Catholic Charities USA has unveiled a $1 million award program that officials hope will lead to innovative efforts to address poverty.

Called the Innovation Challenge, the program will see three member agencies receiving identical $333,333 awards for the "reduction, elimination and prevention of poverty."

"Innovation is the key word," explained Steve Bogus, who is Catholic Charities USA's vice president of social enterprise and workforce development.

Dominican Sister Donna Markham, president and CEO, announced a yearlong competition Sept. 26 during the agency's annual gathering in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She invited diocesan member agencies to submit proposals for new programs to meet peoples' needs.

The winners will be announced during the organization's annual gathering Oct. 28-30, 2020, in Cleveland.

Awards will be given to three diocesan agencies based on the size of their operation. That way, Bogus told Catholic News Service, a small agency will not be competing with an agency in a much larger budget and staff.

The competition is meant to inspire Catholic Charities staffers around the country to think of new ways to address poverty, Bogus said.

"We're encouraging partnerships, both with other members if they decide they can't do this project alone, as well as with local partners if it makes sense for their idea," he said.

Agencies will have until Jan. 31 to submit proposals. Three finalists in each category will be announced during the national organization's spring meeting March 30-April 1, 2020. The finalists then will be required to prepare what Catholic Charities officials called a "big idea" video pitch that describes the impact of their proposal and why it should be selected.

As part of the competition a website,, will allow for broad discussion of how better to address poverty and a place for comments on the proposals, the agency said.

The videos will be available online next July 1 through Sept. 1. Viewers will be able to offer feedback, comments and questions on the proposals.

The finalists also will be required to present their proposals at the Cleveland gathering.

The three winners will be chosen by a panel of judges, the general public and local Catholic Charities agencies.

Bogus said CCUSA, which has 167 agencies around the country, hopes the process will lead to an array of new poverty-fighting programs and encourage local agencies that are not winners to seek ways to find other funding so their plans are implemented.

"Everybody is going to be able to win if they get serious about what is it that we can do," Bogus said. "Our hope is that a lot of the ideas will be implemented."