Forming a local Innovation Council

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To help foster a coordinated approach to advancing inclusive innovation, each community is encouraged to form a local innovation council that represents a broad and diverse cross-section of the entrepreneurial ecosystem. This includes: individuals with expertise in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, small business owners and entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs and non-profit leaders, and those identified by the community as under-connected (e.g., women, community leaders of color).

Often times the inclination is to invite the “usual suspects” to the table—those that have typically been tasked with economic development and innovation in a community. While it is important to include this background and expertise on the innovation council, it is just as important to bring in representatives that have not historically been engaged in this work. It’s also important to have the right mix of influencers, connectors, and doers on the innovation council—all of whom must be willing and able to contribute a significant amount of time to this project.

Having the right stakeholders at the table will make the output more reliable and reflective of the whole community. However, it also means that more time should be appropriated to effectively build trust among the group.

Smaller and micropolitan communities should extend beyond their geographic boundaries to include regional stakeholders.

NOTE: Diversity is not just demographic or geographic. Diversity can also be sectoral, such as government, higher education, business, and non-profit. These sectors can differ greatly, especially when it comes to their pace. In many cases, businesses can implement tasks more quickly than government institutions due to administrative restrictions.

Members of the local innovation council should include:

  • A diverse group of policy, political, and community leaders who can authentically represent the needs and interests of the entrepreneurial community and its diverse workforce, and that have successfully “moved the needle” in an important sector for the community’s transformation (i.e. education, urban renewal, housing, etc.). Include local policy makers that can help align economic and community policy with entrepreneurial ambitions;
  • Established small business and corporate leaders committed to building an “intrapreneurial” corporate culture as well as contributing to an innovation economy, such as contracting with local entrepreneurs/small businesses and “on-boarding” a diverse pipeline of emerging entrepreneurial talent;
  • Potential/emerging innovators and entrepreneurs/social entrepreneurs – including those who are currently or recently under-connected from the community and/or region’s enabling entrepreneurial resources.
  • Early-stage investors, banking executives, and philanthropic leaders who have a vested interest in the community’s economic future. Include funders investing in social/business entrepreneurship development (i.e. foundations, corporations and individual donors);
  • Organizations providing a robust enabling environment for incubating and accelerating emerging ventures – again, with a focus on inclusion (i.e. capacity building or support organizations working with small businesses and entrepreneurs, incubators, etc.);
  • Education and talent developers/recruiters focused on developing and connecting emerging talent from across a diverse range of neighborhoods with available opportunities (i.e. key leaders in local K-12, university, community college and technical/vocational education systems, education reform leaders, etc.);
  • Established and new media journalists/story-tellers committed to telling the community’s ever-changing story of inclusivity and innovation (i.e. bloggers, journalists, social justice advocates, etc.); and
  • Data and local research and policy/advocacy organizations tracking the evolution of the innovation economy and workforce trends.

Using the proposed matrix, describe the diversity* of members, depth of their support, and capacity to participate in the innovation council. Add additional columns and rows as needed.

Phase of WorkParticipating CommunitiesInnovateNC
Hiring Inclusive Innovation Fellow (first month)Recruit, approve, provide office, and support Recruit, hire, train, place, and support
Forming a cross-sector Innovation Council (first month)Identify leaders, commit to 18+ months, serve on committees, and contribute to final deliverablesFormation & governance structure, coordination/ facilitation support, national network
Systems Mapping
(months 2-3)
Support data collection, identify local data partners, feedback on Systems Mapping report Leads process with national and local data partner; produces final report
Identify potential investments (months 4-5)Provide planning venues; input on planning & implementation prioritiesLeads design and delivery of process
Investment in Pilots
(month 6 and beyond)
Raise investment funds for pilots & serve on investment review committee; ongoing support for funded pilotsProvide supportive investment funds for pilots & contribute to investment committee; ongoing support for pilots
Scaling of High-Impact Enterprises (ongoing based on progress)
Align municipal policy; contribute to attracting state-wide supportTechnical assistance to align local policy; advocate for state-wide support; connection to national best practice
Story-telling (ongoing)
Local media support; attend national convening to help showcase workShare stories across InnovateNC’s media channels and platforms; showcases case studies at state-wide convenings
Participating in state-wide learning network-Participate in state-wide learning network including annual state-wide convening
-Contribute to learning network by sharing stories, promising practices, and lessons
-Host site visits for other communities’ leaders
Foster shared learning across state-wide learning collaborative including convening communities through an annual conference, site visits, and state-wide learning platform

*When considering the diversity of the community, reference the U.S. Census Bureau’s Quick Facts or other source of demographic data.

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