Urban Innovator of the Week: Bill Strickland

By Nicole Rupersburg

Nicole Rupersburg is a freelance writer and editor who covers business development & entrepreneurship, arts & culture, and food & travel for national audiences. She is the project editor and lead writer of Urban Innovation Exchange and Creative Exchange.

Mar 1, 2016 | Smart Cities | 0 comments

This profile was originally published by Urban Innovation Exchange in partnership with Meeting of the Minds and Kresge Foundation. For more stories of people changing cities, visit UIXCities.com and follow @UIXCities.

Bill-stricklandBill Strickland describes himself as “a kid from the neighborhood who got involved in the arts.”

While that is certainly true, he might also be selling himself short just a bit – Strickland, who is the President and CEO of Manchester Bidwell Corporation, is a MacArthur Fellowship “genius” award winner, founder of the Grammy-winning subscription jazz series MCG Jazz, and author of Make the Impossible Possible, about a kid from Pittsburgh’s ghetto whose crusade to inspire others to achieve the extraordinary would lead him to serve as a board member of the National Endowment for the Arts and lecture at Harvard, among other things.

It all started in the 1960s, in the Manchester neighborhood on Pittsburgh’s North Side, where Strickland grew up as a disengaged youth until he met his high school art teacher, Frank Ross. Ross showed Strickland the power of art, education, and community, and instilled in him an interest in working with the kids in the streets through an after-school arts program.

In 1968, inspired by what Ross had taught him, Strickland was running a small after-school ceramics program on a regular basis as a way to give back to his struggling neighborhood. That program is now called the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild Youth & Arts program, serving public school students with classes in ceramics, design, digital imaging, 3D manufacturing, and photography.

By 1972, Strickland had took over leadership of the Bidwell Training Center, a struggling job training center near the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild that he was able to rebuild into a “pretty good” job training and vocational education center in partnership with various Pittsburgh area industry leaders.

Once again, Strickland is being humble – this “pretty good” vocational center is a nationally accredited and state licensed adult career training institution, with programs that range from horticultural to medical to the culinary arts.

“We partner with industry leaders to develop curriculum specific to their industries,” Strickland says. “We have these industry advisory boards that work directly with us so the programs we develop are industry compatible, so as to have a high degree of placement and retention.”

On the arts side of Manchester Bidwell Corporation, there is an abundance of arts education opportunities for public school students in middle school and high school, as well as evening arts education programming for adults.

“Our goal of is to improve the retention and graduation rates of public school students using arts as an intervention strategy,” Strickland says. “As kids get better in the arts, their retention improves. We graduated 99 percent of our kids last year; we average 90 percent, and a lot of these students go on to college. I think this is a very powerful way of adding value to what these kids need to have to be successful.”

Once out of school, arts program alumni can always continue on with Manchester Bidwell in their vocational training (for ages 18 and up).

By talking to industry leaders to determine what their workforce and skills training needs are, Strickland has been able to get them engaged and invested in developing the curriculum and training their future employees.

“It’s a very close working partnership and we think this is a good methodology for building our curriculum.”

Strickland says between 75 and 85 percent of Manchester Bidwell’s vocational students go to work every year in the industries in which they were trained, in addition to the 90 percent average of kids in the arts program graduating from high school. These numbers are also consistent across Manchester Bidwell’seight affiliate sites too.

These eight affiliates operate in different cities across the United States and follow the same model as Pittsburgh’s. There are five more cities with affiliate sites in the works, which Strickland says should all be online in the next 18 months. He says their goal is to eventually have 100 affiliate centers throughout the country.

While Strickland has reason to be proud of the successes of the programs he has built, he remains steadfastly humble. To him, the impactful work of Manchester Bidwell is a relatively simple matter. “I decided I wanted to get involved with the arts in the community and that’s how this started. This has really been a 40-year story of one neighborhood.”

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

Optimization Tools to Help Transit Agencies Recover

Optimization Tools to Help Transit Agencies Recover

I spoke last week with Krishna Desai from Cubic Transportation, and we discussed three big problems facing transportation, and the ways that Cubic is approaching these challenges:

1) If (or when) more workers return to traditional on-location jobs, but feel a lingering distrust of crowded spaces, people who can afford it may opt for private cars instead of using public transit for their commute. This will create a massive influx of cars on roads that were already crowded, and more financial woes for transit agencies already dealing with budget shortfalls. Krishna told me about a suite of optimization tools Cubic is deploying in places like Mexico and San Francisco to make public transit more efficient, more transparent, and, overall, more attractive to riders.

2) For the time being, though, we’re dealing with the opposite problem. How can transit agencies find ways to influence user behavior in a way that complies with social distancing and capacity requirements? How can you incentivize riders to wait for the next bus? (In a way that doesn’t alienate them forever – see #1). Cubic has deployed a loyalty/advertising program in Miami-Dade County that was originally intended to increase ridership, but is now being used to help control crowding and social distancing on transit.

3) Transportation infrastructure, in generally, was not built to accomodate 6-feet of separation between riders – or between workers. Little things like, for example, opening gates, requires workers to be closer than 6-feet to riders, and there are examples like that throughout every transit hub. Technology can help, but creating and implementing software/hardware solutions quickly and efficiently requires experience with innovation, deployment, maintenance and more. Cubic has a program called Project Rebound that shows the possibilities.

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.

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