Cincinnati has built a reputation as a center for innovation in the startup sector. On Dec. 8, IDEALAB People Power
will draw national attention to the city through an exploration of cutting-edge philanthropic models.
“Cincinnati is becoming a national center of excellence on unlocking the potential of people,” said Brian Boyle, co-founder of Issue Media Group
, one of the organizers of IDEALAB. “Supporting talent is critical to transforming cities.”
Traditionally, foundations have used a grant application process with awards going to nonprofit organizations. Two years ago, The Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation
decided to change that model and establishedPeople’s Liberty
to award grants to individuals.
Funding creative individuals is not a new concept— the MacArthur Foundation
has been awarding “genius grants” for 30 years, but the People’s Liberty model is different. MacArthur Fellows, as the geniuses are technically named, receive a five-year award to support them, not one of their projects. There are no strings attached to the award. They receive a payment each quarter with no evaluation, no follow-up and no reporting.
The People’s Liberty model provides grants to individuals or small groups of collaborators to carry out a specific project. In addition, People’s Liberty provides support for its grantees throughout the course of the funding period, including work space, access to local and national connections and assistance in skill-building.
The idea behind IDEALAB
At IDEALAB, Eric Avner, CEO of People’s Liberty, will share the systems they have developed to support grantees, as well as the importance of building and sustaining relationships between funders and recipients.
In addition to home-grown innovation, IDEALAB — which is organized by the Haile/U.S. Bank Foundation, People’s Liberty, Issue Media Group and Soapbox
— will bring in funders from around the country who are exploring innovative ways to encourage community and economic development.
“Bringing national best practices to Cincinnati will inform the local conversations that can often be insular and unproductive,” Boyle said. “IDEALAB is creating a platform for talent leaders to talk about their work and the amazing innovations happening here.”
The Kresge Foundation
and its grantee Ponyride
, a subsidized co-working space for artists, creative entrepreneurs and makers in Detroit, will discuss the unique mix of grants and investments being implemented to foster positive change in the Motor City.
From Minnesota, the Headwaters Foundation for Justice
will share the lessons learned from its inaugural Giving Project, which brought together a cohort that represented diverse communities for a six-month program in order to raise funds to support grassroots social change efforts.
Impact investing in nonprofits will be explored by Colorado-based New Belgium Family Foundation
and its grantee Re:Vision Denver
, an alternative to traditional community development organizations.
Claire Nelson, director of the Urban Innovation Exchange
in Detroit and the founder of Open City
, will bring her change agent experience to IDEALAB. She will facilitate the panelists’ conversations about social innovation and the impact of new funding models.
Elm Street in Over-the-Rhine will be the central axis of the event. Attendees with cars are encouraged to leave them in the Washington Park garage and take the Cincinnati Bell Connector to Rhinegeist, where the first half of the day will be held.
After lunch, the city itself will become the IDEALAB as participants are shuttled to three tour stops that highlight local efforts at collaboration and innovation.
“Cincinnati has done a really good job developing a national narrative about being a welcoming place for talented people — it’s fundamental to how the city has grown,” Boyle said. “We wanted to showcase local projects that are catalyzing talent.”
Joe Hansbauer, president and CEO of Findlay Market, will share its strategy for creating a food innovation district around the market, the recent success of Findlay Kitchen and the market's plans for a new social enterprise.
Education is the focus of the stop at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, where Christina Williams Harding will be joined by Melissa McCoy of Strive Partnership and Cheryl Broadnax of Cincinnati Public Schools to talk about using quality improvement strategies to build capacity and impact.
Crossing the river, IDEALAB participants will tour the Hellman Creative Center
, a repurposed lumber mill that is now home to artist studios and community gathering spaces. Leadership from the Center for Great Neighborhoods
will discuss the impact of micro grants on creative placemaking in Covington.
After a day of presentations, tours and conversations, participants will return to OTR for a networking happy hour event at The Transept.
“We are looking forward to dynamic conversations about this movement, and that the center of the conversation will be Cincinnati,” Boyle said.
for the event is $44, which includes lunch, happy hour, an all-day streetcar pass and transportation to the off-site afternoon programs. Funders, innovators, community activists, nonprofit organizations, students, urbanists and social entrepreneurs are encouraged to attend.