More than 200 community, business, policy, and foundation leaders from four of the nation’s comeback cities are joining forces in Cleveland this month to foster entrepreneurship and social innovation in minority communities. This effort is part of Forward Cities, a national learning collaborative project in which leaders and donors from cities undergoing profound transformation can identify and share best practices. Participating cities include Cleveland, Detroit, New Orleans and Durham.
“As the global economy becomes increasingly competitive and the war for talent spans worldwide boundaries, we can no longer leave behind huge swaths of our potential innovation talent pool – namely traditionally disenfranchised women and minority populations,” said Christopher Gergen, CEO of Forward Impact and co-founder of Forward Cities. “Cities that fail to heed this call and don’t take intentional action to create a new economy that is purposefully equitable will do so at their own peril. Inclusive innovation isn’t just the right thing to do – it is the smart thing to do.”
Forward Cities leaders will meet in Cleveland June 14-17 to explore how to drive inclusive innovation. Out of town participants will meet with Cleveland entrepreneurs, business incubators, social innovators, and neighborhood and government leaders. They will also tour target communities including the Opportunity Corridor, the West 25th Street Corridor, the East 55th Street Food Corridor, and the East 105th Street Corridor. The Cleveland Forward Cities Council, which acts as the project's local advisory board, selected those locations. The council includes entities such as Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, Towards Employment, the City of Cleveland, RPM International the Burton D. Morgan Foundation, The Cleveland Foundation, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., The Business of Good Foundation, the George Gund Foundation and several other civic-minded organizations. National and local donors are funding the effort.
In addition, panels of experts from across the participating cities will explore topics ranging from the use of globalization and immigration as a strategy for urban renewal, to the role of anchor institutions in economic development, and how individual entrepreneurs affect a city’s comeback. The Cleveland convening is the final gathering for Forward Cities, which met in New Orleans in December 2014, Detroit in June 2015 and Durham in December 2015.
While the Cleveland event is still days away, the area has already felt the impact of being included in the Forward Cities endeavor. The collaboration has led to stronger coordination of local programs to support entrepreneurs, enabled council members to adopt and apply successful programs from the partner cities and has generated new, honest discussions regarding issues that affect inclusive innovation, such as race. Three examples of Forward Cities achievements in Cleveland include:
- Compiling a comprehensive list of more than 1,200 minority businesses in the city that connects business owners to public and private projects, conventions and events that are seeking minority business partners
- Securing a $16,000 planning grant from the Business of Good Foundation for the Hispanic Marketplace, La Placita, in the West 25th Street neighborhood.
- Developing a small business seminar and tour for businesses in the Opportunity Corridor tour that helped the 25 business owners build familiarity and overcome hurdles they may have felt in approaching local technical assistance providers.
“Horizons are expanded, problems are viewed from unusual angles, ideas are blended, friendships are forged and challenges unstuck,” said Deborah Hoover, Cleveland Forward Cities Co-Chair and president and CEO of Burton D. Morgan Foundation of the previous gatherings and collective Forward Cities efforts.
“This magic occurs because so many people from different cities, backgrounds and types of organizations come together to listen, share, and most of all, understand and work together," said Hoover.
Fresh Water's parent company, Issue Media Group, is a national partner in the Forward Cities initiative.
Source: Forward Cities
Text compiled by Erin O'Brien