Subscribe Now


The Northeast Arc and the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation are seeking innovative concepts that will help disrupt the system in order to improve the lives of persons with intellectual disabilities and/or autism, and their families.

Those with out-of-the-box ideas are invited to enter The Arc Tank: Changing Lives Through Innovation, a competition, patterned after the hugely successful TV show, Shark Tank, in which Northeast Arc will distribute up to $200,000 in a first round of funding.

The competition will culminate with up to 10 proposals being presented to an expert panel of industry leaders from various sectors on Nov. 15 at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston. The experts may select multiple ideas, choose to fund ideas over multiple years or provide larger awards to fewer ideas.

“We are looking for people who can imagine possibilities, be creative and want to change the status quo,” said Northeast Arc CEO Jo Ann Simons, adding that innovative ideas must be consistent with the mission of the Northeast Arc: supporting people with disabilities to become active and involved members of their community.

“President Kennedy believed deeply in the power of science and innovation to better the human condition,” said Steven Rothstein, executive director of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. “With the support of his sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, he also made intellectual disabilities a priority for his administration. We are excited to partner with Northeast Arc on a program that champions both of those important values today.”

The Arc Tank is funded through the Changing Lives Fund, established at the Northeast Arc through a generous $1 million donation by Boston businessman and Marblehead resident Steven P. Rosenthal. The event is being co-sponsored by Eastern Bank and WBUR radio station.

Simons said the most important facet to The Arc Tank is innovation. “We are not looking for proposals to fund existing projects or initiatives,” she said. “We are looking for ideas that will positively disrupt the system and changes the lives of people with disabilities.”

As an example, Simons cited Uber and Lyft, the biggest cab companies in the world, which do not own a single vehicle; Airbnb, the largest supplier of rooms per night, which does not own a single hotel; and Amazon, which allows people to shop 24/7 and have items delivered in as little as a few hours.

The Arc Tank competition is open to any person, organization or business. Ideas must be innovative, progressive, sustainable, and have significant societal impact. The application process will be conducted in two phases. Phase 1 will include initial application review by a panel of professionals that represent a broad range of experience. Concepts will be judged on criteria including creativity and potential impact, whether they address a need and supply a benefit, and sustainability.

Up to 10 entries will be advanced to final round of The Arc Tank, which will include a final presentation to a panel of industry leaders from various sectors. The panel will have the opportunity to question those submitting the proposals, before announcing their funding decisions at a reception immediately following.

“We appreciate the opportunity to partner with the JFK Library Foundation on this event,” Simons said.  “Improving services for people with intellectual disabilities was a priority for President Kennedy, as well as the entire Kennedy family. We are excited at the prospect of being able to invest in creative ideas that will better the lives of people with disabilities.”


Initial applications are due by Sept. 29, 2017. More information is available online at