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Why Catalyst?


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Dori Kreiger
Executive Director

CTIA Wireless Foundation recently launched Catalyst 2021, our competitive grants program for social entrepreneurs who are using wireless to solve pressing health and well-being issues. This year’s Catalyst program builds on a successful first year, where we supported three organizations’ life-changing work for veteran and teen mental health and opioid addiction.

We were proud to name Objective Zero Foundation as the top Catalyst 2020 Winner with a $100K grant. Objective Zero is a mobile app connecting service members, veterans, their families and caregivers to a nationwide network of peer and civilian support though text, voice and video chat.

Over the course of Catalyst 2020, I had the pleasure of getting to know Objective Zero co-founders Chris and Betsey Mercado. After hearing their stories and learning what the Catalyst grant helped Objective Zero achieve, I wanted to share the positive impact Catalyst can have on early-stage organizations.

Recently, I asked Chris and Betsey a few questions about why they chose to apply for Catalyst 2020. Here is what they had to say:

Chris & Betsey Mercado

Q: Why did you apply for Catalyst?

A: Objective Zero was excited to apply for the Catalyst grant as it focuses on the importance of using wireless technology to support mental health and wellness in our communities. Several people within our network encouraged us to apply, as we seemed like such a great fit for what CTIA Wireless Foundation was looking for.

Q: What made Catalyst stand out to Objective Zero?

A: When looking at Catalyst, we believed this grant was made for organizations just like Objective Zero. Opportunities for early-stage tech nonprofits are few and far between, many other grant opportunities are geared towards more established nonprofits with great impact and look outside the realm of mental health and wellness. The generous awards offered to Catalyst finalists also stood out among other grant programs. We knew we could achieve so much with $25,000, $50,000 or $100,000.

Q: What was a highlight of Catalyst 2020 for you?

A: We were thrilled to find out that Objective Zero was a semifinalist for Catalyst and even more excited to find out that we were receiving $100,000! There were so many great organizations in the running! The grant has been a game changer for our organization. It will allow us to implement new features and be able to achieve even greater impact!

Q: What opportunities did Catalyst provide that you weren’t expecting?

A: There were a number of great opportunities that we benefitted from through Catalyst. Connecting with several FCC Commissioners, their staff and Senator Pat Roberts gave us the opportunity to share how we are using wireless technology to support the military and veteran community. This experience will help us with meetings with government officials in the future.

Q: Would you encourage other social entrepreneurs to #BeACatalyst?

A: Absolutely! If you are using wireless technology to support others, apply! Catalyst is more than just funding, it was a phenomenal experience for our organization. We received such great support from CTIA Wireless Foundation and they were all championing our cause. CTIA Wireless Foundation truly understands the importance of using wireless technology to support our communities!

If you think your organization would be a good fit for Catalyst 2021, we would love to see your application! First round applications, which require a letter of intent, are open through April 6. We can’t wait to see the innovative and inspiring work of social entrepreneurs using wireless to improve health and well-being.

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