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Jubilee Project addresses food deserts and job training in Westwood


Food deserts — or communities without easy access to fresh foods — are a growing concern nationally and in Greater Cincinnati. Among other things, the Jubilee Project is bringing fresh produce to the McHenry corridor of Westwood and East Westwood through an innovative urban farm and market program.

“We have five lots in Bracken Woods, a small area next to the market and two front yards that we farm currently,” says Thomas Hargis, pastor at Calvary Hilltop United Methodist Church. “We not only grow outdoors but we grow in basements as well. We are currently growing out tilapia and have been doing aqua and hydroponics for over a year. We grow lettuce, basil and micro greens throughout the year that provide amazing produce during the wintertime.”


The Jubilee Market, which opened in June, sells produce from Jubilee Farms as well as clothing and merchandise from local vendors. The project was part of a City of Cincinnati collaboration between Place Based Investigations of Violent Offender Territories and the Neighborhood Enhancement Program.

“The NEP coming behind PIVOT played a huge role in galvanizing the community, not only around the market but several other projects that have been completed in that area,” says Hargis. “We asked the community what they would like to have in their neighborhood and evaluated what made sense economically. We have since had over 1,000 hours of volunteer labor helping to restore the market and ready the plots for farming.”

The Jubilee Project, a pilot effort of six local Episcopal and Methodist churches, began with a construction job training and housing program.

“Any time you work in a community, you face all the issues that prevent the best parts of the community from blossoming,” says Hargis. “While construction was the first thing Jubilee started working on in Cincinnati, plans for food and other ventures were always in different stages that just needed the right opportunity and space to thrive. Traditionally, farming has not been a career path for most individuals. Urban agriculture, however, has created an opportunity for small businesses to be not only sustainable but provide a thriving wage.”

Jubilee Market also hires neighborhood residents who will learn retail skills and customer service that will hopefully lead to more permanent employment. The Market is currently only open on Saturdays, but the hope is to expand hours soon. Jubilee Farms produce can also be found at the Northside Farmers Market on Wednesday evenings and the Lettuce Eat Well Farmers' Market on Fridays.
 


UC professor gets state grant for innovative education platform


University of Cincinnati professor Vali Tadayon says he's witnessed a variety of challenges that college students face when it comes to accomplishing their academic goals. 

With 29 years of experience as a faculty member at UC under his belt, he's not only witnessed these challenges, but he's committed to problem solving so he can help students tackle them.

"Millennials can be impatient, result-oriented and seek instant gratifiction," Tadayon says. "This is not a shortcoming of this generation, but rather a new trend that requires rapid innovation within the realm of education."


With the help of the HCDC Business Center, Tadayon launched his startup Always Education two years ago, and this past June, he launched Always UC — a pilot project that will place among UC's political science department this coming semester. 
 
"The current Learning Management Systems that are in place need to be fundamentally redesigned from the ground up," Tadayon says. "Always Education is designed to be a logical layer that connects various databases to create the next generation learning ecosystem."
 
Always UC will bring Always Education to life, thanks to a $100,000 grant from the Ohio Third Frontier Technology Validation Startup Fund. Tadayon applied for the grant after completing I-Corps@Ohio, a seven-week, hands-on training program designed to promote entrepreneurial success. He went throught this program with his HCDC business coach and mentor. 
 
"There has been significant growth in software, startup and jobs in Cincinnati," Tadayon says. "The TVSF grant has helped with the needed resources to launch our pilot successfully. We have hired local software engineers and hope to continue growing our business in Cincinnati." 
 
In addition to promoting economic growth throughout the region, Always UC will allow students to collaborate and engage with one another in new ways. After its one-year test phase, Always UC will be eligible for a new round of grants totaling $1 million and a potential learning platform that can mitigate the challenges millennials face in their post-secondary years.
 

Diverse by Design symposium to focus on inclusion and diversity initiatives in Greater Cincinnati


The Fifth Third Bank Diverse by Design™ Leadership Symposium will focus on intentional inclusion at its sixth annual event on Oct. 11.

“The Symposium is intended to be a community-focused event that creates a vehicle for us to bring together business leaders from across the region with the objective to inform through the Diverse by Design updates, engage through the business connection and inspire through the thought leadership of the keynote speaker,” says Mary McFarland, vice president and manager, Inclusion and Diversity at Fifth Third Bank.

The event originated in 2008 as an internal Fifth Third program. The collaboration with the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber began with the 2012 release of Diverse by Design: Meeting the Talent Challenge in a Global Economy regional indicators report.

“The Symposium is an opportunity to have authentic conversations about what it would take to become an inclusive community,” says Mary Stagaman, senior inclusion advisor at the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber.

The day will start early with a networking breakfast followed by keynote speaker Jeffery Tobias Halter. Halter, the former director of diversity strategy for The Coca-Cola Company, now leads a consulting firm that focuses on advancing gender equity.

After his presentation, Halter will switch from speaker to moderator to facilitate a panel of senior business and community leaders who will discuss his talk and provide an update on local initiatives.

Following a networking break, attendees will be able to choose from one of four breakout sessions to attend.

“We have done a lot around inclusion of people with cognitive and developmental disabilities,” says Stagaman. “This year, we are focusing on physical disabilities with panelists from EY, Ethicon, P&G and Fifth Third.”

Mary-Frances Winters, author of We Can’t Talk About That at Work will lead a workshop on constructive conversations around difficult subjects. “Winters explains how we can have those conversations productively to build bridges not walls,” Stagaman says.

“While all the sessions promise to be powerful, the session on Polarizing Topics at Work is one that is particularly important in today’s climate,” McFarland adds.

A session on supplier diversity will offer innovative ideas for big companies with existing programs as well as tools for small companies unsure of how to start.

Julie Nugent, vice president and center leader, Catalyst Research Center for Corporate Practice will share a research-based approach on gender equity.

“The Symposium is for leaders with an interest in seeing the workforce and region become more inclusive and diverse and for anyone who cares about building an equitable community,” Stagaman says.

Tickets for the event are available now, and the first 200 registrants will receive a copy of Winters book.
 


Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber's CINC program celebrates five years


For the past five summers, the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber's Cincinnati Intern Network Connection program has helped connect college students to the region while they work in their respective summer intern and co-op positions.

CINC is a summer-long program that exposes interns and co-ops around the Cincinnati area to all that the region has to offer. It's free to students and participating companies, thanks to the help of many investors, including Presenting Investor: Xavier University’s Summer Intern Housing; Excellence Investors: P&G and Western & Southern Financial Group; Participating Investors: Cintas, EY, Kroger Technology, Miami University, Northern Kentucky University, Patheon Pharmaceuticals and the University of Cincinnati; and Contributing Investors: the Cincinnati Reds and the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden.

The program showcases the Cincinnati region through a series of four summer events, which are also free to all interns and co-ops that attend. According to Jules Shumate, special projects leader for the Chamber, it was a record summer for CINC.

"A record 1,050 interns and co-op students signed up for CINC this summer, representing 216 companies, 165
colleges and universities, 45 countries and 36 states,” Shumate says. “Over 500 of those interns came from outside the Cincinnati MSA. CINC significantly increases our ability to attract and retain skilled, global talent to the region’s workforce."

While many of the interns stem from local colleges and universities, some come from schools outside of the Greater Cincinnati area as well.

Heeding from the University of Florida as a Material Science and Engineering major, Ilana Krause has been participating in CINC throughout the summer as she continues her internship with P&G. She says that while she came to the area hesitant, the program and Cincinnati in general has exceeded her expectations.

"I really enjoyed the work experience itself, as the opportunities that P&G provides give interns a lot of freedom and autonomy on their projects, while also giving them the resources to enable them to really contribute to the company,” Krause says. “The work we are given is challenging and interesting, and the people within the company are so supportive and genuinely want interns to succeed and have a great experience.”

According to the Chamber, over 51 percent of the students in CINC are currently employed or have already started their careers in Cincinnati, highlighting the strength of the program in developing area connections for interns and co-ops.

“By connecting students to internship opportunities, interest groups, social scenes, community engagement and Cincy’s flavor, we will deepen their affinity for the region and what it means to have the best in life when they choose Cincinnati after graduation,” Shumate says.

And, from what Krause says, her experiences here have deepened her personal connection with the area. “Coming from Florida, I was hesitant that I would ever consider any other place like home. But after this summer with P&G, programs by the Chamber and the incredible people I met, I could see myself returning back to Cincinnati and continuing to create a network in Ohio.”

Leading up to its closing event for this year’s program, the 2017 CINC program surveys say that 93 percent of interns will consider starting their careers in Cincinnati, something locals can look forward to in the professional realm.

The Chamber is ecstatic to introduce college students and the local community to a brand-new event that will amplify Cincinnati as the #hottestcityinAmerica to over 2,000 students from 18 local member colleges and universities. The Big College Event is a large-scale event for college and university students from all over the region, which will take place form 4 to 9 p.m. Oct. 19 at the Duke Energy Convention Center. Click here for more information regarding the event.
 


Sibling duo brings ancient art of tea ceremonies to East Walnut Hills


Siblings Lily and Max Raphael are the founders of Hearth, a project that creates community through tea and ancient ceremony. You can most often find them at Clear Conscious Movement in East Walnut Hills, where many healers and teachers share a space for their events and classes.

Soapbox sat down for a Q&A with the Raphaels to learn more about how they strengthen and heal Cincinnati through tea.


Why did you choose your location?

Lily: Hearth exists wherever we are. At this time, most of our activities take place at Clear Conscious Movement; however, we also take Hearth to the community, stewarding tea ceremonies at yoga studios, retreats, nature hikes, festivals, art installations and most recently, the Covington Farmers Market.

 

Max: Doing ceremony after ceremony at Clear, we’ve witnessed not only how tea can positively impact the space it’s in, but also all the people who share it. While we hope to expand beyond just tea with Hearth, I think the stillness and connection these ceremonies offer — on so many levels — really captures the overall spirit behind our project.

 

What services do you offer?

Lily: Inspired by our travels in Southeast Asia and Latin America, the goods we offer capture the beauty, culture and human connection we have found in the many places we have gone. These goods root back to all things cozy, providing a sense of home and respite while on the journey. Currently, we offer a selection of teas that Max came across while practicing tea ceremony in Asia. All our teas are clean, organic and in some cases, even wild, and sourced from personal connections to farms and tea merchants in Taiwan and Southern China.

 

Max: Our inspiration to share tea comes from connecting with it as a plant medicine, as I first did while studying in Taiwan. So rather than approach tea as a fancy or exotic beverage, we hope to facilitate a deeper, more personal connection to it, which we’ve found for ourselves.

 

What would surprise people about a tea ceremony? Why would someone want to try it?

Lily: During the ceremony, what I find time and again is that people are surprised by the level of stillness and connectedness they experience through a fairly simple practice. The mere act of sitting in silence and drinking tea allows us time and space to journey inward in a very accessible way that can easily be replicated at home. So much of our time is spent interacting with others, it is hard to find a moment to look inward. Even in just under two hours, it is amazing what one can discover about him/herself while silently sipping a bowl of tea.

 

Max: What’s most surprising is how close everyone feels with one another by the end of the ceremony, even though we’ve never met before, and just spent about an hour or more in silence, not conversation! The ceremony is its own sort of nonverbal conversation; with yourself, with nature and even with others.

 

Actually, the organic flow of it all, and the beautiful responses from people right after it, often catch me by surprise, too. Each ceremony is completely different, even when the same people are gathered. In the Japanese tea ceremony, there’s a saying that captures this: ichi go ichi e, "one chance, one encounter." One meaning of this is that any ceremony (or really any kind of gathering) has its own flavor and essence that could never be duplicated again. This exact assortment of people might never gather again. So tea can help us enjoy this unique time and space together. I usually like to start the gatherings by saying “this experience would not be the same if even one of us weren’t present."

 

How does this ceremony enhance the culture of Cincinnati?

Max: It’s a really special way to spend time with people, whether they’re new or old friends. We have many ways to connect and gather, but so few like this, if at all. To share silence with each other, without it being awkward or rigid, is both rare and meaningful. Most of us already drink tea, and this is just one way to find an even deeper connection with it, and through it, to something beyond tea itself. And the best part is, you don’t have a to be a certain way, or believe in any particular idea. You don’t need to know anything about tea or be a meditator, anything like that. You just sit and drink tea, and without any effort you begin to relax. Your senses gently awaken, and you feel you can set aside the usual masks or armor that some of us need just to get through the day.

 

We’re not sharing tea or the ceremonies to push any ideas, or even to make it into something exotic. We’re just creating a space each time for you to simply be as you are, and take away whatever meaning the experience has for you. To us, this is something so rare and needed not just here in Cincinnati, but everywhere.

 

What rewards you about this business?

Lily: There are so many rewarding aspects to Hearth. I love that it gives everyone an excuse to sit down and connect with each other, and that we have the opportunity to share these very special pieces of our journeys with people in our hometown. I am also grateful that it has brought so much purpose and continuity to what my brother and I love doing.

 


Urban agriculture efforts growing in Cincinnati communities


An innovative inter-departmental collaboration, Urban AgricultureStat, launched in June with a motion passed by Cincinnati City Council. The goal is to expand Cincinnati's urban agriculture footprint and invest in ways to develop blighted properties for the purpose of urban farming.

“Many cities, including Cincinnati, have highly successful urban agriculture programs, and many of those programs are expanding,” says Larry Falkin, director of the Office of Environment and Sustainability. “Currently, gardening is occurring on approximately 40 city-owned parcels.”

OES, working with other City departments including law, health, economic development, planning and water, is developing a pilot project to convert publicly owned vacant land or buildings into urban farms.

“Next step will be presenting a report to the City Council,” says Falkin. “OES always tries to learn from both the successes and failures in our own programs and those in peer cities.”


As urban farming grows in popularity globally, the benefits — open green space, absorption of carbon and heat, sourcing local food and developing local economies — are being weighed against the potential drawbacks. Agriculture needs considerable space and water, which could limit land development options and impact a city’s potable water supply.

Cities including Austin, Detroit and Vancouver have had complaints from community residents about land use, access, odors and especially neighbor engagement and inclusion. RE: VISION in Denver has successfully worked with residents to develop an extensive urban agriculture program. Across Cincinnati, community organizations have started neighborhood gardens.

“Over the past several years, we have engaged in conversations with residents about what we as a community should do with vacant/blighted lots in Lower Price Hill,” says Mary Delaney, executive director of Community Matters. “After many conversations and a few vision gatherings, we heard a desire for space to garden.”

Community Matters hired a resident leader to coordinate the garden project and engage the community. Its test project, converting an empty lot on St. Michael Street into a garden, was so successful that two additional gardens were created and, this year, four neighborhood teenagers were hired as summer garden apprentices.

“I believe that urban farming is a great way to activate vacant properties and engage residents in ‘owning’ the spaces,” says Delaney. “Urban farming could also be a source of employment. I think Waterfields, a local aquaponics company that started in Lower Price Hill, is a great example of this. They have a great business model and are dedicated to providing sustainable wage jobs to local residents.”

Over the coming months, Urban AgricultureStat will be working with community stakeholders to research and plan for a future expansion of the City’s urban agriculture program.
 


Four UC entrepreneurial law students are using their knowledge to help other entrepreneurs

 

Four University of Cincinnati entrepreneurial law students are gaining experience and valuable mentorship as they work to provide eight startup clients with free legal assistance through HCDC. The startups applied for assistance in the spring; all eight businesses are HCDC entrepreneurs.

The students’ work consists of everything from preparing service contracts to website terms and conditions — legal work that is often difficult for small startups to afford.

“Everyone really benefits from this,” says Thomas Cuni, supervising attorney and mentor to the four students placed at HCDC this summer. “The attractiveness is that students get to deal with clients. This isn’t mock trial — not that there’s anything wrong with mock trial — but they gain practice learning how to interview, which is most important.”

This is the fourth summer that students have collaborated with HCDC, which is touted as one of the top business incubators in Ohio. However, the program has been around since 2011, when UC’s College of Law opened the doors to its Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic under the directorship of Prof. Lewis Goldfarb.

While the program occurs on a year-round basis, summer sessions are more intensive, as students work full-time for their clients.

For Maximilian DeLeon, working at HCDC has been his favorite experience as a law student.

"Some highlights I’ve had this summer include forming a Delaware C Corporation, drafting a convertible note for an investor and drafting a service agreement that will be used across the whole country," he says.

Alex Valdes, another student placed at HCDC, shares similar sentiments."I have noticed my own personal growth this summer, but the most rewarding aspect of working at the HCDC has been the relationships forged with my clients who are incredibly passionate small business owners who would not be able to afford legal work if it were not for the services of the clinic. I am proud to play my small, humble role in the growth of Cincinnati."

Check out this story from earlier this year that explains more about the partnership between UC and MORTAR.
 


Social innovation groups unite to tackle the heroin epidemic


An innovative collaboration between Cincinnati City Council, Spry Labs, 17A and Cintrifuse is tackling the opioid crisis with technology to find solutions to help addicts, their families and the community.

“Everyone knows opiates are a huge issue here,” says Annie Rittgers, founder of public sector strategy firm 17A. “But unlike other social problems, there has been little solution-oriented conversation around it. With the vibrant tech scene here and the willingness of agencies to collaborate around the issue, we were able to bring the right people to the table and help them connect.”

Hacking Heroin worked with representatives from tech, public safety, healthcare, venture capital, government and recovery services to craft eight challenges around prevention, response, response-to-recovery and recovery. Over 200 people took part in the three-day hackathon, which was held in June.

“People who wouldn’t normally show up together were there, including socially conscious people who want to be part of an economy and community that solves problems this way,” says Emily Geiger, managing director of the consumer-driven healthcare studio Spry Labs.

Although hackathons around public sector issues are not a new concept, results from other cities have been mixed. The Cincinnati organizers were determined that not only would Hacking Heroin generate solutions, but that winning ideas would receive additional support and development.

  • First Place: Give Hope — Develop a crowdfunding application for organizations on the front lines of addressing the heroin crisis and help them with tools to reach donors
  • Most Community Impact: Window — An application to connect patients and families to real-time availability of treatment options and service providers
  • Crowd Favorite: Lazarus — An Uber-like service to provide on-demand, location-based help for those needing treatment or support

Spry Labs is providing workspace for the winnings teams, and the entire collaborative is connecting them with resources to de-risk and test their applications, including experts on HIPPA privacy implications.

“Now we need to figure out the infrastructure to support the projects and what the follow up should be,” says Rittgers. “There is a real gap in how to pilot new technology within existing delivery models. Cincinnati is unique in creating a collaboration that will help these teams do that.”

In September, the winning teams will present a status update on their projects at IXHealth, where leaders from Microsoft's Technology & Civic Innovation will be in attendance, as well as City Council's Education & Entrepreneurship Committee. Meanwhile, Hacking Heroin organizers continue to meet to work on next steps.
 


Food movement brings about plethora of neighborhood farmers markets


With the summer weather bearing down and fall just around the corner, the local food movement is in full swing. If you’re a fan of fresh produce and search for the best homemade goods in town, the delights of local farmers markets are surely something you can’t miss out on.

Check out our roundup of our favorite farmers markets in the area to check out this summer and fall:

Daily farmers markets

Boone County Farmers Market — As part of an educational program with the Cooperative Extension Service, this farmers market is owned and operated by the farm families in the Boone County Farmers Market Association. The fruits, vegetables, flowers and homemade goods all come exclusively from Northern Kentucky, but availability depends on the weather.

Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., 7 days a week, Memorial Day-Labor Day
Location: Large paved lot just east of the Boone County Cooperative Extension Service on Burlington Pike (KY 18)

Findlay Market — Ohio’s oldest continuously operated public market and a Cincinnati favorite for residents and tourists alike, Findlay Market has a little bit of something for everyone. Indoor merchants sell meat, fish, poultry, flowers, produce, cheese, deli meats and specialty foods, and during the summer months, you can find outdoor entertainment and farmers market vendors too.

Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday and Friday; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday; 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday (open year round)
Location: 1801 Race St., Over-the-Rhine)

Liberty Center Farmers Market on the Square — Drawing from only Ohio growers, the farmers market at Liberty Center combines local food and dining. Fresh veggies, fruits, flowers and live entertainment are just some of the highlights of this weekly event. Featured vendors include Carroll Creek Farms, Five One Three Bagel Co., Irons Fruit Farm, Kona Ice and Queen City Shrub.

Hours: 3 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays, June 6-Sept. 26
Location: 7100 Foundry Row, Liberty Township

Wyoming Avenue Farmers Market — This market is known for carrying a variety of organic products from fruits and vegetables to eggs and meats. The market carefully sources its products under sustainably-run family farms throughout Ohio; some of the vendors include 5 Oaks Organic (which also carries wool hand-spun fiber), Backyard Orchard (specializing in low-spray produce like pears and apples) and Carriage House Farm (carrying small specialty grains and farming based on polyculture).

Hours
: 3 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays, May 2 through fall (weather permitting)
Location: Wyoming Avenue at Oak on the Village Green, downtown Wyoming

Village Green Farmers Market — Local farmers, bakers, coffee roasters and crafters are just some of the vendors you'll find at the Village Green Farmers Market in Fairfield. Some of the highlights of this weekly market are fresh produce, locally raised meats, baked goods, allergy-friendly foods, handcrafted artisan goods, live music and kids activities. Some of the products found here come from vendors like Carrie’s Creations Jams and Jellies, Katie’s Classic Cookies and Wandering Coffee Company; food trucks like Legasea Café, Best Thing Smokin, Chicken Mac Truck and U-Lucky Dawg also show up on a regular basis.

Hours: 4 to 7 p.m., May-October
Location: 301 Wessel Dr. in Fairfield (between Community Arts Center and Lane Public Library)

Northside Farmers Market — Boasting farmers, bakers, prepared foods, non-food items, pantry goods and more, the Northside Farmers Market is one of the most popular in the area. From the herbs and microgreens from Jubilee Fresh Farms to the gluten free cookies, pastries and sweet breads from Sweet Siscat, there is something for everyone. The 25-30 vendors stem mainly from local businesses and farms, many of which have been featured at the market the full 10 years it has been running.

Hours: 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, year-round,
Location: Hoffner Park in Northside

Do you have a favorite farmers market that didn't make our list? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

 


Local program partners YPs with nonprofits to achieve goals


ReSource On-the-Rise helps local millennials apply their talents to projects and challenges facing nonprofit organizations.

“Young professionals have a lot to offer and are our next generation of leaders,” says Christie Brown, ReSource's executive director. “Our goal is to plant the seed for these YPs so that they will be best equipped to serve on a future board or committee.”

Through its core mission — offering corporate donations of excess office furniture and supplies to area nonprofits — ReSource already has established relationships with small and big cos throughout the region. It also sees the need its nonprofit partners have in developing capacity as well as engaging younger volunteers and donors.

Several years ago, ReSource piloted a YP program and revived it last year to help fill that growing need. The second On-the-Rise class began in June.

After recruiting YPs through board and sponsor contacts, ReSource asked its nonprofit partners to submit projects or problems that would benefit from the expertise of the 16 On-the-Rise participants.

“ReSource acted as a match-maker, connecting the best candidates with the projects that made the most sense with their skills and talents,” Brown says.

After some initial training by ReSource on the world of nonprofits, teams of four YPs went to work with their partner organizations. The four On-the-Rise teams began meeting monthly last month, in addition to spending time outside the meetings working on their projects, which are:

  • Helping Cancer Family Care develop a method to recruit volunteers to assist its cancer clients with household work.
  • Organizing a block party in Milford to celebrate Cleats for Kids, which is opening a location there later this summer.
  • Helping The HealthCare Connection plan its 50th anniversary gala, which will take place in October.
  • Working with the Interfaith Hospitality Network to coordinate and staff its third annual Walk with Family 5K in August.

“Our hope is that as they learn more about the agency they are working with, they will continue to work with them or help another organization in the community,” says Brown. “YPs utilize the program as an introduction to the nonprofit world. They gain valuable exposure from our training, with their partner agency and from the other agencies involved. It's up to them if they will stay involved long-term, which is our hope and goal of the program.”

The third class of ReSource On-the-Rise will take place in the spring. Application information for young professionals and nonprofit organizations will be available through Facebook.
 


Cincy Stories opens second gallery in Price Hill as part of Street Stories project


The Greater Cincinnati area spans communities across Hamilton County, each holding their own contribution to the city, its history and unique stories.

Last year, community building initiative Cincy Stories opened an unusual gallery in Walnut Hills that created a snapshot of the neighborhood at that moment in history. The Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation approached the storytelling initiative, offering a storefront free of charge (for the month June, 2016) to help build the community and allow visitors to the gallery to record their own five-minute story about their lives in Walnut Hills.

As the next project for Cincy Stories’ executive director Shawn Braley and creative director Chris Ashwell, another story gallery opened on July 7 in Price Hill. Made possible through partnerships with the Haile Foundation, LISC, Price Hill Will and Artswave, this gallery is just the second of many future community steps for the duo, as they see the friction between long-time residents and newcomers, as well as economical shifts, that can weigh on a neighborhood.

“Through the work of storytelling in Walnut Hills, an entire neighborhood little league is being started by neighborhood residents,” Braley says. “Cincy Stories will capture the shifting populace and stories that intersect as the neighborhoods develop and varying people groups learn to become neighbors.”

The story gallery is an actual gallery — Braley says to picture an art gallery, coffeehouse and living room all in one. Free food and drinks from local eateries, live music and more are available for attendees, depending on the day. It's a place where people can come together and bridge the gap in what can often be tough neighborhoods, allowing for more understanding and sustainable change.

By sharing who they are through community narratives, people can come together more effectively than just sharing opinions on the neighborhood itself.

Now through Oct. 31, people can stop by the neighborhood story gallery in East Price Hill and share their stories with others. Making it their goal to go where the people are and not wait for people to come to them, Braley and Ashwell will produce the stories tod by community members, as they did in the Walnut Hills gallery last year, and the stories will be published on their website, cincystories.net.

Visitors will be able to share stories in face-to-face interactions as well as in a private story booth. The booth is set up as a small, private tent with a chair, microphone and video camera. Braley and Ashwell then take each video segment and edit it into a three- to five-minute video segment that airs on the television screens in the “living room” area, as well as in conjunction with other videos.

Over time, Braley and Ashwell hope that they can collect at least 20 stories from each of the 52 neighborhoods in Cincinnati. By creating relatable stories, the pair believes they can change communities for the better.

While the grand opening was held on July 7, there are gallery parties every Friday in July from 6 to 10 p.m. Weekly events will also be held throughout the duration of the gallery. The gallery is open from noon to 7 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday at 3117 Warsaw Ave.

Click here for more information about the gallery, Street Stories and the two-year nonprofit Cincy Stories.
 


NKU's Inkubator invests in people rather than their ideas


Right now, six teams of NKU students and recent alumni are “inkubating” their business ideas at Northern Kentucky University’s Inkubator.

Rodney D’Souza is the director for the Center of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which houses the Inkubator as part of the Haile U.S. Bank College of Business. In 2012, D’Souza was working with a lot of existing business accelerators but discovered a missing link in the process.

“We found that there was a lack of a good feeder system to existing accelerators,” he says.

After a study of the best practices of university business incubators across the country, NKU’s Inkubator was founded in 2012. Now the program is ranked in the top 5 in North America by UBI Global, an organization that aggregates data on universities and their business incubators.

“It’s very selective,” D’Souza says. Of the 55 applications that were submitted to the Inkubator this year, only six teams were selected. The Inkubator tries to recruit students from all disciplines, not just business students.

“This year, we decided to put teams through boot camp so they understand what it takes to be a part of this process,” says D’Souza. “Not everyone understands what’s going to come up in these 12 weeks.”

The teams that proved their commitment are currently participating in the Inkubator’s 12-week summer program. D’Souza says that the program is different from other incubators with its focus on workshops rather than lectures. “Right now, we focus on how to get them the right tools to succeed."

In the five years since its inception, the Inkubator has seen a lot of success. 16 businesses have been launched as a result of the Inkubator and 10 remain in business. In addition to successful business launches, 57 jobs have been created.

One of the biggest success stories is Vegy Vida, a 100-percent natural dip to entice kids to eat their vegetables. Now Vegy Vida can be found in 1,400 Walmart stores all over the country.

D’Souza says that the Inkubator is successful because it invests in people rather than ideas. “We value them and their team rather than the idea. It’s very gratifying to see the transformation.”
 


Southeastern Indiana towns adopt new bike share program


Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky aren't the only local areas jumping on the shared bicycle train.

In just eight weeks, the River Cities Bike Share program has exposed about 1,300 people to all that Southeastern Indiana has to offer.

The towns of Aurora and Lawrenceburg collaborated to promote connectivity within the two cities, as well as to its sister cities of Greendale and Rising Sun, through a municipal bike share program that Guinevere Emery, city manager of Aurora, says is the first of its kind.

“The River Cities Bike Share program's mission stems from Aurora’s ‘Big 5’ ideas that highlight downtown revitalization, neighborhood revitalization, tourism and outdoor recreation, riverfront development and quality of life and community connections,” Emery says. “It maximizes exposure to our local assets, such as the Ohio River, the historic business districts, neighborhoods and the Dearborn Trail.”

Thirty “ride and return” bicycles are dispersed among three locations — downtown Aurora (on Main Street across from the Aurora City Building), along the Dearborn Trail (109 Manchester Landing, Aurora) and in downtown Lawrenceburg (between Ivy Tech and the Event Center).

The bike share system is accompanied by an app that allows for Bluetooth locking and billing, in addition to cloud based administrative software. (The app is available for both Apple and Android devices.)

“The program is based on a user friendly rent, ride and return premise,” Emery says.

Bike rental costs are $3 for the first hour and $2 for each additional hour, making it affordable for residents and visitors alike.

The program is not only successful, but Emery says it’s also sustainable, as Aurora and Lawrenceburg have set up a shared River Cities Bike Share Program Donation Fund.

“The City of Madison, the town of Vevey and facilities in Texas have sought more information regarding our River Cities Bike Share program. The overwhelming success reflects the program's ingenuity, localized support for shared connectivity and fortitude to recognize our region with quality experiences."
 


Environmentally conscious store occupying PL storefront until July 23


If you haven’t yet visited The Green Store Cincy, you have until July 23 to stop by the pop-up shop to gain insight, purchase sustainable clothing or perhaps engage in Namast’ay Green — a community yoga class.

The Green Store is the result of Joi Sears’ innovative idea made possible by People’s Liberty and one of its three annual Globe grants.

With $15,000 in funding and a free space to utilize (PL's storefront, the Dept. of Doing), Sears operates her shop from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday-Saturdays, and hosts special events on Sundays. She opened her shop at the end of June, and will occupy the storefront on Elm for six weeks.

She says she would love to look into expansion. “I'd love to see a Green Store New York, Los Angeles, Amsterdam and/or Berlin in the future. But in the near future, I would love to find a permanent home for The Green Store in the ‘Nati — and I already have a bunch of ideas on what that could look like.”

The shop currently houses Sears’ own sustainable clothing brand — Amsterdamage — in addition to other local and international brands.

Events she’s hosted so far include everything from workshops and classes like Recycling 101 and Zero Waste Cooking to a “Sunday Funday” event called Waves, which served as a fundraiser for Charity Water.

According to Sears, the average American produces nearly 1,700 pounds of waste each year, and the reason so many individuals — particularly millennials — say they care about the environment but don’t necessarily shop sustainably is because they don’t understand what eco-fashion is. They don’t think they can afford it or they simply don’t know where to find sustainably stylish items.

Sears is here to change that. She’s conducted her research and is now putting her ideas into action via creative placemaking and the support of her community.

Learn more about The Green Store Cincy here.

 


Cincinnati Zoo paves the way in green and sustainable efforts


The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden was named the greenest zoo in America in 2010. Since then, the zoo has pioneered green initiatives, projects and programs that make it a leader not only in the animal conservation field, but also in the sustainability community.

“The Cincinnati Zoo has certainly been at the forefront of this topic within our industry,” says Michelle Curley, communications director for the zoo. “Due to our significant array of various green infrastructure, zoos and aquariums from all over the world have come to us to learn how they might engage in similar practices. And it isn’t just within our industry, as over the years, thousands of engineers, architects and planners have come to see how we have been able to pull off what we have. These professionals are then taking this knowledge back to their various clients and pushing them to pursue similar projects.”

The zoo’s green status was first earned through construction projects. Between 2006 and 2016, the zoo earned numerous LEED certifications, including two LEED Silver, four LEED Gold and a LEED Platinum.

“For the gorilla exhibit, we will be achieving at least LEED Gold,” Curley says. “It incorporates a really creative storm water catchment system under the new addition, as well as various energy efficiency enhancements that will keep the environmental footprint for this project as low as possible.”

When the Painted Dog exhibit opened in Africa last year, the Zoo took green buildings to an entirely new level, becoming the first zoo in the world to receive recognition from the Living Building Challenge. The LBC applies rigorous standards to how a building actually performs, requiring spaces not only be energy efficient, but also to have a positive impact on the community and environment.

“The LBC is, by far, the most difficult and aggressive green building standard in the world,” Curley says. “After many years of taking on the LEED rating system with great success, the zoo was looking to take things to the next level and the Painted Dog exhibit felt like the time to make the leap.”

In addition to green buildings, the zoo’s sustainability efforts focus on water, renewable energy, solid waste and energy. Anyone who has driven past the zoo’s Vine Street parking lot has seen the solar array that shades cars and provides electricity to the surrounding zoo.

“We are also working on developing a micro-grid at the zoo by utilizing battery technology and large-scale generators, in conjunction with our substantial solar assets, to make the zoo resilient and dynamic when reacting to what is happening to the electric grid in our region,” says Curley. “This cutting-edge concept would be a first for our area.”

Baby Fiona may be the new star of the Africa exhibit, but the zoo and the sustainability community are fans of the exhibit because it includes a storm-water run-off system that keeps 13 million gallons of water out of the local sewer system each year.

“We are working hard on the next phase of our storm water initiative, getting us closer to our goal of having zero rain water leave our zoo, which in turn helps keep water out of the combined sewers that contribute to pouring billions of gallons of sewage out of the river and our neighbors basements,” says Curley. “We currently capture roughly a third of the rainfall that hits the zoo’s property and the goal is to be at 100 percent by 2025."

Although most of the zoo’s sustainability efforts are hidden behind the scenes, the zoo offers special programs at the Go Green Garden Exhibit, collaborates with the community and provides sustainability tips for individuals and families to engage the public in its environmental efforts.
 

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