In addition to our community specific work, Forward Cities works in regions that are striving to expand their entrepreneurial output and innovation capacity—particularly within currently under-connected and/or under-invested communities.
This learning collaborative, made possible by Huntington Bank, is helping five participating cities better understand the current health of their equitable entrepreneurial economies and begin to develop prioritized strategies that leverage the historic resilience within their local communities of color to meet the evolving needs of existing and emerging and established Black and Latinx owned small businesses. They are doing so in a fashion that allows for parallel learning and understanding, helping to ensure a real time sharing of best practices and stronger connectivity with cities experiencing common challenges.
The E3 Ohio engagement brings together five of Ohio’s mid-sized cities – Akron, Canton, Dayton, Toledo, and Youngstown – to participate in a six-month process to evaluate and enrich each community’s equitable entrepreneurial ecosystem. This “community of practice” empowers local stakeholders to prioritize creating equity for every entrepreneur in their community.
By working across a region or state, there are opportunities to break down the urban-rural divide, leverage regional/state funding, and foster shared learning and collaboration. We piloted a regional approach in our home state of North Carolina through an initiative called InnovateNC and are working to expand our regional impact model in other states.
InnovateNC, a public-private partnership between Forward Cities and the North Carolina Department of Commerce, Office of Science, Technology & Innovation that helps communities and regions in North Carolina expand their innovation economies and foster greater economic inclusion. The first cohort of cities, launched in 2015, included Asheville, Greensboro, Pembroke, Wilmington, and Wilson.