Applications are now closed. Check back in early July for announcement of the finalists!

SyncUp Colorado Challenge

Creating opportunities for young Coloradans to build meaningful careers

A $5 million dollar prize pool calling for breakthrough education-to-employment partnerships to support Colorado’s young people.

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Round 1 applications due June 1
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Colorado is better when we work together.

While promising efforts are emerging in Colorado to equip our young people for the jobs of tomorrow, these efforts are largely happening in silos. This Challenge is founded on the belief that by fostering more coordination between educators, employers, and intermediaries, we can sync up our efforts and help Coloradans access high-quality careers that enable them and the state economy to thrive. 

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Official Challenge Question

How might we accelerate education-to-employment partnerships that support Coloradans ages 12-24 to make informed choices and obtain job relevant skills to build quality careers?

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Every Coloradan should have viable choices and access to opportunities to build a meaningful, fulfilling, and financially rewarding career.

Job opportunities in Colorado are growing. Educators, employers, and young people have historically seen the 4-year degree as the primary pathway to access a quality career. Degrees deliver great value for some, but for young people who are unable to afford or complete a degree, there are very few viable alternatives. We need to work in sync to create viable, affordable, alternative pathways to high-quality careers. For these pathways to be viable, they need to do three things: be transparent about the outcomes and cost, help young people obtain job relevant skills, and ensure employers value, recognize, and hire from these pathways.

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Join us in creating change for Coloradans.

Download the Challenge Brief


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Seed Award

up to $350,000

The Seed Award is for new or existing partnerships between two or more organizations that are developing a breakthrough solution.

These solutions should:

  • Target Coloradans in the age range of 12-24
  • Be in the early stages of implementation and/or have a plan to launch a pilot within 12-18 months
  • Outline the outcomes the partnership intends to achieve
  • Have high potential to be replicated or scaled
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Scale Award

up to $2,000,000

The Scale Award is for new or existing partnerships with proven solutions that are planning to scale. For venture-backed startups, this means Series A and beyond.

These solutions should:

  • Target Coloradans in the age range of 12-24
  • Demonstrate positive outcomes for participating learners to date
  • Define the outcomes the partnership will achieve at scale
  • Have a clear approach to replicability or scale

Other Benefits for Winners

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Capacity building and evaluation support

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Peer to peer community and insight sharing

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Media and communications coverage 

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Opportunity to build long-term relationships with Colorado-based funders

Funding Schedule

Awards will be distributed over 2-3 project phases appropriate for each winning solution. During the application process, finalists will define the implementation timeline, the metrics, a requested total funding amount, and requested payment tranches. 

Winners will be held accountable to their metrics and timeline. Winners who demonstrate successful progress on their metrics and timeline will be awarded the pre-defined, agreed-to amount at each phase.

View Competition Rules

Charitability Guidance

Partnership and MOU Guidance

Applicant Types

We believe collaboration is necessary to create true impact in the education-to-employment space. Partnerships should consist of two or more cross-sector organizations that agree to cooperate and advance mutual interests. 

Partnering organizations can include, but are not limited to: 

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Small, medium, and enterprise employers 

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School districts and local school leaders

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Postsecondary institutions

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Nonprofit organizations and associations 

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For-profit companies

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Government leaders and state agencies 


To be eligible, partnerships must:

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Be either:
a new or existing partnership looking to pilot a new solution for young Coloradans. 
a new or existing partnership seeking to scale an existing solution to new young Coloradans.

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Have at least one Colorado-based partner

NOTE: Challenge Partners are not eligible to apply. Challenge Partner affiliates and grantees are eligible to apply. Challenge Partners do not determine final selection criteria, the judging process, or final award decisions. They will only have access to selection or judging criteria that is made available to all prospective applicants.

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All applications—both Seed and Scale—must:


Describe how the partnership will collaborate to support Coloradans ages 12-24 in making informed choices and obtaining job-relevant skills to build a high-quality career.


Lay out a clear vision for how the partnership will coordinate efforts and foster alignment across the education-to-employment system.


Describe how the solution offers an effective, affordable, accessible solution for learners to make informed choices and obtain job-relevant skills required by the market.


Define the specific metrics to measure solution effectiveness, affordability, and accessibility for the partnership and solution.

In addition, finalists will be required to: 


Include at minimum a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the partner organizations.


Define the solution implementation timeline.


Request a total funding amount and payment schedule. 

Award Timeline

April 8
12pm MT
Applications open

June 1
11:59pm MT
Round 1 applications due 

July 1
12pm MT
Finalists notified

August 17
11:59pm MT
Finalists’ Round 2 applications due 

September 14
12pm MT
Winners announced 

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All entries will be evaluated based on the following dimensions:

Partnership Operations, Leadership, and Capacity
Level of alignment, degree of commitment, and experienced leadership among partnering institutions

Solution Quality
Solution fit with challenge objectives and degree of operational effectiveness 

Solution Reach and Replicability
Magnitude of the number of learners reached and the potential for the solution to scale or replicate

Solution Cost and Sustainability
Value delivered by the proposed solution and likelihood of initiative sustainability

Selection Process
Applications will be reviewed by a panel of interdisciplinary judges, including industry experts, educators, philanthropists, investors, and entrepreneurs.


Will be announced in May 2021

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Our Partners 

SyncUp Colorado Sponsor

The Competition Sponsor, Zoma Foundation, funds the Challenge and its development. Zoma Foundation is part of ZOMALAB. ZOMALAB was founded by Lucy Ana and Ben Walton, whose families have shown a multigenerational commitment to expanding excellent educational opportunities for all. ZOMALAB believes in bringing together many diverse perspectives to foster collaboration, challenge conventional thinking, and allow innovation to thrive. For this Challenge, ZOMALAB has partnered with key leaders in Colorado and the education-to-employment ecosystem.

SyncUp Colorado Challenge Partners

Challenge Partners provide their expertise in the education-to-employment ecosystem to support the Challenge, advise applicants, participate in events, and amplify the Challenge. Partners are not eligible to apply for the Challenge, and do not have influence over the selection criteria, judging process, or winner selection.

SyncUp Colorado Implementation Partner

The Implementation Partner, Common Group, is a collective impact accelerator for education and economic opportunity. Common Group leads the development and delivery of the Challenge, supporting ZOMALAB, Challenge Partners, and applicants to advance the SyncUp Colorado mission.