Forward Cities is focused on accomplishing the following objectives:
- Identify ways to develop/support more business entrepreneurs, social innovators and neighborhood change-makers from low-income communities of color, and working in them, in addition to ensuring that there is a vibrant pipeline for the next generation of local entrepreneurs and citizen problem solvers, including opportunity youth
- Figure out best strategies for harnessing the talent and creativity of our local entrepreneurial/innovation ecosystems in order to address the most critical issues/challenges that exist in our cities' most distressed neighborhoods/communities.
- Strengthen existing networks and accelerate entrepreneurial activity within the participating cities, and their surrounding areas;
- Foster best practice sharing, relationship building, and entrepreneurial activity among the participating cities, and their surrounding areas; and
- Serve as a dynamic knowledge resource for others that are looking to build out their innovation ecosystems.
During the last two years, Forward Cities has given its first cohort of participating cities - New Orleans, Detroit, Durham and Cleveland - an opportunity to:
- Explore issues of inclusive innovation (so that each participating city/ region’s current entrepreneurial boom does not leave the most vulnerable behind);
- Identify the most effective ways for supporting and developing leaders, entrepreneurs and businesses, in low income neighborhoods; and
- Discuss strategies to build innovative leadership and an entrepreneurial workforce, especially in traditionally disconnected communities (as well as developing the capacity of high-growth enterprises to recruit/train opportunity youth).
Forward Cities is now extending this multi-city learning collaborative for an additional year with specific outcomes in mind including:
- Supporting ongoing efforts to increase minority entrepreneurial activity and connectivity within participating cities;
- Evaluating and documenting the impact this project has had on these cities;
- Deepening relationships and trust within and between each participating city that increases the likelihood of sustained collective impact;
- Strengthening connections between cities that create opportunities for learning, collaboration and the sharing of promising practices, in addition to new business development and investment (or funding) opportunities;
- Capturing the stories and lessons of inclusive innovation efforts within each Forward City that can be shared with interested stakeholders nationally; and
- Codifying the Forward Cities multi-city learning collaborative process and lessons learned for cities, communities and/or organizations interested in replicating this kind of initiative back home.