Innovation is never born in a silo, and solutions are always meant to be shared. That’s precisely the philosophy behind the City Innovation Ecosystems program from the National League of Cities.
Three years ago, the nonprofit created the new initiative designed to encourage the leaders of cities across the country to: “commit to creating the right policies, program and practices to ensure their communities can thrive in the global, innovation-driven economy.” With support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the program has already grown to include more than 100 cities, all working together.
We not only applaud the mission of this incredible program but are also proud to serve as an official technical assistance partner with these organizations. In the midst of the pandemic, it was our privilege to lead a session at the Kauffman Mayors Conference on Entrepreneurship in July of 2020. The session provided valuable information about how to identify and make entrepreneurial resources visible.
In addition, SourceLink has qualified to continue with the NLC City Innovation Ecosystem commitments program because we were able to gain commitment from a cohort of cities to become “actively engaged” with the program. The 2020-2021 cohort includes the cities of Henderson, Nevada, Kankakee, Illinois and Belvidere Illinois.
After all, cities around the country need continual support to reach their goals, and we’re proud to be part of the solution.
Righting resource inequality
And those solutions are needed, especially now. Too few of our nation’s cities and towns participate in the global economy, and too much of the available venture capital in this country is limited to the coasts. In fact, as the NLC reports, a mere 15 counties (out of more than 2,000 counties in the nation) made up nearly all of the inequality in the 2000s. Put another way, more than 80% of venture capital flows to just five metro areas.
This kind of inequality can signal a larger issue, explains reporter Richard Florida:
“Powered by the concentration of innovation, America’s spatial inequality is only likely to worsen and deepen over time … If this backlash continues to be successful, it will threaten the very sources of America’s innovation, economic growth, and rising living standards.”
As one way to counter this damaging trend, the NLC program is taking a “place-based approach” and looking at U.S. innovation in a new way. For those cities who join in, the program is committed to joining leaders from around the nation so they can work together to solve shared challenges while identifying their local strengths—and amplifying them.
Commit to our communities
Ready to get involved? The first step is making a simple commitment—a written pledge that will serve as a visible symbol to align your city’s work with that of your local business ecosystem, your educators and other key influencers. These commitments fall into four separate categories:
- Localizing the benefits of research and development
- STEM education and workforce development
- Innovation-based economic development
That commitment is the first step to establish your city’s agenda moving forward, the NLC writes:
“A commitment puts your city on the map nationally as a leader in the innovation economy. Bold visions that are backed by real work can make your city stand out, and NLC is eager to showcase cities that model innovation and ambition.”
Here at SourceLink, we’re excited to work with our partners and communities to bring more cities to the program, and we encourage you to strongly consider joining the network. Together, we can ensure that we all benefit from the amazing innovation and entrepreneurship happening all across this country!