Engage in InnovateNC

What is the next phase of InnovateNC?

Building on the momentum of the first phase of the project, InnovateNC is expanding its reach to other communities across North Carolina. Five activities will take for the next phase of work include:

InnovateNC has five goals:

  1. Strengthening and sustaining a state-wide learning platform & communications plan;
  2. Developing an annual convening strategy for interested North Carolina communities and stakeholders outside of the state;
  3. Fostering strategic capacity building support for communities beyond the original five communities as well as ongoing engagement among the original five;
  4. Strengthening local and statewide policy support for these efforts including helping city/county governments to evaluate and implement appropriate municipal policy tools for strengthening their local innovation ecosystem. These efforts also include helping North Carolina establish a Community Innovation Fund – a proposed state-wide competitive grant process out of the North Carolina Department of Commerce to help communities implement plans to bolster their local innovation economy; and
  5. Working with research partners to evaluate the medium and long-term impact of this work on local economies and communities and codifying lessons learned from the work.

Become a Member Community of InnovateNC:

To strengthen the learning network across North Carolina, we invite interested communities to become members of the InnovateNC learning collaborative. Interested communities should have the following:

  • A commitment to advancing the local innovation economy that is broadly inclusive;
  • A cross-sector community of institutional and grass-roots leaders willing to invest time, energy, and resources to the local work and the state-wide collaborative including attending the annual convening;
  • A readiness to take advantage of a state-wide learning network including actively participating in the state-wide convenings, applying promising practices locally, and contributing to the broader network by hosting site visits and offering up lessons being learned on the ground.

Membership Benefits:

We believe that collaboration of cross-sector, cross- generation talent within and between cities and regions drives success. When your community joins InnovateNC, you’re joining an all-star network of practitioners, innovators, and decision- makers committed to creating a more resilient economy for all.

OSTI/the State will not be collecting membership fees from InnovateNC

WHY SHOULD YOUR COMMUNITY JOIN? Connections, Learning, Support, Collaboration, Impact


InnovateNC’s most powerful asset is our community learning network. Our state-wide cross-sector, cross-generation network is made up of
practitioners and policy-makers dedicated to accelerating inclusive innovation in their local communities and exploring opportunities for collaboration between communities. By joining, your community will have an opportunity to connect with other metro/micropolitan leaders in our network, share ideas, and access capacity building tools and resources. This includes access to our membership directory, relevant resources, briefings from InnovateNC’s team on important innovation trends, as well as invitations to site visits and meetings designed to foster shared learning and collaboration.


When your community joins, you will get a free or discounted rates to attend our annual conference and be invited to the national conferences hosted by Forward Cities that attract more than 60 cities globally. These conferences help InnovateNC members ditch the status quo. We get hands-on, interactive, practical, and very real.

Registration and Details Coming Soon


By joining, communities also have access to a host of capacity building tools and resources. This includes eligibility to participate in InnovateNC’s Community Innovation Accelerator – a program that includes placing a two-year Innovation Fellow in your community to work with a Cross-Sector Innovation Council and ongoing support to map your local inclusive innovation economy, develop a strategic plan, and receive matching implementation grants to put your community’s ideas into action.


The membership levels for a city per year are as follows: 

North Carolina communities interested in InnovateNC may find it helpful in joining the broader network of Forward Cities, a nationally recognized 501(c)(3) learning collaborative of communities committed to inclusive innovation, and lead partner on the InnovateNC project. Forward Cities’ membership benefits are presented below. All membership revenues are collected and used by Forward Cities and not the North Carolina Department of Commerce, Office of Science, Technology & Innovation. Engaging in one of the Forward Cities’ membership levels gives InnovateNC members a broader network of communities outside of North Carolina and a nationally recognized resource at the State-level, but is not required for communities interested in the InnovateNC program.

Mayor’s Advisory InvitationYN
Leadership Circle InvitationYN
Invitations to curated site visits to partner citiesYY
Forward Cities Acceleration Eligibility with funding and supportYY
Innovation Fellow Eligibility with funding & supportYY
One-time free passes to
Spring OR Fall Conference (TOTAL)
Y *Y *
Five discounted passes of 50%
to Convening & Workshop
Eligibility to host convening/ workshop/ site visitYY
Invited to Quarterly Trends WebinarYY
Access to Members DirectoryYY

*The leadership level includes 10 free tickets
*The community level includes 5 free tickets

Individuals and organizations can also register for the national convening for $500/ individual.

MAXIMIZING THE VALUE OF BEING A MEMBER COMMUNITY: To maximize the benefit of joining the InnovateNC network, it is highly recommended that member communities form cross-sector clusters of leaders (i.e. a local Innovation Council) who attend convenings together and continue to meet throughout the year to help apply lessons learned and stay aligned on efforts to advance inclusive innovation locally. Please contact us for best practices and guidance on launching an effective cross-sector cluster.

We also encourage regional clusters to join InnovateNC – particularly a metro “hub” and surrounding micropolitan “spokes.” If your region is interested in exploring this opportunity and the associated discounts, please contact us.

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