American Urban Innovators are Filling Crucial Gaps

By Jessie Feller Hahn, Executive Director, Meeting of the Minds

Jessie Feller Hahn is the Executive Director of Meeting of the Minds where she is responsible for identifying global urban sustainability, innovation, technology best practices and thought leadership, developing platforms for city leaders to share lessons learned, and building alliances and partnerships across and within sectors.

May 2, 2016 | Smart Cities | 0 comments

Together, Meeting of the Minds and Urban Innovation Exchange launched the Urban Innovator Series just 25 weeks ago with the support of the Kresge Foundation. Each week, we feature an “urban innovator” handpicked from around the United States.

But what do we mean by urban innovator? The common thread that connects each of these leaders is simple: they fill a void where society has failed to address an urban ill. It’s clear that too often, for one reason or another, the systems in our cities aren’t working, and these urban innovators have created organizations and agencies to step in and develop solutions.

Michael O’Bryan works from a trauma-informed care model and uses the healing power of arts with youth affected by violence. Devone Boggan also addresses youth violence, engaging the young people most at-risk of firearms-related violence and death to be a part of the solution. Gregory Heller bridges the disconnect between private investment and community building, and Rose Broome devised a way to give the homeless a HandUp through smartphone technology.

We launched this series as a direct response to the lack of inspiring, call-to-action stories in U.S. media. At Meeting of the Minds and Urban Innovation Exchange, we encounter incredible change makers having an impact every day in cities across the country. We have developed and added numerous new platforms in the last four years to spotlight and tell those stories – all in the hope that it ignites a revelatory moment for a like-minded peer sitting in another city.

We’ve added monthly webinars, invited urban practitioners from around the world to write for our blog CityMinded.org, expanded our annual summit, hosted pop-up events and workshops around the country, and grown our monthly Meetups in cities around the US. This year-round programming has the goal of connecting like-minded innovators to share resources, build partnerships, and scale best practices.

In an effort to do just that, several of the urban innovators featured in this series will be speaking at our annual summit, Meeting of the Minds 2016, on October 25-27th.

In addition to that, on June 8th from 9AM-10AM PT, two of our urban innovators – Andrea Chen and Napoleon Wallace – will present a free hour-long webinar, including a Q+A session.

Andrea Chen and Napoleon Wallace blend the worlds of entrepreneurship, social impact, job creation, and economic opportunities for low-income Americans. All too often, these words seem diametrically opposed to each other. How can a startup or new business create jobs and solve the food or water crisis? Their work proves that it is possible.

Andrea Chen is the Executive Director of Propeller in New Orleans, a social impact accelerator that arose from the ashes of Hurricane Katrina when government resources were not enough to rebuild the local economy and neighborhoods. Since 2011, Propeller has launched “90 ventures through its accelerator, creating 130 new jobs in New Orleans, generated $36 million in external financing and revenue and $80,000 in seed funding awarded to early-stage startups in the PitchNOLA competitions.”

Just as Andrea is creating investment opportunities for businesses that had few options in New Orleans, Napoleon Wallace is investing in Americans that the banking industry has largely turned its back on. Napoleon is part of the Executive Staff at Self-Help, a national family of member-owned, mission-driven credit unions. It also serves as a nonprofit loan fund and a policy advocacy organization that works to expand business ownership and economic opportunities for all income groups. Self-Help was instrumental in ensuring that the predatory mortgage bill passed in North Carolina – one of the first state-level bills on this issue passed in the country. Self-Help also has a “secondary markets” program, through which they have partnered with large banks that don’t want to take certain credit risks – typically in low-income communities.

Join us as we dive deeper into learning lessons from both of their organizations and methodologies during the June 8th webinar. Registration is open here.

This series is continuing and we are looking for our next 30 urban innovators. If you know of someone who is doing impactful work in the Bay Area, Detroit, Memphis, Philadelphia, or New Orleans, please suggest them here. If they are not in one of those five target areas, we will still consider the submission. We know this kind of work is happening in cities across America and we want to tell as many of these incredible stories as we can.

Discussion

Leave your comment below, or reply to others.

Please note that this comment section is for thoughtful, on-topic discussions. Admin approval is required for all comments. Your comment may be edited if it contains grammatical errors. Low effort, self-promotional, or impolite comments will be deleted.

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Read more from MeetingoftheMinds.org

Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology

Need to Improve Your Transportation Plans? Try Inverting the Order of Planning

Need to Improve Your Transportation Plans? Try Inverting the Order of Planning

Advanced Urban Visioning offers a powerful tool for regions that are serious about achieving a major transformation in their sustainability and resilience. By clarifying what optimal transportation networks look like for a region, it can give planners and the public a better idea of what is possible. It inverts the traditional order of planning, ensuring that each mode can make the greatest possible contribution toward achieving future goals.

Advanced Urban Visioning doesn’t conflict with government-required planning processes; it precedes them. For example, the AUV process may identify the need for specialized infrastructure in a corridor, while the Alternatives Analysis process can now be used to determine the time-frame where such infrastructure becomes necessary given its role in a network.

Life is a Highway: Embracing Intelligent Transportation Systems

Life is a Highway: Embracing Intelligent Transportation Systems

The introduction of intelligent transportation systems, which includes a broad network of smart roads, smart cars, smart streetlights and electrification are pushing roadways to new heights. Roadways are no longer simply considered stretches of pavement; they’ve become platforms for innovation. The ability to empower roadways with intelligence and sensing capabilities will unlock extraordinary levels of safety and mobility by enabling smarter, more connected transportation systems that benefit the public and the environment.

Transportation Equity in South Africa

Transportation Equity in South Africa

I spoke last week with Njogu Morgan, a post-doctoral researcher specializing in transportation equity in Africa, specifically South Africa, where he is based. As a historian, his research centers around how we can use historical context to better understand current transportation system inequities and access. He’s starting a new research network of emerging and developing scholars who are interested in mobility issues from a historical perspective.

The Future of Cities

Mayors, planners, futurists, technologists, executives and advocates — hundreds of urban thought leaders publish on Meeting of the Minds. Sign up below to follow the future of cities.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Share This