Early Childhood Innovation Prize Enters Evaluation Phase

Since launching in October 2017, GCI’s $1 Million Early Innovation Prize has brought together hundreds of innovators and experts from around the globe to collaboratively solve the question: How might we maximize every child’s potential during their first three years? At the close of the submission phase on February 15, innovators from more than 100 countries submitted nearly 570 ideas through OpenIDEO’s prize platform, a number that far exceeded our expectations. All of the ideas can be explored here.

During the submission process, innovators had the opportunity to collaborate with OpenIDEO’s global community, and more than 260 innovators received mentorship support and feedback from 135 experts in early childhood and a number of other fields. We appreciate the time and expertise that the mentors provided to help strengthen and evolve the innovators’ concepts.

As we enter the evaluation phase, GCI and OpenIDEO staff, along with a panel of judges representing early childhood leaders from across the field, will review the ideas using the prize evaluation criteria. More than 100 experts are participating in the evaluation process, ensuring that every submission is reviewed by multiple individuals with relevant insight and unique perspectives.

In early May, we look forward to awarding up to $1 million in funding to approximately 20 of the top ideas to emerge through the prize. In addition, a set of promising ideas will be recognized. GCI is in the process of designing an early childhood innovation network that provides an opportunity for innovators to advance their work through access to great thinkers, experts and investors. Stay tuned!

Sign up for GCI’s newsletter, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter, to receive our announcement of Top Ideas and stay-up-to-date on our school readiness innovation strategies.

New Strategically-Aligned Investments

Free Tax Help Available for Colorado Families

More than 29 free tax prep sites operated by The Piton Foundation’s Tax Help Colorado program are now open across Colorado. These free tax sites, operated by IRS-certified tax preparers are available to those making $54,000 or less. Tax Help Colorado free tax sites are operated by community college and high school students who take an accredited course in the fall and become IRS-certified.

Tax Help Colorado was established to not only provide free tax preparation, but to also ensure Colorado families are taking advantage of valuable tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The EITC is a refundable tax credit that was created more than 40 years ago to help low-income workers; it has bipartisan support and was retained in the recent tax reform.

In Colorado one out of four people are missing out on this valuable tax credit—in fact, Colorado has one of the lowest participation rates in the nation. This means millions of dollars are being left on the table that could help families with things like paying off debt, utilities and rent.

Because the EITC is a credit that is overlooked by many eligible recipients, each year for the past 25 years, The Piton Foundation conducts a statewide public information campaign to educate working families with low-to moderate incomes about their potential eligibility for the EITC and free tax help.

Our public information campaign is reliant on our trusted community partners who serve and interact with those who can most benefit from free tax help and tax credits. Each year, we work with hundreds of nonprofit organizations, businesses and government agencies across Colorado. We offer a range of free educational tax materials to partners to help spread awareness including a flier and poster that can be ordered from our online store. Piton also partners with community organizations in a number of other ways and welcomes the opportunity to explore unique avenues to connect families to helpful, educational tax resources.

In addition to the 29 sites operated by Tax Help Colorado, there are more than 100 free tax sites operated by entities also certified by the IRS throughout Colorado. Dates and times vary for each site; with most sites operating from late January through the end of March. Taxpayers can find free tax sites near them by calling 2-1- 1 or visiting TaxHelpCO.org.

Exploring Colorado’s Housing Affordability Challenges in All of Their Complexity

The Piton Foundation’s Shift Research Lab, in partnership with Phyllis Resnick, PhD, recently released a new report to help policymakers, advocates and housing experts better understand the many factors contributing to the state’s housing crisis by providing insight into unfavorable trends impacting the housing system. Exploring Colorado’s Housing Affordability Challenges in All of Their Complexity builds off their previous research on family economic security, which shows today many Colorado families are more housing cost-burdened today than ever before. The study argues the crisis is largely a supply issue, there is not one fix and now is the time to think differently. Visit Shift Research Lab’s website to view the full report, and read this recent Denver Post feature story.


For the second year in a row, Tax Help Colorado is holding a 12-hour Taxathon event. At the event, volunteer IRS-certified tax preparers from community colleges, local high schools and the community will be helping file tax returns for free for working families making $54,000 or less. Our goal is to complete 200 tax returns in 12 hours.

The Taxathon is an opportunity to provide a vital service to the community as well as ensure families are taking advantage of valuable tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit.  

Throughout the event, families will be able to explore a resource fair where a number of community partners will share helpful information. Volunteers will also host a kid’s corner with games and snacks to help keep children busy while their parents get their taxes done.

What: Taxathon

When: 8:30 a.m. - 8:30 p.m., Saturday, February 3

Where: Mile High United Way - 711 Park Ave W, Denver, CO 80205

To make schedule an appointment, taxpayers can visit taxathon.appointy.com or call 303-454-3758. Walk-ins are welcome.

Download our event flier to share with your community and check out our Taxathon Marketing Toolkit with sample social media posts and newsletter content. For questions or more information about the Taxathon, please contact Courtney O’Reilly

In addition to Taxathon, Tax Help Colorado hosts 24 free tax sites across the state. Dates and times vary for each site; however, most sites operate from late January through the end of March. If taxpayers can’t make it to the Taxathon event, they can find other free tax sites near them by calling 2-1-1 or visiting TaxHelpCO.org

Our Commitment to Catalyzing Innovation in Early Childhood

Because we believe now is the time to catalyze innovation within the early childhood sector, Gary Community Investments is making a multi-year, multi-million dollar human and financial capital commitment to surfacing, piloting, supporting, and scaling new solutions to improving early learning and development.

While there has been significant progress made in understanding how to improve early childhood development and learning, one-third of U.S. children do not enter kindergarten ready to learn, with 80 percent of those children coming from low-income families. More momentum and different types of capital are needed to ensure the school readiness and long-term success of all children. Harnessing the power of science, technology and business practices, combined with access to capital, can help pave the way for early childhood solutions that are novel, or more effective, efficient or sustainable than current ones.

Our Approach to Catalyzing Early Childhood Innovation

As an organization that blends philanthropic and social impact investing, GCI is able to assume more risk, embrace experimentation and pursue new approaches to creating transformative change. Through our school readiness innovation strategies, we are placing a more deliberate focus on innovation in our portfolio by sourcing more varied solutions, deploying capital differently and better coordinating our investments around problems that need solving. As we work to catalyze new ideas, initiatives and investments that improve the school readiness of Colorado’s children, we will focus on the following strategies:

  • Early Childhood Prize: Now through February 2018, the $1M Early Childhood Innovation Prize is seeking ideas that answer the question, "How might we maximize every child's potential during their first three years of life?" A partnership between GCI and OpenIDEO, the Early Childhood Innovation Prize is calling on innovators of all kinds to collaborate with a global community to build early childhood solutions that are novel, more effective, efficient or scalable than current ones. Participants will have access to mentorship opportunities and could be eligible for a share of up to $1 million in funding. Learn more about how we are using open innovation to source solutions to early childhood challenges.

  • Bridging Unusual Suspects: To introduce new actors and ideas from the private sector, finance and technology to the early childhood field, we curated the first-ever track of early childhood-focused sessions at SOCAP, the largest annual social entrepreneurship and impact investing conference in the world that attracts entrepreneurs, academics, investors and foundations focused on using private capital to create impact. Learn more about highlights and takeaways from the early childhood conversation that happened at SOCAP17.

  • Early Childhood Fund: We are committed to creating an early childhood investment fund strategy to spur investment opportunities and catalyze private sector activity that leads to more companies creating transformational outcomes for young, low-income children. 

By approximately 2035, we intend to invest all of our assets into community and business vehicles that address the challenges facing low-income families. To help reach this goal, we are focused on developing our own innovation mindset, and we are committed to using a mix of innovation tools to catalyze entrepreneurial activity among nonprofits, for-profits, governments and academics. As part of our 20-year strategy, we seek to unearth new, sometimes risky and disruptive, ideas that have the potential to transform programs, organizations and sectors to meet the needs of low-income children and their families in game-changing ways.

While seeding innovation is an important tool in our school readiness investment strategy, we will also continue to invest in effective programs that have the potential to create transformative change while supporting policy efforts that are aligned with our mission.

We will be regularly sharing more insight into our school readiness innovation strategy on our Shared Knowledge blog, and we encourage you to sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up-to-date with the latest on this work.

Highlights from SOCAP17’s Early Childhood Spotlight

As part of our commitment to catalyzing early childhood innovation, Gary Community Investments partnered with Social Capital Markets to curate the first-ever track of early childhood-focused sessions at the SOCAP17 conference, held October 10-13 in San Francisco.

The two days of SOCAP17 Spotlight sessions on early childhood brought the energy of the world’s largest impact investing conference to the early learning and development conversation and reinforced the social and financial value of investing in the future by focusing on children during their first five years. Plenary and breakout sessions featuring experts and thought leaders from across the country introduced the latest in early childhood research, entrepreneurship and investment opportunities to an audience that was eager to learn more about the value of investing in our youngest children.

Learn more about the highlights, takeaways and lessons learned from SOCAP17’s early childhood conversation:

  • Read our Shared Knowledge reflections from day one and day two of the conference, which covered everything from the role technology could play in supporting parents and child assessment to the mechanics of Pay for Success models.

  • We announced our $1 Million Early Childhood Innovation Prize, a partnership with OpenIDEO that is seeking innovative solutions for maximizing every child’s potential during their first three years of life.

  • Follow the conversation that happened on social media by exploring the #SOCAP4Kids and #SOCAP17 hashtags. The #SOCAP4Kids hashtag generated more than 1 million impressions during the conference. Users shared their key takeaways from the sessions, speaker quotes and questions on the future of the sector.

Stay updated on our efforts to catalyze innovation in early childhood by signing up for the GCI newsletter, or following us on Twitter and Facebook.

Renew ITIN Now to Avoid Tax Refund Delays

An Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) is a number issued by the IRS to help individuals who cannot obtain a social security number to file their taxes. In the past, a taxpayer applied for and received an ITIN only once. Recent changes to the ITIN program include a requirement that taxpayers renew their ITINs. These changes will require every ITIN holder to eventually renew based on when their ITIN was issued.

Certain ITINs have already expired as of January 1, 2017 and more will be expiring at the end of the year. Taxpayers with expired ITINs may be ineligible for certain tax credits or face delayed tax refunds. To avoid refund delays, taxpayers with expiring ITINs are encouraged to renew as soon as possible.

  • Learn who is affected this year and how they can renew by downloading this informational flier in English and Spanish.

  • Utilize our outreach toolkit in English and Spanish, which includes e-mail and newsletter copy, talking points and social media posts.  

  • Learn more about the ITIN renewal process from the IRS website.

GCI Invests $1 Million to Establish Denver’s First Collective Impact Workforce Platform

Gary Community Investments recently joined the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), Community College of Denver and Mayor Michael B. Hancock to announce a collaborative workforce partnership that will provide job training and support services to local families, who will take part in a first-in-Colorado local hire program requiring that 20 percent of the Central 70 redevelopment workforce be hired from 15 neighborhoods adjacent to I-70 in Denver and Aurora.

Over the next two years, GCI will invest more than $1 million to help establish Denver’s first collective impact workforce platform--a two-generational approach to ensuring that low-income, working families living in communities along the I-70 corridor benefit from the economic development happening around them. Through this investment, we are helping to ensure that families living in communities that are vulnerable to gentrification and displacement have the resources they need to stay in their homes, support their children and share in the benefits of Denver's overall economic expansion.   

“This is a phenomenal collaboration between CDOT, the city and so many great Denver partners that begins to fulfill the promise to our residents to open up access to the opportunities that are created by the reconstruction and development planned in this area,” said Michael B. Hancock. “This center is a beacon of empowerment for our people and critical support for our neighborhoods.”

The neighborhood career training and resource center will offer courses with a flexible training schedule in a facility with work bays, hands-on training rooms and a yard designated for heavy equipment. The center will also host networking opportunities, including job fairs for construction careers, access to CDOT maintenance job listings and outreach for Central 70 job openings. Our funding will support additional training classes along with support programs, like child care, that are critical to securing and retaining jobs in the construction industry.

"GCI takes a two-generation approach to investing that includes helping low-income families increase their financial security," says Dave Younggren, President & CEO of GCI. "We are proud to partner with CCD, CDOT and others who are working hard to ensure that residents living along the I-70 corridor benefit from the economic development happening around them. By providing access to job training and support services, this program will help local families increase their earning potential, which will positively impact their children's education, health and future economic outcomes."

To learn more about this new initiative, read our investment profile and recent media coverage of neighborhood resource and training center opening in The Denver Post, Denver Business Journal and Westword.

Cornerstone Capital's Colorado Impact Report Features GCI

Gary Community Investments is proud to be featured in Cornerstone Capital Group's recently released Colorado Impact Report, which highlights companies and organizations that are actively working to deploy place-based impact capital that will provide more opportunities for low-income communities, small businesses and women-owned businesses. The report provides insight into Colorado's ecosystem of investors, foundations, nonprofits, for-profits and field-building leaders who understand the interplay between financial capital and social change and are committed to ensuring that the positive growth our state is experiencing is felt by all.

Download the full Coloardo Impact Report, including the article authored by our President and CEO, Dave Younggren. 



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