A Letter from our Executive Director: The Westside Innovation Lab Launch

Dear Atlanta Community,

I hope this note finds you happy and healthy. First and foremost, we are indebted to you for all of your support, love and encouragement over the past year. We’ve built an incredible community of people who are making Atlanta a national hub and example for what true social impact work looks like.

I am writing to you to share our commitment and new work with communities on the westside of Atlanta and to invite you to an open forum on social enterprise on the westside on March 31, 2016 at the Center for Civic Innovation. 

Click here to RSVP to our Social Enterprise on the Westside event on March 31, 2016

The neighborhoods on the westside of Atlanta are home to some of the richest history, talent, and community collaboration in the city--frankly, in the country, if you ask me. We’ve spent the past couple of months meeting residents, business owners, activists, organizers, nonprofits, foundations, and many others who all agree on one thing: the westside of Atlanta is no stranger to struggle nor promise. No, we have not met everyone and our experience right now is anecdotal, but there is no question that there are some deep-rooted social challenges that must be tackled in these neighborhoods. It is our belief that the best solutions will come from the residents and communities themselves. This includes a group of women we met that do blood pressure checks for local neighbors every month and a cycling program that teaches about health and wellness. These things are already happening, and there are hundreds more than can use support and help to get off of the ground.

With that said, we are launching the Westside Innovation Lab, a process to identify and support community-driven and community-built ideas and interventions within neighborhoods on the westside. Our goal is to find initiatives that we can support with business training, partnerships, physical assets, mentorship, and early stage capital for pilot testing new, innovative ideas. Our approach is to be good listeners, and while we are not naive enough to believe that small interventions will overhaul what are systematic, complicated, multi-faceted challenges, we do believe that we need to start by helping grassroots initiatives thrive and succeed as a demonstration of where greater efforts and investments can be focused. 

So why are we doing this? The Center for Civic Innovation was built by people in love with our Atlanta community, and we are committed to seeing our city grow responsibly and inclusively. Headlines and sexy campaigns are easy, but authentic community engagement is what really drives opportunity. Over the past year, we’ve had thousands of people, from 17 to 70 year olds, come through our doors and share the work that they are doing in their neighborhoods-- and many of them were residents of the westside. We’ve created a toolbox of trainings, connections, and partnerships that we think will amplify impact in this part of town. None of this is possible without keeping community in the driver’s seat.

We’ll be spending some time in neighborhoods to get the word out, but we’d love your support to do the same. Let people that you know with ideas, already existing initiatives, or that could be good mentors or partners to join us on March 31. At that time, we’ll explain more about how we plan to find and support these initiatives. We’ll also update our community once we’ve selected the initiatives that we’ll be supporting and provide opportunities for you to contribute your time or talent.

We will not be perfect. We will also not always be successful. But we will be authentic, honest, and outcome-driven throughout this entire process. There will always be someone else that we need to be talking to or need to be working with, and we need your help to connect us to those people. We cannot do this alone. This work is never possible in a silo. So if you see opportunities for us to do better, or for you to engage, join us.

All the best,