 2015 program year culminated with a project showcase where eight groups shared their solutions and the stories behind them.  


Participating Groups

4C for Children

Children, Inc.


Clearing House

The Greater Cincinnati Microenterprise Initiative

Housing Authority of Covington

Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati

Northern Kentucky Community Action Commission


The Award Winners

Studio C Implementation Grant – A $20,000 grant was awarded by United Way and Design Impact to Children, Inc. to support the implementation of an innovative project that seeks to incentivize positive parenting behaviors for families with children in Children, Inc. child care.  The project borrows inspiration from the health insurance industry, which has created incentive programs to encourage policy holders to participate in healthy eating and active lifestyles.  When implemented, parents can track positive parenting behaviors and be awarded “points” that can then be traded in for family-focused incentives. 

children, inc

Although the project is still in its testing phase, the implementation funding will allow for a more robust pilot.

“We were very excited by Children, Inc.’s approach and their willingness to look outside the social sector for ideas,” shared Ramsey Ford, Design Director, Design Impact, in awarding the grant at the Showcase event.

Audience Choice Award – Each audience member at the Showcase event was given an opportunity to vote for their favorite project.  The winner, CincinnatiWorks, received a $5,000 award to support implementation of its Advancement Redesign project, which focuses on how the organization supports its members after they become employed.  The organization has focused its efforts on developing a stronger sense of the needs of both its members and their employers, as well as benchmarking against corporate advancement programs focused on executives and young professionals.

cincinnati works

Design Thinking Training – A final award of a half-day design thinking training was awarded to Northern Kentucky Community Action Commission (NKCAC) and will be used to expand the use of design thinking within the organization’s Head Start program.  NKCAC focused its efforts in Studio C on increasing on-time attendance rates for families in its Erlanger center.

After reflecting on the experiences they were having in Studio C’s renovated training rooms, the Head Start staff became curious about whether a more welcoming environment might encourage families to come to school on time.  After exploring this possibility with parents and staff, Head Start focused its efforts on physical environments and policies that could create a stronger connection between staff and parents.  This included physical renovations like a more comfortable parent room with couches, artwork and available coffee as well as changes made to the daily schedule. One of the key changes was the implementation of the First 30 approach – 30 minutes at the beginning of each day where teachers now have greater flexibility to greet parents and interact with them and their children.

“What really struck me about Head Start’s approach is how simple but elegant the innovations are,” shared Mike Baker, Community Impact Director with United Way.  “They didn’t develop an app or launch a new product, but they really focused on their interactions with parents and how they could make them more welcoming and genuine.  Without a major investment of funding they’ve been able to see immediate results.”


Through the first few months of the 2015-2016 school year, Head Start has recorded an increase in attendance and a decrease in tardiness for the center.

In 2015, Studio C increased its reach to serve more than 50 community organizations.  At the same time United Way and Design Impact began to offer evening workshops to help expand the conversation about how creative skills can be put to use to support social innovation. 


Sponsors and Partners

Design Impact

Children, Inc.


Design Thinking Cincy


Graydon Head

Jillian Darwish

Cindy Tripp

Studio C will be back in 2016! United Way will announce program dates and details in early 2016.  To catch those announcements check the Studio C website – – or follow United Way and Studio C on Facebook.

If you are interested in partnership or sponsorship opportunities, please contact Mike Baker at 513-762-7208 or