Welcome to Forward Cities.
With the majority of people now living in cities, there is a boom of entrepreneurial activity and innovative problem-solving emerging from our urban centers. But some communities are being left behind, and as cities look to tackle the challenge of “inclusive innovation” they are often doing so in isolation. This is why the idea of Forward Cities was born!Denise M. Byrne
Forward Cities is a multi-city, national learning collaborative - between New Orleans, Detroit, Cleveland and Durham - that is helping local innovators connect with one another as they take on the challenge of increasing entrepreneurial activity and connectivity in disconnected communities. Our goals include:
- bolstering the economic and community vitality of targeted neighborhoods within each participating city through increased entrepreneurial and small business activity, and connectivity;
- fostering best practice sharing, relationship building, and entrepreneurial activity among the four participating cities; and
- serving as a dynamic knowledge resource/model for other cities that are looking to extend the diversity and inclusivity of their innovation ecosystems.
Over the next two years, leaders from each of these four cities will meet for multi-day learning, sharing, and strategizing convenings – starting in New Orleans in December of 2014, followed by Detroit in the spring of 2015, Cleveland in the fall, and wrapping up in Durham by the spring of 2016.
These gatherings have several goals: 1) allow the host city to showcase its own innovation ecosystem; 2) establish relationships between like-minded innovators in respective participating cities; 3) share current strategies, models and visions for each city’s future community and economic development; and 4) explore ways to share this knowledge with other cities in the United States and beyond.
To represent the respective cities at the convenings, and ensure this work carries forward between gatherings, each city has formed a local Innovation Council comprised of entrepreneurs, social innovators, neighborhood leaders, funders, data analysts, policy and economic development experts, and others. These Councils are charged with identifying target neighborhoods to focus on and advance collective efforts to increase entrepreneurial and small business activity and connectivity in these distressed parts of town. To inform this work, the Innovation Councils are working with a local data partner as well Forward Cities’ national research partner, the Urban Institute, to help map the current level of activity and connectivity, and to identify assets that can be leveraged to address the gaps.
Through this site, a monthly e-newsletter, and a strong social media outreach strategy, we will shine a light on the innovative ideas emerging from these cities and share lessons learned. We also want to listen and contribute actively to the national and global conversation on urban innovation – with a particular focus on inclusivity and diversity.
It’s an ambitious effort and Forward Cities is fortunate to have a robust set of national partners supporting this effort including our managing partner - Friends of New Orleans, our convening and policy partner - the Aspen Institute, our research partner - the Urban Institute, and our story-telling partner - Issue Media Group. Other funding and thought partners are listed throughout this site and are critical to the success of this effort.
To participate in this unfolding conversation, we invite you to register
for our regular updates and we encourage you to contact us
with questions, thoughts, or suggestions of other innovative efforts that we can learn from and share. We also invite you to get involved and support the exciting work that is happening on the ground in each of these cities by reaching out directly to all of the local entrepreneurs, social innovators, neighborhood change-makers and support organizations that are indentified on this site. Thanks!
Forward Cities is led by Christopher Gergen of Forward Impact and Denise M. Byrne of Friends of New Orleans.