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July 22, 2019

Champions of Change - July Update

Milestone 1: Selecting our 2019 Champions of Change 

Champions 1

In April, we put out a call to community leaders driven to advance Black-led ideas aimed at reducing poverty: apply to participate in a pilot one-year leadership and design program. The details were sparse. The definition of “community leader” was broad. The application window was short. Quite frankly, we didn’t know what to expect and questioned whether anyone would apply.

We were completely OVERWHELMED by the response! In just 20 days, we received 73 applications (plus 3 nominations) from passionate individuals across the Greater Cincinnati region, some of whom we knew, but many that we’d never met before. Through the work of 15 staff and community volunteers contributing 75+ volunteer hours over the course of just nine days, we went from 73 applicants to 15 Champions.    

Our Champions are dot-connectors and data gurus, activists and historians, coalition builders and planners. More than half are Cincinnati natives, and two-thirds have lived experience in navigating the challenges of poverty.  

You can learn more about our Champions by visiting  

Milestone 2: Bringing Champions together for the first time.  

Champions 2

Since we made our final selections in May, we’ve hosted two sessions with our Champions. In our first session, we spent time getting to know one another – sharing details of our past, our current, and hopes for the future. We each shared our “whys” and what we hope to gain from the experience. We talked about how traditional power works, and how we hope to build new power through this work.  

Milestone 3: Introducing human centered design.  


Champions 3

In our second session, we aligned around shared goals. We lifted up big questions this project will have to grapple with, such as how we define the boundaries of our work together. We then dove into a hands-on human-centered design lesson and learned from Brandon Black his experiences in securing funds.  

What’s next?  

Our Champions have a big task ahead of them: to create and run a grassroots grants and supports program that will invest – of funds and beyond—in promising community-based, Black-led ideas and leaders. Over the next several weeks, our Champions will be hitting the streets to learn from grassroots leaders and grantors, community members and technical experts on how to build an investment model that is accessible to grassroots leaders and leverages resources beyond funding. 

Think you can help? Want to learn more?  

If you have expertise, resources or connections you’d like to share and/or are interested in learning more about the project, give me (Jena Bradley) a call at 513-721-7118 or send me an email at  

We look forward to sharing more about their journey with you! Keep an eye out on United Way social media for more updates. Facebook - United Way of Greater Cincinnati & @UnitedWayGC on Twitter and Instagram.