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United Way awards first social innovation grants

United Way of Tarrant County awarded $35,000 in grants to three local nonprofit organizations as the first social innovators from its new social innovation fund.

The agency recently launched KERNEL, a social innovation fund created to take on social issues in Tarrant County. KERNEL invites nonprofits, businesses, civic organizations and entrepreneurs to propose solutions to community problems in the areas of education, income and health.

Inspired by the TV show Shark Tank, six organizations made their pitch before judges and a live audience during the inaugural KERNEL LIVE! event on Nov. 2 in Four Day Weekend improv group’s Fort Worth theater.

The top awardee was Dream Outside the Box, which received $15,000 for Dream Delivered, a program that delivers career exploration boxes to children living in what founder and “Chief Executive Dreamer” Kam Phillips calls “dream deserts.”

Presbyterian Night Shelter’s new Clean Slate program, a group of social enterprises that provides employment for the homeless, was awarded $10,000. The Clean Slate program also earned the Fort Worth Weekly People’s Choice Award, based on audience voting after all the finalists presented.

Catholic Charities Fort Worth received $10,000 for its Fort Worth Children’s Savings Account Pilot Program that will help low-income students and parents save for college and receive financial education.

Start-up incubators TechFW and IDEA Works FW partnered with United Way of Tarrant County for KERNEL LIVE! and are assisting all six finalists with coaching and mentorship.

KERNEL finalists also will receive sessions on what it means to be entrepreneurial in a nonprofit, which will be led by Michael Sherrod, the William M. Dickey Entrepreneur in Residence and director of the TCU/Coleman Entrepreneurship Fellows Program at the Neeley School of Business at Texas Christian University.