Shift Research Lab’s Year in Review

New on the Shared Knowledge Blog

Chris Watney Joins Boards of Gary Community Investment Company & The Piton Foundation

Last week, Gary Community Investment Company and The Piton Foundation appointed Chris Watney to its boards of directors.

Chris supports individuals, families and organizations through her therapy and executive coaching practice, People and Possibilities LLC, which she created in 2016. Prior to that, Chris served as the President and CEO of the Colorado Children’s Campaign from 2009 to 2016, where she worked to increase access to health care for uninsured children, expand quality early childhood education for our youngest children and advocate for education reform and financing. Before joining the Children’s Campaign, Chris served as a spokesperson for U.S. Attorneys General Janet Reno and John Ashcroft at the U.S. Department of Justice, including serving as spokesperson for the Justice Department at the Oklahoma City bombing trials.

“We are pleased to welcome Chris to our boards of directors,” says Dave Younggren, president and CEO of Gary Community Investments. “As a longtime, committed advocate for Colorado’s children, Chris brings valuable experience and a unique perspective that will strengthen our ability to improve the lives of Colorado’s low-income children and families.”

In addition to serving on the boards of Gary Community Investment Company and The Piton Foundation, Chris is the chair of the Healthier Colorado Board of Directors and she is a mayoral appointee to the Board of Directors of the Denver Preschool Program. She is a 2010 recipient of the Livingston Fellowship for excellence in nonprofit leadership, a 2012 recipient of The Colorado Legacy Foundation’s “Honest Broker Building Trusting Relationships” award; and was named in 2013 as one of the Top 25 Most Powerful Women by the Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce. Chris has a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from the University of Kansas and a master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from the University of Northern Colorado.

“Chris has been a trusted partner of ours for many years,” says Sam Gary, chairman of the boards of Gary Community Investment Company and The Piton Foundation. “We are fortunate to have her working even more closely with us to ensure that Colorado is a place where all children have the opportunity to grow up healthy and become productive members of their communities.”

Tax Help Colorado Helps 9,300 Coloradans Claim $18 Million

During the 2016 tax season, The Piton Foundation helped Colorado low-income families increase their financial security through the Tax Credits for Working Families Public Information Campaign and Tax Help Colorado program. This year, we focused on ensuring that Coloradans were aware of--and claiming--the Colorado state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which was available to families for the first time in 15 years.

To help raise awareness about the federal and state EITC, we partnered with more than 650 community partners to distribute more than a million pieces of educational materials across the state through our Tax Credits for Working Families Public Information Campaign. New this year was a supplemental flier with additional information about the EITC and health coverage at tax time, allowing us to increase awareness about these important messages throughout the state. Additionally, we welcomed new community partners, including the Nurse Home Visitor program, who distributed nearly 8,000 fliers directly to first-time, low-income mothers. Thank you to all the community partners who worked with us this year!

And, in an effort to link even more families to the EITC, we partnered with the Colorado Community College System to operate the Tax Help Colorado program, which provides free tax preparation assistance to individuals and families with household incomes less than about $53,000. This year, 19 participating colleges and 10 high schools operated 27 free tax sites across the state where IRS-certified students served as volunteer tax preparers. These free tax sites helped more than 9,300 individuals and families claim nearly $18 million in tax refunds in 2016, including $6.2 million in federal EITC refunds and $622,000 in state EITC refunds. In addition, the program helped save low-income Coloradans more than $2.5 million in commercial tax preparation costs.

Thank you to all of the community partners who helped with our EITC outreach campaign and the students and volunteers who made the Tax Help Colorado program possible.

JoyBox Launches First-of-its-Kind Early Childhood App

Our investee, JoyBox, recently released its JoyBox Watch application for download on the Apple’s iTunes App Store. A first-of-its-kind video player for parents and caregivers of children under 3, JoyBox Watch presents shows from JoyBox's weeTube™ library, a collection of visual and musical experiences. While fun and engaging, these shows also align with JoyBox's research-based curriculum framework for pre-preschoolers.

Founded in 2015, JoyBox began developing the concept for a suite of tech-based and physical tools for parents and children, 0 to 3 years old, to share together. Created by Baby Einstein® founders Julie and Will Clark, the company created a research-based early childhood curriculum and accompanying materials, including activities, music, videos, games, flash cards, books and toys, that provide parents with a month-by-month roadmap for understanding, supporting, and monitoring child development.

Gary Community Investments is committed to exploring innovations that create positive impact in the early childhood sector. Through our investment in JoyBox, we are supporting a physical and tech-based early childhood development solution that has the potential to scale and reach families with diverse income levels. Learn more about why we invested in JoyBox.

Reflections from Mile High Data Day

As part of its commitment to pioneering a data-driven culture in Colorado’s social sector, The Piton Foundation’s Data Initiative, recently convened metro Denver’s data community for the first annual Mile High Data Day. More than 120 representatives from across the region attended the daylong event, which provided an opportunity to build relationships, share best practices, learn from experts and strengthen partnerships between social change and data organizations. In addition to the Data Initiative, Mile High Day Day’s key partners included Mile High Connects, University of Colorado Denver, the Denver Regional Council of Governments, and OpenColorado.

If you didn’t have the opportunity to attend Mile High Data Day, or you are an attendee who wants to revisit parts of event, the following videos, presentations and other resources are now available:

Data Initiative 2015 Annual Report

The Data Initiative’s 2015 annual report to the community, which provides an overview of significant projects completed over the past year, is now available.

Beginning in 2014, the Data Initiative began executing on a business plan to extend its reach and impact in the Denver metro region. Although the projects featured in this annual report are part of a larger body of work accomplished in 2015, they were informed by the Data Initiative’s business plan and represent the type of projects you can expect from the Data Initiative in the future.

Download the full report here.

Investee Spotlight: Colorado Children's Healthcare Access Program

In the new “Investee Spotlight” series, we celebrate the progress our partners are making as they work to improve the lives of Colorado’s low-income children and their families. This first story features the achievements of the Colorado Children’s Healthcare Access Program and its founder, Steve Poole, in ensuring that all Colorado children have access to quality medical care.

Investee Spotlight: Colorado Children’s Healthcare Access Program

In 2006, Colorado children on Medicaid faced a problem that Dr. Steve Poole was determined to solve. Although more than 200,000 kids across the state were relying on public insurance, less than 20 percent of pediatric practices accepted Medicaid, leaving a significant number of low-income children without a primary care physician. “The Piton Foundation’s Sam Gary and Children’s Hospital’s Jim Todd came to me eight years ago and said, ‘You need to fix this’,” says Dr. Poole, who was serving as the Vice Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

Dr. Poole began by surveying pediatric practices to better understand why they were refusing to offer care to children who needed it most. He discovered that physicians wanted to serve Medicaid-eligible children, but most private practices, which operate like small businesses, simply couldn’t afford to because the state government covered less than two-thirds of the cost of providing care. Continue reading the full story here.

Investment Portfolio Now Online

Gary Community Investments recently launched our online Investment Portfolio, which features profiles of recent, strategically-aligned investments.  We invite you to explore this website section to learn how we are using business and philanthropy to create opportunities for Colorado’s low-income children and their families. New investment profiles will be added frequently, so we encourage you to check back often.


GCI Partners with Uncharted on Early Childhood Accelerator

Gary Community Investments is partnering with the Uncharted to run an early childhood accelerator for entrepreneurs developing innovative solutions to improve the lives of low-income children ages 0 to 5. Defined by the Uncharted, accelerators are customized programs that swarm resources around ventures tackling our world’s biggest social and environmental problems.

The Early Childhood Accelerator will bring together a dozen highly vetted startups from around the United States. They’ll be brought to Denver, Colorado, along with world-class mentors, and given access to financing opportunities and a global network of support to help scale their ventures to the next level.

Applications for the accelerator will be open until April 1, 2016. Visit Uncharted’s website to learn more and apply for this opportunity, and to view Uncharted’s past early childhood ventures.


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