Sprout Fund supports new ideas citywide

Diana Nelson-Jones profiles Sprout's 10-year milestone and reviews long-lasting investments in the people and ideas that have had a dramatic impact on the quality of life in Pittsburgh.

Diana Nelson-Jones profiles Sprout’s 10-year milestone and reviews long-lasting investments in the people and ideas that have had a dramatic impact on the quality of life in Pittsburgh.

Some quotable highlights from the piece:

Former Allegheny County Chief Executive Jim Roddey who was Sprout’s first champion and allowed the idea to develop in his office:

Roddey said he put Ms. Lewis, then a fellow with the Coro Center for Civic Leadership, in charge of the idea factory of three dozen young people. One idea was bike racks on buses, he said, “and now I read that all the buses have them.”

He called Sprout’s impact “enormous” and said the economic benefit from $4 million dispersed over 10 years is “probably 10 times that. It’s grown in reputation and popularity, it’s been a marvelous success, and I’m really proud of her.”

Former Sprout Public Art Manager (and current City of Pittsburgh Public Art Manager) Morton Brown:

“Sprout was very interested in engaging emerging artists from the region and attracting young people through art.

“The inclusion of the community in the design process was very special. It’s a process many people had never been a part of in the past.”

He said Sprout “has always filled a niche here” by giving people a chance, “people who wouldn’t normally get a big grant from a big foundation but who just need a leg up.”

Scott Bricker, Executive Director of Bike Pittsburgh, a rare organization Sprout has invested in multiple times:

“They completely helped us get our start,” said BikePGH co-founder Scott Bricker.

BikePGH celebrates its own 10th birthday in February and now gets support from the big foundations. It has more than 1,000 dues-paying members and four full-time and three part-time employees. It contracts with a bike-lane engineer to meet with city planners and public works staff.

With the city’s oversight, BikePGH will be designing bicycle facilities and installing bike lanes in Pittsburgh, which has 15 miles of bike lanes and plans another 20 next year, said Marissa Doyle, a spokeswoman for Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.

“We would never have gotten to this point without that first Sprout grant,” Mr. Bricker said.

Pittsburgh Foundation CEO Grant Oliphant; Sprout and The Pittsburgh Foundation partnered last year to issue the Spring Biodiversity Awards:

At last year’s spring awards, Pittsburgh Foundation CEO Grant Oliphant said, “If we’re going to make environmental change, this is the way we start to do it: lots of people taking on the challenges we face and making them personal and making them local.”

Today, he said that quote sums up “the work that Sprout does.”

“They have used small grants as a mechanism to engage lots of people to come up with lots of ideas to solve problems,” said Mr. Oliphant, “so they really get at ideas that are non-traditional but wonderfully inventive.

“The ultimate benefit is there are new ideas bubbling up,” he said.

“The more ideas we solicit and the more people we engage, the better off we will all be.”

Published October 02, 2011