Civic needs aren’t solved with action plans developed by heady Ph.Ds, they’re innovated by the very people affected by them. To support neighborhood and social challenges on the westside of Atlanta, the Center for Civic Innovation is driving community opportunity through its newly launched Westside Innovation Lab. The first civic residency program of its kind in Atlanta, the Lab is on a mission to transform ideas into budding social enterprises.
“We will bring in 6-8 different ventures that are tackling various challenges in the City of Atlanta, and are doing it in a way that is measurable, entrepreneurial and engages with different people in the community,” says Rohit Malhotra, executive director and founder of CCI. “The idea is that the civic community and those that care about this will rally around these six ventures and will do what they can to make them succeed. They will be a demonstration of what is possible a hundred times over again.”
The Westside Innovation Lab is accepting idea submissions through April 25. It is particularly interested in initiatives that address unique social challenges, and have a clear product, service or program outcome. The Center will support the selected social ventures with business training, partnerships, mentorship, early stage capital for pilot testing, and a physical space to work. “It’s an economic development initiative, not a social feel-good initiative, because when cities build solutions, cities save money, people are more engaged and you develop a community that can develop authentically. The thing that we are able to do [through the Westside Innovation Lab] is broaden the base of those who are contributing to this work.”
The Westside Innovation Lab will get energy and direction from its newly hired program manager, Raina Turner. The Georgia native has worked on community programs and research across three continents, including recently at Georgia State University.
“I am excited to be working with such a dynamic team on an initiative that literally hits home,” says Turner. “As program manager, my goal is to support community-driven and community-built ideas and ensure the authentic voices of the westside community are not merely heard but are integral in developing our success model for the ventures participating in our lab. The most effective community development starts from the ground up and is sustained by local businesses and residents that reinvest in their community. In this role, our team identifies and supports local, social enterprises that have scalable impact.“
Have an idea that can offer civic kapow to the westside? Submit it here. Emerging social entrepreneurs working in the 30314 and 30318 zip codes are encouraged to submit their ideas by April 25. More information about the Westside Innovation Lab can be read here. Photos provided by the Center for Civic Innovation, including center images by Vinisha Rumph.