Help Design Upswell Chicago

Think about the incredible variety of experiences, wisdom, and potential when 1,500 changemakers gather in Chicago for Upswell. Our collective goal should be to make the very most of our time together, to squeeze out every drop of energy and innovation.

This is your invitation to help make that happen. From quick pitches to creative problem solving, we’re excited to accept proposals for a wide range of activities on the Upswell schedule. Follow the steps below to submit a proposal!

Step 1

Pick an Activity Type

Have a lot of ideas? You can submit multiple proposals!

Deep Dive Workshops

120/150/180 minutes

These workshops go deep and have a major impact. They can be a thorough introduction to a skill or methodology, a structured exploration of a social issue, or an outcome-oriented brainstorming session.


45/60/75 minutes

Whether it’s training participants to think differently or sharing tools they can put into practice, we are looking for workshops that are experiential, action-oriented, and focused on facilitating connections among participants.

Reflection Activities

30/60 minutes

Help changemakers connect with their inner life by refreshing their minds and spirits.

Focus Groups

30 minutes

Pick a critical issue and lead a high-energy, small-group discussion about challenges, lessons learned, and new solutions.

Science/Tech Demos

30 minutes

Do you have a technology or science innovation that’s advancing the way we do changework? Showcase it in the Public Square! Please pitch hands-on, interactive demos that are best shared in small groups.

Spark Talks

10 minutes

On stage in the Public Square, what big, bold idea do you want to share with a curious audience? The stage is yours!

Step 2

Pick a theme

When you submit a proposal, you’ll be asked to select the theme that fits your activity.

Capacity Building

What skills, tools, and knowledge do changemakers need to improve the effectiveness and sustainability of their mission-driven work?

Community Engagement

Explore how organizations and community leaders have worked collaboratively to drive change.

Data & Technology

From new trends in data to exponential advances in technology, what challenges and opportunities does the future hold for changemakers?

Mind, Body, Soul

A focus on aligning inner life with external goals can yield far greater outcomes for our communities and missions.

Policy and Advocacy

For seasoned experts and new advocates alike, advocacy and public policy are powerful tools for more effectively advancing your mission.

Diversity, Inclusion, and Racial Equity

Learn tools and techniques to advance diversity, inclusion, and racial equity in your personal, professional, and organizational missions.

Big Ideas

Changework doesn’t always fit neatly into categories. Choose this if your ideas and work exist outside of the guidelines of the other themes.

Step 3

Submit Your Proposal

We’re looking for proposals that are imaginative, unusual, energetic, creative, and impactful. With so many changemakers together for a short time, every minute at Upswell matters!  Tell us how you’ll make the most of your time.

Here’s what you’ll need for your proposal:

1. What’s the pitch? Why should folks get excited about your activity? (100 words)
2. What are three big ways that your activity will accelerate changework? (100 words)
3. Are there public policies affecting your work? (100 words)
4. Tell us about any advocacy action that might be included in your activity. (100 words)
5. Do you have videos, articles, or websites to support your proposal? We’d love to see them!
6. We’ll need high resolution photos of yourself and other speakers.
7. And we’ll need a short bio of you and any speakers.

Questions? Let us know at


Here are the answers to the most common questions we receive. Don’t see your question below? Email and we’ll answer it.

Proposals will be accepted through Friday, April 19, unless otherwise noted. We will notify you about your status within one month after.

If you are selected to present at Upswell, the Upswell team will provide the information and logistics support that you need to facilitate a fantastic experience. You and your co-presenters will be asked to cover your own Upswell registration and travel expenses. Upswell is also committed to ensuring that presenters represent the diversity of the sector, so financial assistance may be made available if there are special circumstances.

If you have any questions about the cost of attendance, please feel free to contact us at

Your proposal is:

  • Innovative
  • Curious
  • Clear
  • Engaging
  • Passionate
  • Provocative
  • Willing to learn
  • Comfortable speaking in front of small or large groups

A successful submission might include:

  • A clear description
  • A narrow focus
  • Tangible takeaways for the audience
  • A new or interesting angle

Absolutely! You can pitch an idea with friends, colleagues, or strangers. You don’t have to be at the same organization or even in the same field.

Yes! You can submit multiple ideas for each activity type or different activity types – just be sure to submit a separate submission form for each one.


Share This Opportunity With Your Network

You know changemakers with big ideas. Some of them are well known. Some are looking for the chance to make their voices heard. Upswell is the place for all of them. We’d appreciate your help in letting your network, colleagues, and friends know that they are invited to co-create Upswell Chicago.

From 10-minute talks to three-hour workshops, opportunity awaits any changemaker with something to share.


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