Many of today’s cities, while sharing a great deal in common with cities of the past, have taken a number of bold, new moves to evolve the way they serve their residents.
While technology has had a significant influence on this change, we are also seeing it emerge through other innovative means, such as inclusive approaches to solving economic development challenges. The old model focused almost exclusively on recruiting large employers who would, in turn, attract a high quality workforce.
Our Community Entrepreneurship Accelerators (CEAs) in Indianapolis, IN, Franklin County/Columbus, OH, and both Pittsburgh and New Kensington/Westmoreland County, PA have broadened the communities’ focus on entrepreneurial support, placing an equity lens on this work to ensure more access to resources was available to those with fundamentally sound business ideas.
The process began with the recruitment and training of full-time Local Directors (and a part-time Project Manager in New Kensington/Westmoreland Co.) who brought an understanding of local stakeholders and the entrepreneurial landscape in their respective cities. Their efforts evolved into a dynamic, focused scope of work, primarily aimed at:
- identifying key barriers to local entrepreneurial engagement
- developing community-fed solutions to overcome these barriers, and
- implementing these solutions in short-term pilot projects.
All of this has been done with the entrepreneur front-of-mind, which leads to a true human-centered design approach to this work and ensures that the solutions are primarily informed by the unique circumstances in each community.
Each community gathered a group of cross-sector stakeholders from a variety of backgrounds. Bringing together diverse perspectives and backgrounds helped to broaden perspectives, surface new understandings, and inform the process in a much deeper and more comprehensive way.
Over time, we better understood what could be tested, learned from, and potentially scaled across each community. This looked very different from city to city. Including what was derived from some short-term strategic planning engagements in Buffalo, NY, Richmond, VA, and Jacksonville, FL, we developed twenty-one fairly unique concepts. Twelve of those are now ready to implement, thanks to collective funding efforts in each city