The Sprout Fund co-founders, Cathy Lewis Long and Matt Hannigan. Photo by Rob Long.

For many of us, it will be hard to imagine Pittsburgh without The Sprout Fund, which announced their sunset today.

Yet their legacy will live on in myriad ways, from organizations they helped jumpstart — like Bike Pittsburgh and Assemble — to networks such as One Northside and Remake Learning, which they helped scale.

In an email sent just after midnight, co-founder Cathy Lewis Long wrote: “After 17 successful years, careful thought, and extensive planning with our board, we have decided to sunset The Sprout Fund in 2018.

“Helping others become catalysts in their communities has made The Sprout Fund a force for positive change in Pittsburgh. We’ve taken smart chances on creative people and their innovative ideas for nearly two decades. We’ve made more than $7 million of community-decided investments in 1,100+ early-stage projects, organizations, innovators, and activities.

“Our community is stronger and more resilient because of the people and ideas supported by Sprout. Our hearts are with the people and communities of Pittsburgh who have humbled us with their support and confidence and have made our work so incredibly meaningful and rewarding.”

As it winds down, Sprout is requesting nominations for its final grant program: the $1,000 Sprout Legacy Awards. The grants will be awarded to at least 25 Pittsburghers “who best embody Sprout’s philosophy of empowering others to work within their communities to solve issues that impact them every day.” Nominations are due Friday, May 4.

From now until June 30 when its programming concludes, Sprout is also documenting its best practices for others to benefit going forward, said Lewis Long.

Through a “Last Will and Testament,” Sprout has published the doctrine that has guided its work and shared thoughts for Pittsburgh’s bright future.

In early June, with support from the MacArthur Foundation, Sprout will the release the Sprout Field Guides — a best practices series of tools and resources to share its community innovation expertise.

The guides will help others “jumpstart innovation, make community-advised decisions, and design events and experiences that provoke discussion, spark insight, and forge lasting partnerships.”

In that sense, the guides will be similar to the Remake Learning Playbook that Sprout created in 2015, which documents the Pittsburgh-based Remake Learning group’s innovative approach to creating regional learning ecosystems. That approach is now being emulated throughout the country.

So what’s next for Lewis Long and Matt Hannigan?

“The challenges Pittsburgh faces today are different from what they were in 2001 and require a mix of present-day solutions and newer, bigger ideas,” said Lewis Long.

“Matt and I remain committed to this work. Our hearts are with the people and communities of Pittsburgh, who have humbled us with their support and confidence and have made our work so incredibly meaningful and rewarding. Helping others become catalysts for positive change has defined our organization for the past 17 years and it will continue to define us — as community members — as we approach our next opportunities.”

NEXT staff

The staff at NEXTpittsburgh writes about the people driving change in the region and the innovative and cool things happening here.