‘Catalyst’ is an incubation program for social ventures that build products aiming to improve the lives of low-income New Yorkers by using technology

Photo credit: Blue Ridge Labs

Brooklyn-based Blue Ridge Labs, the tech-focused branch of the powerty-fighting nonprofit organization Robin Hood, has opened up applications for “Catalyst,” a program for social entrepreneurs who want to make a difference by using technology to tackle the challenges faced by low-income New Yorkers.

“Catalyst,” Blue Ridge Labs’ incubation program, provides a $50,000 stipend that allows social ventures to navigate the challenges of their formative stages, while figuring out how to set up and run a sustainable, effective organization. For six months, the social entrepreneurs work full-time out of the labs’ co-working space. During that time, they attend workshops and networking events, and check in bi-weekly with Blue Ridge Labs’ staff and mentors.

Aside from space and mentorship, Blue Ridge Labs offers programs, fellowships, grants and workshops to support entrepreneurs, designers and developers to build technology-enabled products that leave a positive social impact. The organization joined forces with Robin Hood in 2015 to expand its reach and impact, and to tackle the causes and issues of poverty in NYC. As a major player in the fight against poverty since its inception in 1988, Robin Hood has developed and funded over 200 programs including schools, food pantries, homeless shelters, job training centers, health facilities and legal clinics.

One of the start-ups that has already benefitted from the “Catalyst” program is Propel, an app which allows users to access and keep track of their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) balances on their phones.

Not far removed from the future: tech start-ups and innovations comparable to Propel are already finding their way into the daily lives of New Yorkers. In July, the city announced the launch of its Access HRA Mobile app to simplify the access and management of its food stamps program for those in need.

Applications for the next round of “Catalyst” are open now and close September 1, 2017 at midnight. Click here for more details.

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Andrea Leonhardt

“Made in Germany,” Andrea Leonhardt is the managing editor for BK Reader. Andrea holds a bachelor’s degree in political science, with minors in American studies and education, and a master’s...

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