Storycatchers Theatre could not deliver its award-winning programs to court-involved young people without the support of many individual and institutional donors. Right now, the company is poised to make an extraordinary evolutionary leap because of the generosity and vision of Chicago Beyond, a philanthropic venture capital fund that seeks to create opportunity and access that the young people of Chicago deserve in school, career and life.CB_Horizontal_Blue

In August of 2016, Chicago Beyond honored the Storycatchers post-release employment program, Changing Voices, with one of its first-ever GO Innovate Awards. The GO Innovate challenge sought early-stage ideas that offer innovative programming in two topic areas: Supporting College Matriculation and Graduation; and Reengaging Youth in Work and School.

Changing Voices employs recently released young people ages 16-24 in a process that Storycatchers designs to increase successful rates of reentry, and to help these formerly detained or incarcerated youth develop the capacity to become peer mentors and agents of positive social change in their own communities.

The innovation investment from Chicago Beyond includes a two-year, non-renewable investment to expand Changing Voices from one cohort to three by 2018; and a research partnership with the University of Chicago’s Urban Labs to evaluate the impact of the investment. Storycatchers has worked closely with Chicago Beyond and Urban Labs to identify key outcomes that will help Chicago Beyond better understand what works, for whom, and why, in order to impact a greater number of young Chicagoans and increase the field of knowledge in these topic areas.

“Having this research partnership is an incredible opportunity,” notes Storycatchers’ new Executive Director Priya Shah. “The recognition by Chicago Beyond, paired with Urban Labs’ expertise, will help us to assess and scale our program model for effective replication.” The company’s Founder and Artistic Director, Meade Palidofsky, adds, “the financial and evaluation support we are receiving from Chicago Beyond is moving us closer to our long-term goal for Changing Voices – first a statewide network, and then a national model. We envision program alumni working alongside Storycatchers’ professional teaching artists as critically needed models of post-release success for their peers.”

“Throughout our first innovation challenge, it became incredibly clear that Storycatchers is a leading innovator working to improve life outcomes for our city’s most vulnerable population,” said Liz Dozier, Managing Director of Chicago Beyond. “Knowing that 60% of young Chicagoans recidivate following incarceration, our investment partnership will provide the broader field and Storycatchers with gold-standard evidence about what makes a measurable difference in the lives of their participants. We are thrilled to work alongside Storycatchers and amplify the impact of their work here in Chicago and beyond.”