Think about the enormous potential when thousands of changemakers – each one with unique perspectives, experiences, and skills – gather in Pittsburgh this October 14-16 for Upswell. We’re talking about literally tens of thousands of years of doing good – all in one place.

It’s up to all of us to make the very most of our time together, to squeeze out every drop of energy and impact.

This is your invitation to help make that happen. From quick talks to creative problem-solving to bold prototyping (and, really, anything else that you think would make a difference in the world), we’re excited to accept proposals for a wide range of activities on the Upswell schedule.

If you’re a nonprofit or philanthropic professional, corporate citizen, activist, social entrepreneur, government official, or anyone else who is committed to advancing the common good, just follow the steps below to submit a proposal!


Due to the quickly evolving nature of the COVID-19 pandemic and the demands it is placing on nonprofits across the country, we have extended the deadline for submissions.


To pick a theme, ask yourself how would my activity make someone a better changemaker? Is it through acceleration, innovation, collaboration, or resilience?

This is about learning best practices, strengthening skills, and discovering how to be a more effective changemaker. Think of this as high-impact capacity building.

These activities explore the leading edge of doing good, with powerful new data, experimental technology, and moonshot ideas about changing the status quo.

Build bridges across differences, brainstorm with influential leaders, and forge new cross-sector relationships. Your breakthrough moment might only be a conversation away.

How can we harness the insights gained during the pandemic to strengthen our communities, organizations, staff, and leaders – and prepare for the immediate and unexpected tasks ahead?


Find the format that works best for your idea. 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.

Turn the Curve

45 Minutes

Share a data trend line around a critical issue and facilitate group discussion about the underlying factors impacting the trend line, and strategies that might “turn the curve” to make real impact.

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 at Upswell! We’re looking for hands-on, interactive demos that are best shared with small groups.

Spark Talks

10 Minutes

On stage in Upswell’s busiest open spaces, what big, bold idea do you want to share with a curious audience?


The Upswell Co-Creation campaign is competitive. We’re looking for proposals that are imaginative, unusual, energetic, creative, powerful, impactful, and deep. With so many changemakers together for a short amount time, every single minute at Upswell matters. Tell us how you’ll make the most of your time — and show us how you stand out!

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

1. A catchy (and clear) title! You want to capture the imagination quickly. (80 characters or less)
2. What’s the pitch? Why will attendees get excited about your activity? (625 characters / 100 words)
3. What are three big ways that your activity will accelerate changework? (625 characters / 100 words)
4. Are there public policies affecting your work? (625 characters / 100 words)
5. Tell us about any advocacy action that might be included in your activity. (625 characters / 100 words)
6. Do you have videos, articles, or websites related to your proposal? We’d love to see them!
7. We’ll need high resolution photos of yourself and other presenters.
8. And we’ll need a short bio of you and any presenters.

Questions? Let us know at
Need inspiration? Check out last year’s program.


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

Due to the quickly evolving nature of the COVID-19 pandemic and the demands it is placing on nonprofits across the country, we have extended the deadline for submissions.

All proposals will be reviewed and evaluated by Independent Sector’s Upswell team, as well as partners and collaborators. Proposals will also be shared for a public vote designed gain insight on what changemakers across the country feel is the important content to feature at Upswell 2020.

Your proposal should:

  • Clearly demonstrate how it connects to one of the three Upswell 2020 themes (Resilience, Acceleration, Innovation, or Collaboration)
  • Have a clear, succinct description, with a tangible goal and lesson for the audience to takeaway.
  • Include speaker(s) who reflect the diversity of our community of changemakers.

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 proposals for each activity type or different activity types – just be sure to submit a separate submission form for each one.