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Forward Cities Plans to Move Durham Forward

Durham has seen a great deal of change in the past few years.

While the city has recently blossomed with trendy new restaurants, exciting tech companies, growing educational programs and innovative entrepreneurship, it was not all too long ago that downtown was desolate and struggling with high crime rates and a bad reputation.

Yet many would say that despite these encouraging advances, Durham is still struggling, and if community leaders don't think proactively, the problems will only get worse.

"Durham, like many urban environments across the country, has many challenges staring it in its face," said Ed Boyd, the chief strategy officer of iNvictus Group Holdings in Durham. "Among them are a growing economic divide, increasing difficulty in locating affordable housing, high minority unemployment, disadvantaged, schools and economically deprived and socially powerless populations being displaced from communities they've called home in favor of 'progressive policies.'"

In particular, Boyd said, the city is seeing a lot of minorities being displaced by the economic system and the rise of apathy among those in the position to provide aid. These are precisely the issues that the Forward Cities initiative hopes to tackle in Durham and in cities facing the same issues around the country, including New Orleans, Detroit and Cleveland.

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Cleveland Among 4 cities Sparking Economic Growth in Distressed Neighborhoods: Forward Cities

Randy McShepard takes on different tactics in trying to make changes in the minority community. He co-founded a public policy think tank 11 years ago and started holding community forums. And when childhood friends in Cleveland's Lee-Miles neighborhood suggested he help turn an empty forgotten piece of land in Cleveland's Kinsman neighborhood into an urban farm, he was in although begrudgingly.

"Actually I told them, wait a minute. That's not what I do. I write research reports," said McShepard, chairman of PolicyBridge, a public-policy think tank that monitors regional issues relevant to the minority community. It's a nonprofit that focuses on five areas: workforce development, economic development, education, neighborhood revitalization and health disparities.

When he's not at his manufacturing day job at RPM International, McShepard tends to get involved with community projects that deal with finding ways to turn negatives – like Cleveland topping all sorts of lists for urban problems – into positives. So when he was tapped to offer insight for the formation of a national learning collaborative project called Forward Cities, he was all in. The two-year-old project involves creating new opportunities in the most distressed neighborhoods.

"We were already interested because it was well in our sweet spot as an organization," Shepard said. He just didn't expect that Cleveland would become one of four cities targeted to participate in this initiative, and that he would once again, become a leader in the effort.

For the last two years, representatives from Cleveland and Northeast Ohio have participated in Forward Cities, working together with partners from Detroit, New Orleans and Durham to find ways to increase entrepreneurship and connectivity in minority and otherwise disconnected communities.

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Lupe Fiasco And A Waze Exec Make A Million-Dollar Bet On Inner-City Innovators

It was in May 2014 that Di-Ann Eisnor met Lupe Fiasco. Eisnor is an executive at Google's Waze, an angel investor, and a "neogeographer," while Fiasco is a Grammy Award-winning rapper; the two were united as Henry Crown Fellows at the Aspen Institute. "We hit it off," recalls Fiasco. Soon, they got to speaking about shared concerns: inequality in America, ghettoized neighborhoods, and the lack of diversity in the innovation economy.

They had a shared belief that good ideas could come from anywhere, and began to wonder whether there wasn’t a way to start hunting for business ideas—and funding them—in neglected neighborhoods around the country. As an investor, Eisnor routinely listened to business pitches, like the kind you see in Shark Tank. What if she and Fiasco started their own fund, and actively started listening to pitches in the last places Silicon Valley would go looking for them? So they did just that, pooling a million dollars into something they dubbed the Neighborhood Start Fund.

They began to look for neighborhoods where they might pilot their idea. Though viewers of HBO’sGirls might think that Brooklyn is synonymous with gentrification, that’s only true of part of the borough, large swaths of which remain troubled and low-income. Eisnor had previously spent time in the neighborhood of East New York, and began to look there. As she asked around, though, she found a natural partner in the adjacent—though similarly challenged—neighborhood of Brownsville.

Another entrepreneur, Liveperson CEO Robert LoCascio, had already trained his sights on Brownsville, guided in part by Pernell Brice, whom LoCascio had hired to run his foundation, the Dream Big Foundation. Brice and LoCascio were already looking to establish a kind of hub for entrepreneurship in the neighborhood, and had reached out to three locally renowned bakers in Brownsville about opening a café that could eventually double as a space for coworking and entrepreneurship classes.

On November 13, the energies of these people and others will come together at that space in an unprecedented sort of business pitching competition. Eisnor, Fiasco, and other judges will hear business ideas from would-be Brownsville entrepreneurs. Finalists in the competition (Brownsville residents can apply here) will compete for $5,000 to turn ideas into prototypes, and will also have access to mentorship and free technology services.

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Cleveland Hosts Gathering of Leaders from Comeback Cities

This week; hundreds of business and community leaders are here as part of Forward Cities.  It brings together the experts from Cleveland and three other turnaround cities:  New Orleans, Durham, North Carolina, and Detroit. Founders of Forward Cities say future economic success will hinge on not just innovation and talent -- but diversity--tapping into underserved and often time ignored neighborhoods and populations, to help sustain growth and opportunities.

Listen here. 

Forward Cities Nominee Wins Scholarship for "Mapping the World" Idea

Forward Cities may have had their last conveninghere in Cleveland last month, but the movement continues to have an impact.

The organization successfully nominated Jerry Paffendorf of Loveland Technologies to receive a scholarship to the Aspen Institute's Ideas Festivalearlier this month. In addition to be able to attend the event for free, Jerry was invited to pitch his idea of mapping the world, which he discusses here with The Lift on Aspen 82.

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Forward Cities Effort Inspires Teamwork

Without the Forward Cities project, the St. Clair Superior Development Corp.’s bank account would be smaller than it is today.

Two years ago, civic leaders from Cleveland and three other major cities began meeting regularly to share ideas and find new ways to help inner-city entrepreneurs.

The Forward Cities initiative was scheduled to end this summer, but the local council does plan to continue getting together — even if they won’t be making any more group trips to Detroit, New Orleans and Durham, N.C.

Plus, some of the ideas and relationships born from Forward Cities have led to new projects and partnerships here in Cleveland. For instance, it was through Forward Cities that Michael Fleming, executive director of St. Clair Superior Development Corp., met Deborah Hoover, CEO of the Burton D. Morgan Foundation.

They soon realized that they could work together to help inner-city kids learn about entrepreneurship. As a result, the development corporation ended up applying for a grant from the foundation. It received the $100,000, two-year grant in February.

That wouldn’t have happened if Fleming hadn’t met Hoover through Forward Cities.

“We would not have been in the same room,” he said.

The initiative brought together organizations from different parts of the economic development continuum. Among the council’s 31 members are representatives from the city, lenders, colleges, workforce development groups and nonprofits that work with startups.

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New Orleans, Three Other Cities Sharing Ideas on Spreading Benefits of Local Economies

A group of New Orleans business and community leaders are heading to Cleveland this month as part of a two-year effort with three other cities to identify and share ideas and resources for helping minority and female entrepreneurs prosper in disadvantaged communities.
The initiative is part of Forward Cities, a national project where leaders from cities undergoing a rapid transformation can collaborate on best practices to ensure that more residents are benefiting from local growing economies.
Local leaders plan to work with officials from Cleveland, Detroit and Durham, North Carolina, during the four-day event in Cleveland, which starts June 14. New Orleans officials plan to target ways of improving opportunities for residents in the 7th and 8th Wards. The groups have met in the other cities since late 2014.

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MANSFIELD: We Are All Witnesses

Unlike in many other cities, the Cavs victory over Golden State didn’t spark a mini riot in downtown Cleveland as LeBron James hoisted the NBA trophy over his head. Nor was there any negative acting out as fans celebrated into the wee hours of the morning.

While there were reports of a couple of overturned trashcans and a broken window or two, by and large fans celebrated wildly but peacefully. The residents of Cleveland are to be commended, applauded and ultimately respected for their adult behavior.

Of course the question that immediately arises from pundits is, “How can we as a city build on the goodwill, momentum and raised expectations created by this magnificent victory — the first championship in Cleveland in 52 years?” Perhaps a better question is, “What do we want to happen?”

Should the ending of the five-decade championship drought be used exclusively to attract more millennials to downtown Cleveland, or can it be harnessed to bring about more meaningful changes? After all, once all of the debris is swept up after the tickertape parade is over, Cleveland will still be among the poorest cities in the United States.

Coincidentally, on the front page of the Plain Dealer the day after the Cavs beat Golden State, there was an article reinforcing what some of us already are too painfully aware of: Wide life expectancy disparities exist between communities of color in Cleveland and suburban enclaves.

Virginia Commonwealth University and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation completed a study that found while Cleveland’s Glenville neighborhood and the city of Lyndhurst are less than 10 miles apart, a child born today in the inner-city community has a life span that is 12 years shorter than a child born in that suburb.

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The Sound of Ideas - Homeless Women Vets; Bystander Intervention; Forward Cities

They served their country but came back to homelessness. The local effort to find adequate housing for the women of the armed forces, who find themselves with no place of their own. Then harnessing the power of the bystander to make our campuses safer. We'll explore the ideas behind Green Dot with the woman who created it. Plus, sustaining Cleveland's forward momentum will take innovation and participation involving all of the city's neighborhoods and residents. 

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Forward Cities - The City Club of Cleveland

Walter Isaacson of the Aspen Institute headlines a City Club of Cleveland event in collaboration with Forward Cities

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Immigration Is Absolutely an Urban Issue

As early as next week, the U.S. Supreme Court could come out with a ruling on the legality and scope of President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration in the case of United States v. Texas. If the justices rule in favor of the government, the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) and extended Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programs will get a green light. That means four million eligible undocumented immigrants will be allowed to legally stay and work in the U.S temporarily. 

There’s no question that the SCOTUS decision is newsworthy, but does it deserve coverage here on CityLab? That’s a polite version of the question we often get—usually through reader comments on stories we’ve published about city-, state-, and national-level immigration policies. Let me explain exactly why immigration is absolutely an urban issue.

“CityLab informs and inspires the people who are creating the cities of the future—and those who want to live there.” That’s our mission statement as a publication. Immigrants—both documented and undocumented—are the people building our cities. They also live in and around them, and keep them up and running. And yet, we don’t quite seem to recognize their value for cities—or why we need to plan cities with them in mind. 

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How to Spend Tax Money? Ask the Taxpayers!

What is the best way to spend government money? Typically, public budgets are decided through a process driven largely by policy makers and politicians.

What is often missing from this equation is a significant amount of input from local citizens who are the direct recipients of these services. Flipping this script is something called “participatory budgeting.”

It’s a process in which local citizens decide on how to allocate part of a municipal budget through a highly democratic process. It generally involves four basic steps: 1) community members identify spending priorities and select budget delegates, 2) budget delegates develop specific spending proposals with the help of experts, 3) community members vote on which proposals to fund, and 4) the government implements the top proposals.

Developed in the 1980s in Brazil, the first full participatory budgeting process occurred in the city of Porto Alegre in 1989. In an attempt to encourage local participation in government and channel more resources to the poor, a participatory budgeting process was rolled out citywide.

Artists, Beer and Sheep Lead St. Clair Area's Creative Renaissance

The St. Clair area is coming back, and it's doing it in a uniquely Cleveland way. It's a renaissance based on artists. And Slovenian monsters. And beer.

And sheep. Yes, sheep.

When the Goldhorn Brewery began brewing on East 55th Street in April it wasn't just the beginning for the gastropub.

That flow of lager represented a new beginning for the St. Clair area around East 55th, a part of the larger St. Clair-Superior district that also includes AsiaTown. Goldhorn is the first major opening in developer Rick Semersky's multimillion-dollar Hub 55 complex -- and another step forward for a Cleveland neighborhood that has been hard hit by poverty and the housing crisis.

Hub 55 follows smaller but equally innovative grassroots efforts to revive the St. Clair area. Artists and makers have played a significant role in the St. Clair renaissance, from the Cleveland Flea to the unique Upcycle Parts Shop.

Sheep have played a part, too. In 2012, the St. Clair Superior Development Corp. brought them in to "lambscape" vacant lots in the area as part of their Urban Grazing Program – a quirky sign of life in the once-overlooked area.

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Student Entrepreneur Recognized by President Obama at White House

As a varsity swimmer, Felipe Gomez del Campo V is used to being in competitive waters. But today, he’s swimming with sharks—as in Mark Cuban, Daymond John and Barbara Corcoran of ABC’sShark Tank. If that’s not pressure enough, he’s doing it in front of one of the most powerful people on the planet: President Barack Obama.

Gomez del Campo, founder of FCG Plasma, is one of five people who Obama recognized at a White House event today at 2 p.m. to highlight the importance of investing in women and young entrepreneurs. Gomez del Campo’s application was selected from among the many business startups that had been assisted by a U.S. government initiative.

During the one-hour panel, which was livestreamed at whitehouse.gov/live, Gomez del Campo and four other young entrepreneurs discussed their startups and the impact U.S. government-led initiatives have had on them. Then, the “sharks” and other successful startup founders—Tony Elumelu of The Tony Elumelu Foundation, Antonio Gracias of Valor Equity Partners and Julie Hanna of Kiva—conducted a five-minute question session with each entrepreneur.

“Luckily, I’m a good swimmer,” said the junior mechanical and aerospace engineering major—and admitted Shark Tank fan.
Gomez del Campo already has plenty of practice presenting his product—and earning financial support. His work began as a high school science fair project; since, he’s turned his idea into a company with two patents (the latest just filed Friday) and has conducted research with NASA.

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Inside A Growing Movement Of Coworking Spaces For Atypical Entrepreneurs

Long Beach, California-based WE Labs just opened its second coworking space in the historic Packard Building, a Spanish Baroque-styled car showroom from the 1920s. Behind it is an empty lot, next door is an auto body shop, down the street are swanky new apartments, and a block away is the light rail. It looks like a textbook gentrification setting, but WE Labs's clients differ from what you'd expect at mainstream, big-city coworking spaces like those in the WeWork empire. They include a bookkeeper, a mental health services nonprofit, painters, and a roller derby-themed fashion designer. Monday to Saturday, 9 a.m. - 6p.m. access is $175 per month—on the low side for coworking space in the L.A. area.

"The thing that I'm most pleased by right now is the fact that we're drawing in membership from the community here rather than so much attracting outside folks into the area," says Robbie Brown, one of WE Labs' managing partners and boot-strapping investors. "It's less threatening than walking into a coworking space and seeing a bunch of white guys in dress shirts, their faces in computers and typing away." (Full disclosure: I rent space at WE Labs.)

WE Labs is one of several new work spaces with public-service missions that include supporting low-income and minority entrepreneurs, artists, and social enterprises—nonprofits or for-profit companies that put social goals first. Some of these spaces, like maker-oriented Ponyride in Detroit, are nonprofits; several, likeHQ Raleigh in North Carolina, and WE Labs, are for-profit social enterprises called Benefit Corporations (B Corps).

This nascent national trend has been locally focused. "I found that there were communities across this country that were struggling with the same kinds of questions of building their entrepreneurial ecosystems up and trying to figure out ways that they can make them be inclusive," says HQ Raleigh cofounder Christopher Gergen, "but they weren't talking with one another." He hadn't heard of WE Labs, for instance, nor had Brown heard of HQ Raleigh. Gergen and others are starting to coordinate nationally with the Forward Cities Collaborative—an affiliation of organizations and activists in Detroit, Cleveland, New Orleans, and neighboring Durham, NC, that trade ideas on business development in low-income and minority neighborhoods.

"If you're a WeWork—which is in major metro markets like New York and Chicago and San Francisco, Hong Kong, Berlin, et cetera—it has a very different mandate and a very different strategy for where it's going to go," says Gergen. Communities outside the major commercial centers may have different types of businesses, he says. Health care and food and beverage companies are big in the Southeast, for example. HQ Raleigh's tenants include the venture arm of green household products company Seventh Generation, a coffee roaster, and plenty of tech startups.

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221 Articles | Page: | Show All
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