Living Walls and We Love BuHi unveil The BuHi Walk

On June 8th, Living Walls founder Monica Campana and We Love BuHi founder Marian Liou convened an intimate group of supporters at the Atlanta office of Seyfarth Shaw to unveil their partnership: The BuHi Walk conference. The conference, a mashup of Living Walls and We Love BuHi, will bring street artists and academics from across the globe under the same roof with the intention of engaging in meaningful discourse about our public space. Marian Liou of We Love BuHi and Mónica Campana of Living Walls were joined by Beltline visionary Ryan Gravel in a conversation moderated by Rohit Malhotra, where they talked about their vision for the conference, their partnership, and what the conference will mean for Atlanta. 

During the evening's conversation, Mónica reflected on the “living walls" that she and featured artists create and how the art catalyzes neighborhood change and alters the way people think about their neighborhoods. Marian hoped to change the way people thought about the Buford Highway Corridor as well, and works to “sell” Buford Highway to itself and the city it is a part of, celebrating its unique diversity along the way. The two met for the first time through the Civic Innovation Fellowship, and the partnership of their ventures speaks to their common purpose of making our communities better and the power of bringing Atlanta’s social entrepreneurs together.

For both, the collaboration through the conference is personal. Marian spoke to the unique diversity that Buford Highway harbors due to its strong immigrant communities and to the many meals she and her sons shared there. In one case, her son exclaimed his curiosity for why the family always ate at the Chinese restaurants along the corridor as he was “not Chinese.” From there, Marian vowed to make Buford Highway a place that he and other members of the BuHi community could be proud of.

Mónica has long been involved in coloring the walls of this city’s communities, and in turn, the lives of its people. In her eyes, the beauty and meaning from these Living Walls was rooted in the perspectives and backgrounds of the artists that created them. For this reason, Living Walls is extremely proud to support an incredibly diverse group of artists, with many women and people of color that call Atlanta their home. The artists whose work will energize the Buford Highway community through the conference will truly be representative of the diverse BuHi community and the identity that makes Atlanta special.

Mónica and Marian are superstars. They're original members of our inaugural Civic Innovation Fellows cohort who continue their engagement with the Center for Civic Innovation through the Civic Women's Fellowship, supported by the Sara Blakely Foundation. We are incredibly proud of the work that Mónica and Marian have done, and we are honored to count them as Fellows at the Center for Civic Innovation, who continue working to drive impact to make Atlanta a better place. Join us in celebrating their next project to enrich our community, and be sure to join them for the Living Walls 2017 Conference on the Buford Highway Corridor.



#CCIspotlight: Mike Walbert, A3C Festival & Conference

Atlanta is filled with incredible people and organizations doing meaningful work throughout this city. Their efforts change the way our city designs solutions for the challenges we face in education, art and culture preservation, criminal justice and reform, workforce development, and food security. 
The Center for Civic Innovation aims to be a place that supports and showcases these community leaders to the world. This blog series will highlight one entrepreneur or organization from Atlanta every week. We hope their stories will inform and inspire.

Tell us a little more about yourself. What was the source of inspiration for the work you do? How did you get to where you are today?
I grew up in the Atlanta area, listening to hip-hop, and was influenced by Atlanta artists and the broader culture from the very beginning. I attended Paideia School, and I credit the school’s approach for exposing me to the really different ways people learn. I think that lesson was really important to what I have done and what I do today. After graduation, I moved out to Los Angeles and went to school at the University of Southern California. In LA, I studied Business and Entrepreneurship, while doing things like DJing for the student-run radio station. 
After graduation, I moved back home to Atlanta and took up a position as a marketing director for a small company. However, my entrepreneurial background pushed me to follow ideas that I had. I remember starting Hotlanta Sauce Company, and pushing a couple other ventures. Eventually I became known as the “dude who knows how to start a business” in my circle- I tried starting and consulting on about a half dozen enterprises. Then, two buddies of mine asked about starting a music production company. 
Our first project was a compilation of Atlanta indie hip-hop artists. This really got us on the map. We were able to get around 20 artists on this record, and it really galvanized a pretty siloed community. We continued putting together these projects, and the release parties started becoming big events. This helped us build some experience in designing hip-hop events and shows, consulting for the business, and managing some artists. Through my partner at this company, I met Brian Knott, the founder of A3C (All 3 Coasts) after a trip to South by Southwest. The stars had aligned; I was really excited about the conference-festival format where the hip-hop community was really underserved. So began my journey of trying to create something in Atlanta.

Tell us about the venture you are working on. Where did the idea for your venture come from? How are you driving impact? 
A3C allows the hip-hop community to learn, connect, network, and grow through a music festival and conference format. The conference is really unique and allows the hip-hop community to make connections, get jobs, and grow through the conference. We were definitely inspired by SXSW and built off of this existing model. 
Before I joined the team, A3C was not a conference or a festival. Instead, it was more of a get together for Brian’s record label and its connections. Numbers wise, we would fill around half of a 500-person occupancy hall with around 30 total artists. I joined in 2009 as the Artist Director. By then, A3C had expanded to a lineup of 75 artists and a larger venue. We doubled in size for the next four years.
Since 2010, I have managed the strategy and team. We have grown A3C from a regional showcase to an internationally recognized institution in hip-hop culture. To me, the broader A3C team is the larger hip-hop community. I am focused on empowering people in this community to take their ideas and run with them. For example, A3C’s conference supports creators by allowing them to curate their own events and pitch them to us. The vision truly is driven by the collective. We look at opening the conference to event curation as a game changer.
An uneducated creative community can really be a detriment to themselves and their community. As entrepreneurs, creatives are targets and can be net negatives without the knowledge to succeed. A really educated, knowledgeable community will be a driving force of the city. A3C wants to educate, connect, and grow our hip-hop creatives. We want to be a part of the movement that allows these creatives to come in and invigorate our city.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing Atlanta today? 
If you look at Atlanta on paper, our biggest export is Coca-Cola. And that is great. The city has always touted the corporations that were founded here and continue to have presences here. But those corporations are not Atlanta’s biggest asset. In reality, Atlanta’s biggest export is hip-hop and the culture that it creates. To me, hip-hop is Atlanta’s most influential brand. I lived in LA for five years and I have seen that first-hand. Atlanta’s hip-hop is played in every single party in the world, and in that sense is our most valuable export. Imagine if hip-hop left? Atlanta needs to be courting the culture and needs to give hip-hop with the value it deserves. 
How has the Center for Civic Innovation supported you in your work?
A3C is going on 2+ years in the space now, and honestly, CCI has been home. The space has been amazing, and being around programming like the Leadership Breakfasts and the events that pop up is great. The energy here is so motivating and inspiring as well, working alongside the other co-workers in the Center. CCI has also been an incredibly valuable partner for the A3C Action Summit, where Rohit moderated a panel for us, and additionally, all around support for the A3C Pitch Competition.

What advice do you have for Atlanta’s newest social entrepreneurs? 
I think that in this line of work, it’s super important to build strategic partnerships. Go out and look at who is already doing it. Take the steps to be friends and build those relationships. Ask for help. It is so easy to grow into your silo and allow that to limit your work. That kind of outlook and approach destines you for failure. Break from the silo mentality and build partnerships with those already doing the work around you.
Check out Mike’s recent sit-down with Bitter Southerner to discuss Atlanta's growing role of hip-hop and tech here.
A3C is currently unveiling their lineup and programming for their 2017 festival and conference. Headliners such as Nas, Ghostface Killah, Just Blaze and up-and-coming artists Joyner Lucas, SABA, Kirk Knight and Jay IDK have already been announced as part of the lineup. Applications for the 3rd annual A3C Action Pitch Competition, a partnership between CCI and A3C, are now open, and you can apply here. 
We are really proud of Mike and the A3C team and are honored to collaborate with them through A3C Action! For more stories of inspiring entrepreneurs, be sure to check out our blog. We’ll be updating with a new profile every week!


#CCIspotlight: Austin Williams, Next Generation Men

Atlanta is filled with incredible people and organizations doing meaningful work throughout this city. Their efforts change the way our city designs solutions for the challenges we face in education, art and culture preservation, criminal justice and reform, workforce development, and food security.

The Center for Civic Innovation aims to be a place that supports and showcases these community leaders to the world. This blog series will highlight one entrepreneur or organization from Atlanta every week.  We hope their stories will inform and inspire.

Austin Williams, NGM

Tell us a little more about yourself. What was the source of inspiration for the work you do? How did you get to where you are today?

I’m originally from Los Angeles, but I went to many different schools. My educational background is pretty colorful--I’ve been to private and public schools, Christian and Jewish schools, and that in and of itself gave me an interesting outlook on school. I was fortunate enough to have family members who worked in law or medicine who would constantly stress the importance of academics and who we could see on the day to day basis actually exercising these particular skill sets that we were charged to master in the classroom.

But come my high school years I fell into the same pitfalls that a lot of young men of color do. I didn’t really see my teachers as somebody who understood what I was going through--and my response to that was to not do my homework and not show up to class. I thought I was rebelling against the system. When it came time to apply to college, this attitude only ended up hurting me.

Ultimately, I was admitted into Morehouse, moved to Atlanta and ended up doing really well there studying political science. I applied to Teach For America as a backup plan, figuring that I would defer my law school acceptances, take a break and make some money--but once I got into the classroom, I fell in love with it. It was difficult. But also incredibly rewarding. It showed me there was a deficiency in culturally competent teachers who could understand these students and bring the best out of them.

Tell us about the venture you are working on. Where did the idea for your venture come from? How are you driving impact?

I believe that the ultimate purpose of education is to show students where they come from and what they’re capable of being. Throughout their education, my students were not being exposed to the career paths that follow from success in school. Getting them to master a chemistry equation is really an abstraction, if they don’t see how that can allow them to become somebody of influence in the pharmaceutical industry. After my experiences teaching, I have realized that we can’t rely on students to be motivated by good teachers and the personalities. Sustainable exposure to careers and applications of their academic experiences is critical for them to understand the importance of education.

Even though they were educators through TFA in different Atlanta Public Schools and Fulton County Schools, Next Generation Men co-founders Ian Cohen, Travis Salters, and Ben Sperling all observed very similar disadvantages of students in each of these schools. They saw that there is a great need for opportunities for exposure to postsecondary educational and professional opportunities amongst historically underserved populations. From this idea, Next Generation Men was born, with the goal of inspiring students through exposure to the skills and experiences necessary for college and professional life beyond. I joined the NGM team in August 2016 as the new program director. I have used my own experiences as a collegiate debater and teacher in order to challenge my students with critical thinking and encourage their personal growth.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing Atlanta today?

Throughout my work, I have drawn upon my own experience progressing through the education system in order to change the way that things are done and the outcomes for young students of color. During my time as a teacher, I witnessed how the hierarchical school system imposed limitations on innovation in education and made it difficult for us teachers to be reactive to our students. I thinks that the challenge for education will be finding a balance between teaching in a way that is beneficial to students, without draining the passion from teachers. With one of the biggest challenges Atlanta faces today being low rates of socioeconomic mobility, I believe that education is the best way to empower individuals with a competitive chance to better their own lives.

How has CCI supported you in your work? Any unexpected challenges you’ve faced or advice for Atlanta’s newest social entrepreneurs?

Becoming residents at the Center for Civic Innovation has allowed the team at Next Generation Men to be engulfed daily in an environment of like-minded entrepreneurs with a diverse range of passions. Being surrounded by others who are constantly striving to live their passions inspires me every day.

What advice do you have for Atlanta’s newest social entrepreneurs?

Don’t take No for an answer. Expect No, and then take the time to reflect and figure out why you got No so that you can adjust your strategy.  

Next Generation Men continues to grow and have an impact on the lives of many students. In July 2016, after many months of planning, the group launched two Next Generation Women cohorts at Banneker and Washington High Schools. This year they also expanded NGM to two new schools, Washington High School and Creekside High School. You can learn more about their work here.

We are so proud of the team and can’t wait to see what they do next! For more stories of inspiring entrepreneurs, be sure to check out our blog. We’ll be updating with a new profile every week!


How can we redesign communities for transit (recap)?

On April 24th Center for Civic Innovation hosted the first (of many) 2017 Our Future Atlanta panels about the issues that matter most in the upcoming city-wide elections. Up first? Transportation access and the possibilities of equitable transpiration oriented development. After the recent traffic woes (I-85 collapse, I-20 road buckle, some foam tomahawks spilling onto I-75 and more) transit is on everyones mind, but just laying new rail lines isn't a solution that works for all communities. 



Alex Trachtenberg, Southface

Brian Gist, Southern Environmental Law Center

Deborah Scott, Georgia Stand Up

Debbie Frank, MARTA 

Moderator: Odetta MacLeish-White, Enterprise Community Partners


Some of the biggest themes of the night included: 

  • The call for a Living Transit Fund - a portion of the newly authorize transportation tax that would be used to create TOD stuff like affordable housing near transit stations. This is a great way to increase MARTA ridership while also providing much needed affordable housing! 
  • MARTA has a policy of at least 20% affordable units at all of their new TOD developments - that is 20% of all the units at all those parking lots being converted to condos and apartments
  • Transformation Alliance has a new scorecard to help people evaluate how equitable a development is. It is still in development but you can find it here and here
  • We need to envision a "spectrum of transit" that meets multiple needs. Rail is only a good investment in areas that want to be really dense and not all communities want that. Communities should think about who they are and what they want - density and tall buildings vs single family and more tree coverage - and line up transit options that help meet their vision. 

You can get the entire presentation here

CCI Attends: Environmental Justice & Equity Mayoral Town Hall

On April 22, 2017 - Earth Day - Partnership for Southern Equity, Our Future Atlanta, and the People's Agenda hosted a forum with candidates for Mayor of Atlanta at the King Center. The event covered candidates ideas around key issues affecting the lives of Atlantans including equitable transportation, affordable housing, and renewable energy. Only two major candidates, Mary Norwood & Michael Sterling, were unable to attend.  News crews were on site and you can see a full recording of the event below!

Social Studies Recap: Undocumented under a Trump administration

Along with our partners at Creative Loafing, the Center for Civic Innovation held this year’s first Social Studies discussion this past Wednesday. The topic was undocumented immigration, featured in Creative Loafing’s recent cover story “In the Shadows” about metro Atlanta “Dreamers.”

Being an undocumented immigrant in the US has taken on new meaning as federal policies and national attitudes change. Cities, counties, and states have become caught up in the debate about how to both remain welcoming communities and deal with stricter immigration enforcement as immigration policy dominates the news. There is a lot on the line for our undocumented neighbors and for top decision-makers in local institutions, especially while the federal government moves to tie local compliance with immigration law to federal funding.


Melonie Tharpe, CCI’s Programs & Advocacy Director, introduced the topic and each of the panelists.


The first panel consisted of “Dreamers,” the children of undocumented immigrants who qualified for the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Dreamers give their personal stories about how they came to live in the US and share misconceptions that others have about undocumented immigrants and the challenges that DACA recipients still face.

Dreamers give their personal stories about how they came to live in the US and share misconceptions that others have about undocumented immigrants and the challenges that DACA recipients still face.

It’s important to recognize the humanity that everyone has.
— Raymond Partolan


The second panel consisted of professionals that work and volunteer as advocates for immigrants.

Panelists speak about the current legal challenges that undocumented immigrants are facing with changes in federal policy and enforcement.

Panelists speak about the current legal challenges that undocumented immigrants are facing with changes in federal policy and enforcement.


Our Final 5: Ideas Challenge 2017


Wednesday, March 1 turned out to be a stormy night in Atlanta, but ATLiens turned out en masse to the first night of the inaugural Atlanta Civic Summit. The Ideas Challenge Top Ten kicked off the Summit with ten incredible presentations to the full audience and five judges.

After considerable deliberation, the judges have decided who will go on to the next round! The Top Five all receive $500 from the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, workspace and technical assistance with the Center for Civic Innovation, and the opportunity to apply for grants ranging from $1500 to $10,000. We’re so proud to announce these top five!


Monica Campana, Signs of Solidarity ATL - Voter Edition: This public art project will feature banners created by local artists with messages of voter empowerment.

Jean Graham, Voter Education Texts: This project will update voters via text with real time information about their polling place, candidates, and issues affecting their communities.

Phi Nguyen+Kavi Vu Young, Voter Videos: This web-based video series will educate voters (specifically those in underrepresented communities) about the issues that affect them and the importance of civic engagement.

Rhonda Patrick, Get Out the Vote Truck: This mobile (think “food truck”) education vehicle will travel to popular festivals in the Atlanta area, sharing the story of candidates, activating voters, and educating the public on Atlanta’s civic history.

Use Ufot, Civics Bootcamp: This bootcamp demystifies the political process for and educates participants on best practices and actions they can take to improve their communities.


Thank you again to our panel of judges who joined us on stage:

Milton Little, United Way of Greater Atlanta
Hala Moddelmog, Metro Atlanta Chamber
Suganthi Simon, Arthur M Blank Family Foundation
Nathaniel Smith, Partnership for Southern Equity

Carol Waddy, Chick-fil-A Foundation


You can read more about the 2017 Ideas Challenge here


Announcing the Ideas Challenge Top 10!

The Center for Civic Innovation and the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta is proud to announce the 2017 Ideas Challenge Top 10! 

The 2017 Ideas Challenge focused on identifying innovative and creative ideas that will engage communities around local and municipal elections in the city of Atlanta and metro Atlanta communities.

We were blown away by the amount of talent and innovation displayed in the applications, and are celebrating the TOP 10 today! They'll be presenting their ideas to a panel of judges on March 1, 2017 at the Center for Civic Innovation and Our Future Atlanta's Atlanta Civic Summit. Learn more about the Challenge and the summit here. 

Meet our top ten:

  • Biking Town Hall Jordyne Krumroy

  • Candidate Speed Dating Adrianne Serrano Proeller

  • Civics Bootcamp Nse Ufot

  • Civic Subscription Box Daniel Otto

  • Get Out the Vote Truck Rhonda Patrick

  • New American Voter Stories Diana Bui

  • Signs of Solidarity ATL - Voter Edition Monica Campana

  • Voter Education Texts Jenn Graham

  • Voting Documentary Evan Brown

  • Young Voter Videos Phi Nguyen




The Center for Civic Innovation Partners with the Sara Blakely Foundation To Invest in 10 Female Social Entrepreneurs in Atlanta


The Center for Civic Innovation (CCI) is excited to announce a partnership with the Sara Blakely Foundation that will support 10 women-led social enterprises and impact businesses in Atlanta. This one year fellowship will invest in the businesses and leadership development of each entrepreneur. These women represent business leaders that are creating both economic and social impact in our city.

Meet these boss women representing the inaugural cohort for this program:

  • Rutu Chaudhari, The Dharma Project, is a yoga instructor that brings her practice of self care to public servants.

  • Susanna Spiccia, re:Imagine/ATL, works with teens to create content for teens on a variety of topics.

  • Marian Liou, We Love BuHi, is a place-maker, bringing attention, support and dignity to immigrant owned businesses on Buford Highway.

  • Beth Malone, Dashboard, runs an experimental art agency that produces exhibitions in dynamic spaces to re-imagine experience. 

  • Tiffany Ray, Generation Infocus, is changing the way we view STEAM education in Atlanta Public Schools.

  • Abiodun Henderson, The Come Up Project, Inc., is breaking the cycle of incarceration by training at risk youth in agribusiness.

  • Monica Campana, Living Walls, uses art to connect to the places around them and to spark community conversation.

  • Yasmeen Sabir, Carver’s Produce, is creating a food hub in the heart of Atlanta to increase the lifespan and the distribution channels of our food.

  • Malika Whitley, Chop Art, runs arts programs for homeless youth in Atlanta.

  • Kristen Daniel, Pentorship, develops a customized training curriculum for re entering citizens returning from prison.


We’re so excited to see the impact that these women have on our city! Stay tuned for updates

from this cohort here on our blog.

Sara Blakley welcoming the women!

Designing Solutions: Georgia State University Partnership

The Center for Civic Innovation’s Westside Innovation Lab hosted its final showcase of social entrepreneurs in November, but the fruits of its labor are still manifesting. Throughout the 6-month fellowship, the Westside Innovation Lab partnered with Georgia State University’s Ernest G. Welch School of Art and Design under the lead of two professors, Jefferey Boortz and Bryan Perry, to offer experiential learning to senior design students and free brand booklets to our eight fellows