NEW BEDFORD — Come Jan. 23, five finalists of United Way of Greater New Bedford’s Innovation Fund will find out if their organization’s dream could become a reality.

In changing its traditional funding model, United Way is encouraging other entities to think outside the box in order to make change in the community.

One or more awards will be presented at the free Innovation Fund Finalist Showcase and Awardee Announcement at the Whaling Museum Jan. 23 from 5 to 7 p.m. The finalists are People Acting in Community Endeavors (PACE), Global Learning Charter Public School, Greater New Bedford Youth Alliance, Greater New Bedford Community Health Center and The Women’s Center.

Organizations were able to apply for up to $100,000 for up to three years for proposed projects dealing with health, education and financial stability.

“We weren’t seeing a whole lot of change in terms of statistics,” said Allison Yates-Berg, vice president of community impact and operations at United Way.

“We really wanted to jolt (nonprofits) out of their day to day operations,” she said.

President and CEO Michelle Hantman said a number of nonprofits get bogged down with trying to keep the lights on and survive.

“Some organizations just don’t have the opportunity to be reflective or imaginative,” she said.

The Innovation Fund, which Hantman called the brainchild of Yates-Berg when she came on board over two years ago, allowed Executive Director Bruce Morell’s staff at PACE "an opportunity to dream," he said.

Morell’s goal is to transform PACE’s Head Start Program, which has two locations in New Bedford and serves 295 children, into a trauma-informed preschool. The proposed plan is to partner with Bradley Hospital in Rhode Island which “provides expert, family-focused care to children and adolescents with psychological, developmental, and behavioral problems” according to its website, and train its 85 staff members in the program.

“What we have seen over the past couple of decades is an escalation in extreme behavior,” in children ages 3 and 4 with some coming from homes of domestic violence, substance abuse and opioid abuse, he said.

The idea is to do early intervention with kids and also their families, and eventually provide direct services, before they reach the public school system.

Another finalist, Global Learning Charter, hopes to bring technology education directly to the elderly as an after-school program for students with a supervisor.

“We’re bringing the classes to the participants,” said Amey Bissonnette, the school’s director of development. It would start small with the local Council on Agings to teach about Google, Facebook and other technological ways to connect the elderly with family and resources and then expand to other community groups.

The school would use funding for a set of laptops, software, a mobile data connection and to book a bus for transportation. This program would provide intergenerational interactions, allowing students to teach but also learn something from the elderly.

The Greater New Bedford Youth Alliance hopes to replicate and shape a system like “Cityspan — Youth Services” used by Providence After School Alliance (PASA) which is able to track enrollment, participation and retention across multiple organizations for more than 3,000 youth in Providence. This allows PASA to have an overview of all programs and quickly produce quantifiable results to funders and other stakeholders.

The Greater New Bedford Community Health Center aims to fully integrate opioid treatment into its primary care service model, proposing Medication Assisted Treatment which combines medication and counseling to treat opioid use disorder. The center would prescribe and monitor buprenorphine (generic version of suboxone) and directly provide mandatory counseling with a Licensed Certified Social Worker.

The Women’s Center is proposing to offer Homeport — Alternative to Shelter program to allow women and children to “shelter in place,” a new approach to ensure safety of victims of domestic and sexual violence. A victim safety plan and perpetrator dangerousness assessment will help determine which families will be safe in the Homeport model, and otherwise be safe and secure in their own homes with today’s security technology.

To attend the event, RSVP to Liz at 508-994-9625 ext. 219 or by Jan. 12.

Follow Aimee Chiavaroli on Twitter @AimeeC_SCT