Pittsburgh brothers Brian and Scott Wolovich set out to raise money to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina more than a decade ago.

Then Hurricane Ivan hit and their focus shifted to a homespun relief effort for residents in the North Hills of Pittsburgh. Realizing they were on to something, they co-founded New Sun Rising, a nonprofit that has for the last 10 years offered fiscal sponsorship to social enterprises such as UpTo and Kiva Pittsburgh.

The brothers recognized a need in the region for a hybrid business model that provides resources to nonprofits while focusing on solving real world problems and community issues. “There are few existing resources out there,” says Scott.

With that model in mind, Ignite MODE was launched, a day camp to be held four times a year in Pittsburgh for socially-minded entrepreneurs and organizations. Ignite MODE is an immersive, one-day boot camp for those engaged in social innovation.

“This type of mentorship is a necessary first step for many project owners and we’re proud to be the organization to provide it,” says Vivian Lee Croft, director of social impact for Ignite MODE. “The focus on social innovation is not new in Pittsburgh, but a program specifically designed to help social innovators succeed is.”

The program is free and social innovators are encouraged to apply. It suits anyone with startup experience and an inclination toward social enterprise, both for-profit and nonprofit. The deadline for project submissions is Aug. 22.

Up to 10 project teams will be chosen to participate and will receive hands on training from mentors in the field, including Josh Lucas of Hardware Store, Bill Generett of Urban Innovation 21 and Eric Sloss and Sarah Meyer of SHIFT Collaborative and more.

The first day of camp will be held during the Thrival Innovation and Music Festival.

“We really want to help others identify and discover the leaders of social innovation in Pittsburgh,” says Scott. “We will provide direction and resources to help them successfully execute their projects and ideas.”

Ignite MODE, and the quarterly social innovation camps, are funded through Neighborhood Allies. The camps hope to spark development for up to 40 new projects in the coming year.

“New Sun Rising is focused on igniting community impact and collaborating with partners to help all social entrepreneurs succeed,” says Wolovich. “It will be really exciting to see who steps up and how these solutions impact our region for years to come.”

Deb Smit

Deb is an award-winning journalist who loves ancient places and cool technologies. A former daily newspaper reporter and Time-Life Books editor, she writes mostly about Pittsburgh. Her stories have appeared...