Economic Opportunity

Supporting collaborative approaches that expand economic opportunity for all.

Discussions at the Pittsburgh Economic Opportunity Forum
Energy Innovation Center, April 2018  photo: Ben Filio

Cultivating novel solutions to city-wide, systemic challenges

Economic opportunity isn’t distributed equally in Pittsburgh. While the region earns national acclaim for innovation and livability, the inclusiveness of Pittsburgh’s job growth lags far behind that of other American cities.

Through the generous support of the BNY Mellon Foundation of Southwestern Pennsylvania, The Sprout Fund developed the 2018 Seed Award for Economic Opportunity in an effort to expand economic opportunity through new collaborative approaches that expand economic opportunity for all.

In response to a call for proposals, Sprout received 23 received applications proposing collaborative activities among more than 90 local nonprofit and community organizations. From this diverse set of applications, 3 proposals best captured the spirit, intention, and opportunity of the program. These working groups then spent 2 months refining each of these approaches to create compelling opportunities for residents to contribute to the economic vitality of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County.

The working groups presented their approaches at the Pittsburgh Economic Opportunity Forum, a public event that featured dynamic speakers and interactive activities to explore the state of economic opportunity in the region. A month later, the working groups submitted their refined approaches for consideration in a community-advised decision-making process that determined which group would receive funding support to implement their proposed project.

Finally, a community advisory committee selected one project, The City As Our Maker Space, to receive full implementation support.

Economic Opportunity

Program In Brief

Year Active


Total Investment


Winning Project

The City As Our Maker Space

Working Groups

3, representing 12 total partners


23, representing 90 total partners


Expanding Economic Opportunity in Pittsburgh

Learn more about the process and funded projects for 2018 Sprout Seed Award for Economic Opportunity.

Funded Projects

Winner: City As Our Maker Space

The City As Our Maker Space, a project of Prototype PGH fiscally sponsored by New Sun Rising, received $44,000 to conduct a 6-month program for low-income, marginalized women with a focus on women of color. This program specialized in literacy, wellness, and health, with the ultimate goal of supporting women to pursue careers in technology and creative entrepreneurship. The program was led by representatives from 5 partner organizations: Prototype PGH, Black Unicorn Library, A Piece of Mind, Ujamaa Collective, and Flower House.

Working Groups

These 3 working groups exemplified how community partners can come together to expand economic opportunity in the region and better meet the needs of the communities they serve. Each group received $5,000 in funding to host a series of meetings to gather community feedback and refine their proposed approaches.

The City As Our Maker Space

The City As Our Maker Space

Expanding feminist makerspace programming from Bloomcraft in the neighborhoods of the Hill District, Wilkinsburg, and Allentown.

Cooperative Opportunity Guild of Hazelwood

Cooperative Opportunity Guild of Hazelwood

Developing a capacity-building campaign to build a cooperatively owned economic resource center in Hazelwood.

Workplace Equity Challenge

Workplace Equity Challenge

Developing a series of employer-focused workshops to equip key staff with tangible skills for advancing equity in the workplace.

Programmatic Activities

Ideation Session

Prior to launching the program, Sprout hosted a community conversation and ideation session to explore how Pittsburghers already perceive and approach expanding economic opportunity. Eighteen people participated in the event, including a staffer from BNY Mellon and representatives from the Office of the Mayor, local nonprofits, corporations, and community groups.

Working Group Meetings

Members of the public were invited to attend working group meetings and help develop the three groups’ innovative, collaborative approaches to expanding economic opportunity in the region. Sprout designed a facilitation approach for these meetings and trained working group leaders on how to lead these conversations and incorporate community feedback into their ongoing work.

Economic Opportunity Forum

During Pittsburgh’s 2018 Inclusive Innovation Week, more than 120 people attended the Pittsburgh Economic Opportunity Forum. This free event featured dynamic speakers and engaging activities exploring local efforts to increase economic opportunity in the Pittsburgh region. Each working group presented brief remarks on their progress and collected audience feedback on their approach.


Thank you to all those who made this program possible!


  • BNY Mellon Foundation of Southwestern Pennsylvania


  • City of Pittsburgh Department of Innovation & Performance


  • Diana Avart
  • Tricia Monticello Kievlan
  • Dustin Stiver