Huneebee Project and Jubilee Project Win the 2024 New Haven Civic Innovation Prize; Fulcrum Takes Home the Audience Choice Award

Photos courtesy of Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale

On April 4th-5th, 2024, Startup Yale–a cross-university collaboration between partners including Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale (Tsai CITY), Dwight Hall, Yale Center for Business and the Environment, and InnovateHealth Yale–hosted its annual conference, recognizing entrepreneurial and community ventures at Yale and in New Haven. The New Haven Civic Innovation Prize, administered by Dwight Hall, kicked off the first awards ceremony of the conference on April 4th. 

The Civic Innovation Prize, which was won by The Key Bookstore in 2023, awards up to $15,000 to the best student-run or community-run effort or project that benefits the city of New Haven. The Prize aims to catalyze innovations that address and are informed by community priorities, providing participants with constructive feedback from experienced professionals, mentorship from relevant experts, and opportunities to meet social entrepreneurs and civic leaders. The Prize exemplifies the Advance pillar of Dwight Hall’s Engage, Grow, and Advance program delivery model, incubating innovative solutions that bring about lasting change in New Haven and around the world. 

During the 2024 Startup Yale conference, a panel of Dwight Hall judges heard pitches from four finalists for the Prize: Huneebee Project, Jubilee Project, Fulcrum, and Empowered Together. Ultimately, several organizations received awards and honors at the event.

The Audience Choice Award grants $2,000 to the audience’s favorite venture and is determined by a live vote. This year, the award was given to Fulcrum, a tech-enabled oral health management system that provides dental care for members of the community who have Medicaid or Medicare. “Fulcrum Care is on a mission to become a value-based dental provider for Medicaid and Medicare members with complex needs,” explained Laurie Jimenez ’26. “We aim to change the way dental services are accessed and delivered by providing wrap-around care plans tailored to the unique needs of our members that integrate social and care management services. We plan to also collaborate with primary care physicians to ensure that members receive comprehensive care to improve patient outcomes.” Laurie added that Fulcrum sought the Civic Innovation Prize to begin a pilot program in New Haven and were delighted to share their work with other organizers, as well as those in the audience.

The second award to be announced was the runner-up for the Civic Innovation Prize. Johnny Scafidi ’01, Director of Community Outreach and Engagement at Dwight Hall and primary administrator of the Prize, explained how the impressiveness and passion of those vying for the award made it difficult to choose a single winner. The judges, therefore, opted to split the $15,000 between the runner-up and first-place winners.

The runner-up award went to Jubilee Project, an initiative that advocates for housing justice and equity in Newhallville. Currently, the organization is working to establish New Haven’s first-ever housing community land trust—a community-owned, high-quality, and affordable housing option for residents of New Haven. “We believe that wholeness and thriving involves deep relationships, spiritual aliveness, and housing security,” Matthew Denney of Jubilee explained. “As a major part of that, we believe that housing justice requires quality and affordable housing that community members can own.”

Jubilee chose to apply for the Prize for the financial support that it offered and as a means of reflecting on its mission and sharing that mission with others. As Matthew explains, Jubilee has arrived at an inflection point; “we’re in an exciting and strategic moment,” he said, “where there’s tremendous opportunity and a powerful vision.”

Fulcrum pitches at Startup Yale

Huneebee Project concluded the whirlwind ceremony, winning the first-place Civic Innovation prize and a grant of $10,000. Huneebee Project is a nonprofit organization that provides training and employment to youth in New Haven, particularly those with experience in either the foster care system or with child protective services. Young people install beehives, build gardens, host workshops on pollinators, and run a marketplace, all while making a salary funded in part by a grant from the Dwight Hall Socially Responsible Investment Fund. In other words, as Sarah Taylor, Founder and Executive Director of Huneebee Project explains, the “Huneebee Project is a nonprofit social enterprise where New Haven’s most resilient adolescents and young adults engage in transferable job skills trainings and employment opportunities—within a trauma-informed, therapeutic context.”

All the organizations that competed emphasized how meaningful funding can be to advancing their missions and expanding their reach. Matthew from Jubilee Project concluded by reiterating the value of continued and dedicated work towards the common good—exactly what the Prize seeks to reward. “It’s easy to be paralyzed by the depth of racial inequality and housing insecurity in New Haven. This paralysis can often lead us to cynicism and inaction. But the vision of Jubilee…gave us hope and spurred us to imagine a new and different way to address seemingly intractable problems and to do so in a way that is holistic and relational and local. We want to encourage in others that same hopefulness and willingness to imagine new possibilities.”

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