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Inclusion and Competitiveness: A “great deal” for Trump, the CBC and America

On March 22, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) met with President Donald Trump and presented a 130-page policy brief titled, “We Have A Lot to Lose: Solutions to Advance Black Families in the 21st Century.” The group was responding to the president’s campaign query from last summer:
 
“You’re living in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58% of your youth is unemployed — what the hell do you have to lose?
 
Columnist Clarence Page noted that the CBC’s meeting “was remarkable not for what it accomplished, which reportedly wasn’t much more than a get-acquainted chat, but that it happened at all.” During a presser at the White House on Feb. 16, reporter April Ryan asked President Trump about his intentions of meeting with the CBC. He appeared unfamiliar with the acronym, although it has been a mainstay in national politics for nearly 50 years.
 
“Am I going to include who? Are they friends of yours? Set up a meeting,” Trump said to Ryan.
 
My hope is that this meeting was a first step, setting a table for the CBC to engage regularly with the President while continuing to develop its policy blueprint. Namely, evolving the more singular programmatic thrusts of the CBC’s proposals toward building dynamic education and economic inclusion and competitiveness systems in distressed and underserved areas throughout the U.S.

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NSF Grant to Assist Female, Minority Entrepreneurs

The National Science Foundation has awarded a group of Midwestern universities funding for a pilot program aimed at helping female and minority innovators with commercialization. The $225,000 grant will be used by Indiana University, the University of Louisville and Missouri University of Science and Technology to develop the program.

The program, known as AWARE: ACCESS: Building Innovation Capacity Through Diversity, focuses on women and minority faculty, staff and students who are looking to secure funding to commercialize their inventions. The Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute and the IU Research and Technology Corp. will host a commercialization and entrepreneurship summit in Indianapolis this fall in support of the program. 

"Startup companies are an important stage of the translational research spectrum, so this initiative is key to the Indiana CTSI’s mission of accelerating research to commercialization, and to increase the representation of women and minorities in this process,” said Padma Portonovo, the co-principal investigator on the grant for IU and program manager at Indiana CTSI. 

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Inclusive Innovation Week returns to promote equality in Pittsburgh’s tech economy

When studies showed Pittsburgh’s growing tech scene had a diversity problem, the city reacted with the Roadmap for Inclusive Innovation.

Created in partnership with the Department of Innovation and Performance and the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), the plan seeks to make the city’s technology boom accessible and beneficial to everyone. The Roadmap’s mission continues with the second annual Inclusive Innovation Week, a citywide initiative promoting equality in Pittsburgh’s tech and maker scenes.

From March 31-April 7, neighborhoods across Pittsburgh will play host to Inclusive Innovation Week programming, including free interactive youth activities, informative discussions, and events showcasing women artists, business owners and technologists.
Christine Marty, civic innovation specialist for the City of Pittsburgh’s Department of Innovation & Performance, says one takeaway from the first Inclusive Innovation Week is that it provided an opportunity for local government to form partnerships with leaders in the nonprofit, tech and education sectors.

“It opened our eyes to all the current opportunities that the city can work with as opposed to developing our own thing,” she says.
She adds that the event has expanded significantly from last year. The number of partnerships has grown nearly three-fold from 47 to 126, while events increased from 63 to 74 and growing. The happenings range from free admission to the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Museum of Art, to presentations by experts in green innovation, community activism, data gathering and more. For aspiring entrepreneurs, there’s even the chance to meet investors during open pitch meets with Birchmere Ventures and velocityHUB.

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U.S. Cities Battle Each Other for Jobs With $45 Billion in Incentives

When Elyria Mayor Holly Brinda learned that Riddell Inc. was looking to leave this small city in northeast Ohio, she came up with a $14 million package of tax incentives and offered to lease land to the company for $1 a year.

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Citizens At The Center: A Citizen-Led Renaissance Is Taking Shape In Durham

Stroll the streets of Durham, North Carolina and you'll feel a certain something in the air. Call it a vibe or call it a strong sense of culture, but one thing is true: the Durham community is working together to celebrate and preserve the best of its past, with an eye toward ushering in a new future for its citizens in this once thriving, tobacco-centric town.

Yes, gentrification is on the rise in Durham as young people flock to downtown, where 100-year-old buildings and facades belie the hip, open architecture and freshly refurbished interiors. Durham's history is an interesting one and plays and important role in our American story. Known for its past as a tobacco town and the home of Duke University, it also claimed more African American millionaires per capita than any other city in the early 20th century. Not surprisingly, Durham had a unique place in the story of America’s expansion throughout the period. Indeed, successful blacks in this solidly Southern town spanned sectors including financial services and insurance to such an extent that a section of downtown became known across the country as “Black Wall Street.” But like so many American towns, as "urban renewal" and planning took hold throughout the mid 20th century, communities were bifurcated as a result of a major highway built right through the heart of the black community. Add to this the white flight that took hold, and this left Durham without much in the way of investment or opportunities for the citizens of the area that remained.

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Knight Foundation Awards $1.2 Million to Code Fever’s Black Tech Week

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation recently presented a $1.2 million grant to the organizers of Black Tech Week—a yearly event for fostering black innovation and entrepreneurship.

Black Tech Week kicked off in 2015. It is a gathering of entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, tech founders, and other thought leaders held every year in the Miami area.

The event is the brainchild of the founders of Code Fever, Felecia Hatcher and Derick Pearson. Hatcher was named a White House Champion of Change in 2014 as part of President Obama’s initiative to create STEM opportunities and education.
Hatcher also helped facilitate Black Enterprise’s BE Smart Case Competition in 2016. In the competition, students from historically black colleges and universities work for weeks to solve a real-work business problem presented to them.

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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. 

Listen Here. 
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