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Aviatra Accelerators' Flight Night celebrates LAUNCH finalists


Stephanie Tieman of CoreStrong Fitness took home the big prize — $25,000 in low-interest startup loans — at Wednesday’s Aviatra Accelerators pitch event.

The event, which capped off a nine-week entrepreneurial support program, featured live pitches from Tieman and four other female-led startups representing this year’s LAUNCH class.

A crowd of around 150 attendees gathered at New Riff Distillery in Newport for the event, which kicked off with keynote messages from former LAUNCH winner Allison Chaney (who went on to found Bare Knuckle Media), and celebrity mixologist and businessperson Molly Wellmann.

“I knew I had something good that not a lot of people were doing at the time,” says Wellmann, who got her start serving signature craft cocktails at local venues.

Wellmann's Brands now includes an ever-expanding bevy of popular local watering holes. “You all are very fortunate to have a resource like Aviatra, where you can turn for advice and support to make your ideas come to life,” Wellmann told attendees.

In addition to LAUNCH winner Tieman’s female-centric fitness center, this year’s class of LAUNCH startups included:

  • Your Stylist LLC, a Cincinnati-based wardrobe consulting and personal shopping service focused on helping women look and feel their best. Principal: Jackie Neville
  • Allie's Walkabout, an off-leash dog care facility in Northern Kentucky that offers services from boarding and daycare to grooming. Principals: Allie, Audrey and Mary Clegg
  • Black Career Women's Network, a career empowerment and professional development resource for African-American women. Principal: Sherry Sims
  • The Healing Kitchen, purveyor of healthy foods free from gluten, soy and dairy sources from local farms. Principal: Tiffany Wise

Aviatra Accelerators (formerly Bad Girl Ventures) is a nonprofit organization committed to helping female entrepreneurs achieve success and positive community impact. Headquartered in Covington, the organization also maintains offices in Cincinnati and Cleveland, serving women throughout the Tristate area.

Since launching in 2010, Aviatra Accelerators has educated and assisted more than 1,100 female entrepreneurs and awarded more than $850,000 in low-interest startup loans.
 


Studio C helps nonprofits tackle Cincy poverty issues


With just a few weeks remaining, Studio C participants are delving deep into their projects as they work toward finding solutions that empower families to break generational cycles of poverty.

After stepping outside the walls of their respective nonprofits, teams continue to experiment with new approaches that are inspired by design thinking and intended to move communities forward.

The eight participating teams include the following: Catholic Charities Southwestern Ohio, Children Inc., Churches Active in Northside, Cincinnati Works, Cincinnati Youth Collaborative, NKCAC Head Start, Starfire Council and Women Helping Women.

For Design Impact’s Sarah Corlett, co-facilitator for Studio C, the process has been rewarding in that it’s inspired collaboration and new ideas that possess a timely relevance.

Cincinnati Works

Cincinnati Works is collaborating with Villedge — a social enterprise that “provides Cincinnati youth the opportunity to develop their mind, body and spirit within a community context.”

“Cincinnati Works does a lot with the adult population, while Villedge serves young people between the ages of 16-24,” Corlett says. “So they’re bringing youth expertise into their team. They see an opportunity to build life skills in a nontraditional way — through collaboration rather than implementing another program.”

Its goal: to teach young people how to do things Corlett says are typically taken for granted — balancing a checkbook, cooking and shopping, among other things — so that they’re better prepared to budget and set financial priorities as they move forward in life.

CAIN

For MiMi Chamberlin, executive director of CAIN, Studio C has created a space to listen and learn. “It provided tools and a process to help connect as partners and co-creators of services and opportunities. We want to further develop as a neighborhood service and community engagement hub.”

CAIN’s collaborative efforts include gathering together 28 nonprofits that serve Northside — WordPlay and Northern Kentucky University’s Department of Allied Health, for example, are key players — to “start a conversation about being more intentionally unified in our efforts.”

The impetus comes from CAIN’s interviews and research, in which Chamberlin says she discovered the great work nonprofits are doing when it comes to serving Northside’s low-income population, but also the difficulty residents have when it comes to being able to access resources and information.

More specifically, when it concerns basic needs like mental health and employment.

Cincinnati Youth Collaborative

Cincinnati Youth Collaborative is exploring the following question: “How might we enhance our youth services with family-centered partnerships and principles to break generational poverty for youth?”

While the nonprofit’s focus is on youth, with what team member Kayla Ritter Rickles, CYC College & Career Success Manager, says is through an education and social-emotional learning lens, the organization recognizes it can do a better job of working comprehensively with families.

“Our focused efforts are looking at family engagement,” she says. “This includes how we define ‘family’ through the lens of our students and their families, how we engage family through our programs and services and who our partners are or should be in this endeavor.”

Catholic Charities Southwestern Ohio

Catholic Charities Southwestern Ohio is focusing its efforts on Cincinnati’s immigrant population and how to best support them.

“When I think about what is happening in our world and with the current administration — with Cincinnati just being designated as a sanctuary city,” Corlett says, “I can’t help but recognize that Catholic Charities Southwestern Ohio is a strong team. It’s a small team that’s focused on something really relevant.”

This concludes our Studio C coverage. Keep up with the individual nonprofits to see how they continue to change the landscape of Cincinnati by taking strides when it comes to tackling the problem of generational poverty.
 


Food exhibit at Behringer-Crawford examines immigrants' impact on local cuisine


The #StartupCincy scene includes hundreds of entrepreneurs working in incubator kitchens or developing technology around food-based businesses. A new exhibit produced by graduate students in Northern Kentucky University’s Public History Program, Culture Bites: Northern Kentucky's Food Traditions at the Behringer-Crawford Museum explores the impact of earlier food entrepreneurs, with a focus on restaurants and businesses established by immigrants.

“We wanted to talk about how immigrants have shaped our food choices and tastes,” says Dr. Brian Hackett, director of the masters in Public History Program. “What we found was that these outsiders quickly added to the Northern Kentucky mix by not only changing our palate but also our neighborhoods. We also wanted to show how outside becomes mainstream. In the past, Germans, Irish and Catholics were unwanted here, but now they are among the leading ethnicities in our community.”

The last half of the 19th century saw waves of arrivals from Europe fleeing famine and political turmoil, including Georg Finke, who moved from Germany to Covington and established Finke’s Goetta in 1876, the oldest family-run goetta producer in Northern Kentucky.

At the turn of the 20th century, political upheaval and two world wars launched a new wave of immigration to the United States, including Nicholas Sarakatsannis, who left Greece for Newport where he founded Dixie Chili.

“From my conversations with the restaurant owners, most came here because they already knew someone in the area,” says Maridith Yawl, BCM curator of collections. “They settled in Northern Kentucky with these people and opened the restaurants to serve them and others.”

Food, its production and consumption, is something all people have in common. Family recipes, conversations over dinner and cozy kitchens are memories and experiences nearly everyone shares. The exhibit offers a historical and contemporary perspective through the lens of food on a hot-button contemporary issue.

“Food and restaurants break down barriers, creating safe places for people to meet and create understanding,” says Laurie Risch, BCM's executive director.

Recent immigrants from China, Iran and Korea have also established themselves in Northern Kentucky and opened restaurants to share and celebrate the cuisine of their homelands. These restaurants include Mike Wong’s Oriental Wok, Jonathan Azami’s House of Grill and Bruce Kim’s Riverside Korean.

“They have contributed to the community, both in terms of serving food and being good stewards and helping out various local charities and events,” Yawl says. “They have each brought pieces of their homelands to the community. They love to serve friends from their own ethnic groups and also enjoy meeting people from different backgrounds and teaching them about their foods and culture.”

Adds Hackett: “We forget that we are all immigrants, and that immigrants shaped what we are now. Can you imagine Northern Kentucky without Germans or Catholics?”

The exhibit, which runs through Aug. 31, features interviews with these food entrepreneurs or their descendants, as well as artifacts from their businesses, political cartoons, vintage kitchen equipment and accessories and recipes for visitors to take home.

For more information, visit bcmuseum.org.
 


An inside look at the real-world problems Studio C teams are trying to solve


Studio C has been underway for the past several weeks, as teams — now narrowed down to eight nonprofits — have conducted research and interviews to learn more about problematic issues related to poverty among the populations they serve.

They’ve also engaged in private studio time, and this past Thursday, the teams began brainstorming potential solutions as they continue to engage in design thinking and creative ideas that lead to change.

The eight remaining teams are as follows: Catholic Charities Southwestern Ohio, Children Inc.Churches Active in Northside, Cincinnati WorksCincinnati Youth Collaborative, NKCAC Head Start, Starfire Council, Women Helping Women.

Starfire continues to explore ways of creating an inclusive artist collective in Lower Price Hill, complete with an Artist in Residence program at Community Matters.

The NKCAC Head Start is exploring the question of “How might we build a culture of care for early childhood teachers to retain and attract professionals?”

According to Design Impact’s Sarah Corlett, co-facilitator for Studio C: “The NKCAC Head Start interviewed teachers within its own programs and found that they’re stressed — wages are too low.”

While preschool teachers love their students and love teaching, there are changes, Corlett says, that NKCAC recognizes it could explore in order to retain these teachers who make such an impact on young children.

Children Inc. is exploring the question, “How might we provide families with knowledge of, and access to, resources that can move families out of poverty?”; Women Helping Women hopes to develop a project that will prevent homelessness as a result of domestic violence.

“I want to help facilitate relationships between housing agencies or landlords and their tenants who are survivors of domestic violence so that we can keep people off the streets and in their homes,” says Cara Caudill, a crisis intervention specialist at Women Helping Women.

According to Corlett, Women Helping Women is a strong team. “When you think about Women Helping Women, you think about domestic violence survivors. But they’re looking at it from another person’s role.”

Teams will begin testing their most viable solutions in the weeks to come.

“We’re getting them to think outside of the box,” Corlett says. “And from there, we’ll move forward with our favorite idea. With 4-5 weeks left, they’ll be moving toward a reality in a quick, rapid way.”

This week, we looked at four of the eight participating teams; we will conclude our Studio C coverage in next week's edition.
 


Drawnversation helps people and businesses communicate without words


MORTAR graduate Brandon Black doesn’t believe we have to communicate with words.

“Words are a useful tool but they’re not the only tool,” says Black, who last year was awarded one of two prestigious Haile Fellowships by People’s Liberty. “Drawnversation means to have conversations through images and pictures.”

Drawnversation provides graphic facilitation and graphic recording for people and businesses looking for new ways to communicate ideas. Black defined graphic facilitation as utilizing drawn imagery and words to enhance a process or communicate an idea, so that people are able to see the ideas in front of them. Graphic recording is the art of capturing communication in a visual format.

By creating the most relevant visual representation of the presented concepts, Black believes everyone can get on the same page.

“Drawnversation is a way of thinking and doing things differently and processing information and creating an equal playing field for people,” says Black. “Even when people use the same words or terms, those words can still be interpreted differently by everyone in the room.”

Using pastels, markers and a giant sheet of paper, Black records and facilitates meetings and presentations for people and organizations around the city.

Interact for Health uses Drawnversation’s unique approach to communication to visually capture their meetings. Program manager Jaime Love says Black’s graphics not only captures the content of the meetings but shows the dynamic of the conversation.

“People are just amazed at what he’s able to capture in the picture,” she says.

Love says there are a variety of different uses for Black’s drawings. Interact for Health displays Black’s drawings in their lobby as a way to encourage and continue conversations around important topics.

“The graphics stand out versus reading something on paper,” says Love. “Brandon does such an excellent job.”

Black hopes graphic recording and facilitation will become a more accepted form of communication.

“If we continue to focus on the model of printed word as the only way to gauge intelligence, we are missing out on a lot of great ideas and brilliant minds.”
 


Chamber's new program to help increase cultural awareness and diversity in region


The Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber launches a new program this week called Building Cultural Competence for leaders and influencers from around the region.

“When we did research on overall inclusion in our community for our Diverse by Design report, a key insight was that increasing the cultural competence of our community could be a competitive advantage,” says Mary Stagaman, senior inclusion advisor for the Chamber. “As markets and companies become more multicultural and more global, the ability to work across many identities and cultures goes from 'nice to have' to essential.”

Although some corporate and government entities offer implicit bias training or other cultural awareness classes, the Chamber was starting from scratch in building this initiative. It is unique in that it operates at a community-wide level.

“We worked with a thoughtful group of corporate and nonprofit volunteers to build a prototype program, which is what we are launching May 9,” says Stagaman. “The time seems precisely right, as the need to successfully and respectfully bridge differences in our community and our country has seldom been greater. Our long-term goal is to build a community of leaders who can effectively interact with our changing and challenging world and to have leaders who actively seek to engage and influence others to do the same.”

There is an application process and fee for the program, which will be led by nationally recognized diversity and inclusion experts and cover subjects like the neuroscience of bias, emotional intelligence, building rapport across cultures, conflict resolution and adaptive communication. Participants will also take the Intercultural Development Inventory and receive a one-on-one coaching session.

When the program ends in July, each participant will have developed an individual action plan to take back to their organization, business or community.

“The key strategy is to recruit leaders into the program,” Stagaman says. “While we have certainly attracted people in prominent positions in our region, we also have a wide range of individuals who have strong networks in unique sectors of our community. We believe that by raising their awareness around cultural competence, and giving them tools to be more effective, they will in turn influence others in their networks, creating a magnifying effect.”

The Chamber sought applicants from across the region and different sectors of the community; the inaugural class will begin at full capacity with 30 participants.

“We have a very diverse group with representatives from large corporations, large and small nonprofits, working media, law and law enforcement, secondary and higher education, the startup community, healthcare, real estate and more,” Stagaman says. “The age range of participants is from 26-70, suggesting that we can increase our cultural competence at any stage of life or career."

Upon completion of the pilot program, the Chamber will evaluate the results and determine how to move forward with future iterations of the program.

“The great thing about cultural competence is that it can be learned —it's not an innate skill that we are born with," Stagaman says. "Increased cultural competence can help us retain the talent we need to continue to attract jobs. It can ensure that people in our community, no matter what their country of origin, color, faith and so on, receive appropriate medical care. And it can help us build a workforce that reflects the changing demographics of our country as we reduce bias and increase welcoming people who represent different cultures and identities.”
 


Aruna Project brings ninth annual Run for Their Freedom


Worldwide statistics about human trafficking are hard to believe, but when Ryan Berg saw the reality with his own eyes during a trip to India, he couldn’t pretend it wasn’t real.

The nonprofit Aruna Project (named after the Hindi word for “bright morning sun”) was born from Berg’s desire to do something tangible to help women trapped in modern-day sex slavery.

"Aruna brings and sustains freedom to exploited women in the brothels of South Asia through employment marked by holistic care," says Berg.

The Aruna Project not only offers women freedom from slavery, but also provides resources such as traditional housing, employment, health care and counseling to the women rebuilding their lives.

In 2008, Berg planned the first Aruna Run For Their Freedom 5K race as a fundraiser for the organization's mission. This year’s race will be the ninth such event in Cincinnati, with at least 10 others scheduled around the country for this spring and summer. Over 700 people participated in last year’s Cincinnati race and Berg expects a few hundred more this year.

The run has a three-fold mission: to raise awareness about the issue of sex slavery, to raise funds used to free women from slavery and to provide employment that sustains their freedom.

Aruna 5K runners, literally “run for their freedom.” Every participant runs wearing the name of a real woman trapped in slavery and every runner receives a drawstring backpack produced by women who have been freed and are now employed in India by the Aruna Project’s partner business.

Berg says that in the past two years, through the Cincinnati Aruna 5K and others across the U.S., over 35 women have been freed, empowered and many now are now employed by Aruna.

How to participate

The 2017 Aruna Cincinnati Run For Their Freedom will take place on May 20. Registration ends May 18 and costs $30. Runners can register on the Aruna Project website and then raise extra funds through the individual fundraising page. The race will begin at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center at 9:00 a.m.

Because the cost of the event is underwritten by sponsors, 100 percent of the funds raised directly benefits the Aruna Project.

See a video invitation for the run from Cincinnati Bengal’s linebacker Vinny Rey.
 


Sewendipity Lounge shines as product of SCORE Cincinnati's minority-focused business coaching


The face of Cincinnati entrepreneurship is changing, and one local group is working to support that change.

SCORE Cincinnati has long provided free business coaching and other resources for existing and new businesses, and the organization is currently tightening its focus on female and minority entrepreneurs. Its goal is to provide one-on-one mentoring and access to legal and financial resources via experienced Cincinnati leaders from those underrepresented groups.

“Recently, SCORE increased the number of both women and minority mentors in our ranks to better reflect and serve our clients,” says executive director Betsy Newman. “Currently, 58 percent of our clients are women and 39 percent are minorities, so it makes sense for us to reach out to experienced female and minority businesspeople and recruit them as expert mentors.”

In addition, SCORE facilitates a Women’s CEO Roundtable group that consists of 12 female business owners from non-competing organizations. The newly launched group meets monthly to promote discussion and confidential feedback between female CEOs and business owners.

Karen Williams relied on SCORE’s programs and services in starting her own business, Sewendipity Lounge, which offers a wide range of sewing courses and supplies.

“SCORE gave me the confidence to do something I’ve never done before,” says Williams. “In my former job, I learned every day, but it was nothing like having your own business. What really helped me the most is having the support of other women.”

Sewendipity Lounge recently celebrated one year at its downtown location, which is roughly the same amount of time that Williams has been a member of SCORE’s Women’s CEO Roundtable.

“When you see other women doing amazing things, it gives you the confidence to try new things too,” says Williams. “Many of us share similar issues, so you don’t feel alone. I call the roundtable a ‘finishing school’ for woman business owners. You get a little hand-holding and the camaraderie of other women. It’s been a wonderful experience and I highly recommend it.”

SCORE’s partnerships with the UC Entrepreneurial Center, Aviatra Accelerators (formerly Bad Girl Ventures), Cintrifuse, the Hamilton County Development Center, Morning Mentoring, Queen City Angels, MORTAR and The Hamilton Mill have resulted in making more than $500,000 in small business loans available to more than 600 female entrepreneurs since 2010.

Upcoming SCORE events include:

  • April Member Meeting, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., April 21
  • Small Business Dream to Reality (Part 1), 9 a.m. to noon, April 22
  • How to Build a Marketing Campaign to Meet Your Growth Objectives, 9 a.m. to noon, April 29
  • Small Business Dream to Reality (Part 2), 9 a.m. to noon, April 29
  • Your Nonprofit Dream to Reality - What It Takes, 8:30 a.m. to noon, May 6
  • Score Presents: The Business of Food, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., May 8

For more information about SCORE resources and events, or to volunteer as a mentor, call 513-684-2812 or visit greatercincinnati.score.org.
 


Women In Digital conference to feature Cincy's most influential female leaders


On April 6, professional association Women In Digital will host its first ever symposium, featuring some of Cincinnati’s most recognizable female marketers.

The day-long event will take place at Rhinegeist and, according to the group’s website, will feature talks and activities “meant to inspire, educate and empower women in digital media and marketing; leaving them with a powerful local network.”

Featured topics and speakers will include:

  • Welcome, Women In Digital founder Alaina Shearer, who also founded Columbus-based Cement Media
  • Building and Communicating Confidence, Kelsey Pytlik, co-founder and CEO, Gild Collective
  • Women in Leadership: You Have the Power to Make a Difference, Amy Vaughan, creative director, POSSIBLE

A panel entitled “The Future of Influence” will feature:

“Ultimately, we aim to create a network of women in digital across the country who are bound by a pledge to grant each other what we call ‘asks’ and ‘gives,’” says Shearer. “(These are) essentially favors all meant to improve each other's personal and professional lives. The power of learning to ask each other for help is transformative for our members and you can imagine the impact that has for each of them.”

Shearer says speakers and panelists for the event were selected through a combination of “good old-fashioned LinkedIn stalking” and organic outreach via WID’s extensive network. She hopes event attendees will leave feeling empowered to organize their own quarterly meetings and facilitate conversations on the critical issues facing women in marketing around the world.

WID currently extends membership exclusively to women; however, the group plans to extend a portion of tickets for programming later this year to male participants. Specifically, four percent of ticket sales will be reserved for men — a number that reflects the percentage of women nationally who occupy CEO positions with Fortune 500 companies.

Shearer adds, as a special note for Soapbox readers, that readers whose “male bosses will not purchase their tickets” to the event should contact Alaina@womenin.digital for assistance.
 


'Engaged' local orgs win big at Cincinnati Neighborhood Summit


Five Cincinnati grassroots organizations each received $10,000 in city grants to fund their innovative ideas at the 2017 Engage Cincy Grant Awards ceremony. The event took place last weekend at Xavier’s Cintas Center as part of the annual Cincinnati Neighborhood Summit.

The annual Neighborhood Summit is presented by Invest in Neighborhoods, in partnership with the City of Cincinnati, the Community Building Institute, LISC and the CDC Association of Greater Cincinnati. Hundreds of community leaders, volunteers, city officials and nonprofit professionals were on hand for day-long discussions focused on helping groups work more effectively to improve the quality of life across Greater Cincinnati.

More than 120 applicants submitted proposals for this year’s Engage Cincy grants. The field was then narrowed down to 10 finalists by a selection committee. City Manager Harry Black reviewed the committee’s recommendations before awarding grants of $10,000 each to the following projects:

Healthy Food for All Northsiders
Project leads: Churches Active in Northside (CAIN), Apple Street Market Cooperative Grocery Story and the Northside Farmers Market
This group’s mission is to build community through food-sharing by offering quarterly community meals and cooking demonstrations based on healthy, affordable recipes that use ingredients from community gardens and farmers’ markets.

Just Hire Me
Project lead: Lawrence Jones
This staffing platform offers a website and mobile app that works to connect neighborhood teens with businesses that are looking for employees. Participating teens age 14-18 can take part in a four-week job-readiness “boot camp” that helps them effectively interview, establish their own bank account and secure employment in the community.

Physi
Project lead: Marty Boyer
Physi’s state-of-the-art activity platform uses artificial intelligence to promote active lifestyles by connecting like-minded residents based on activities, interests, physical proximity and availability. Physi is available via mobile app and online.

Bridgeable
Project lead: Dani Isaacsohn
Bridgeable organizers collect community data and feedback and alert leaders to the conversations going on in their communities, thereby enabling conversations that lead to healthier relationships, better decisions and stronger communities.

Faces of Homelessness
Project leads: ArtWorks and Strategies to End Homelessness
This public art, public education and community engagement program was designed to encourage empathy and understanding by engaging local agencies and shelters with the populations they serve. The program pairs paid youth apprentices with professional artists on a variety of art and community-building projects that will include a permanent public art mural on Vine Street, in partnership with the Over-the-Rhine Community Housing’s Recovery Hotel.

“Every year it seems that the submissions become more creative in the ways they want to go about making our neighborhoods more engaging places to live,” says City Manager Black, who received unanimous support from the Mayor and City Council for the awards program. “We want that trend to continue for years to come.”

For photos from the event and more information about the Neighborhood Summit, check out the event’s Facebook page.
 


AIGA supports future female leaders with March 31 gallery event


Cincinnati AIGA, the local chapter of a national group that supports female leaders, will extend its message to school-age girls with a Spicefire gallery event later this month.

For the second year, AIGA Cincinnati will honor Women’s History Month by presenting a “Words of Wisdom” gallery show in collaboration with the organization’s 18-month-old WomanUp initiative, which was created to address the challenges women face in obtaining creative leadership positions both locally and nationwide.

“Nationally, women only make up 11 percent of creative director jobs, despite the fact that the majority of designers, marketers and advertisers are female professionals,” says AIGA Cincinnati president and WomanUp co-founder Autumn Heisler. “We’re still having trouble getting women into that highest leadership level.”

“Words of Wisdom” will take place from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on March 31 at Spicefire art gallery in Over-the-Rhine. The exhibit will feature work from established local artists and designers, as well as work by young women from area schools. That portion of the artwork will be presented by Girls with Pearls Cincinnati, a local chapter of the national nonprofit that focuses on empowering underserved girls who are facing challenging situations.

Girls with Pearls was founded locally by Tamie Sullivan. It started at Rockdale Academy in 2016, providing elementary and junior high school girls with a safe space to talk about and work through issues like self-esteem, their bodies and body image, sexuality and healthy relationships. 

"I could not be more excited about this new partnership with WomanUp ‘Words of Wisdom’ and the opportunity to expose girls in our program to professional women in creative fields,” Sullivan says. “These African-American girls are often forced to grow up faster than their counterparts in more affluent communities. They face more difficult life circumstances and increased responsibilities, so allowing them to just be girls and dream about their futures is what it’s all about." 

Sullivan says that she and other GWP organizers are extremely invested in the success of young women in the program. “One of the girls told me she had just been elected class president,” Sullivan says. “I was so proud and excited for her, almost like she were my own daughter.”

The free AIGA “Words of Wisdom” event is open to the public, but make sure to register ahead of time. Artists and designers interested in submitting work for the show should click here for more info.
 


Thrive Impact Sourcing's disruptive methods impact local employment rates


Since Thrive Impact Sourcing started in January 2016, the company has connected 35 unemployed and underemployed local residents with high-quality IT careers.
 
Kelly Dolan and Michael Kroeger started the company to address three realities in our region:
 
  1. Greater Cincinnati has a shortage of IT professionals; there are 3,000 unfilled positions at any given time. Many organizations have looked to offshore IT services or bring offshore resources onshore to fill this IT talent gap. 
  2. This creates a number of challenges in itself, and the challenges are likely to grow exponentially with policies being discussed under the new presidential administration.
  3. Cincinnati has an alarming poverty rate, with one in four residents living in poverty due to unemployment or underemployment.  
Dolan explains that when you look at these three factors combined: “Creating a business to be used as a force for good in being part of the solution is a no-brainer.”
 
Last year, Soapbox explained the disruptive “urban impact sourcing” model that Thrive uses to create high-quality opportunities in low-employment, urban areas. Thrive partners with nonprofit IT trainers Per Scholas — which has 20 years of experience — to give individuals free training they couldn’t receive anywhere else, as well as ongoing mentorship from senior IT professionals.
 
Using this model, Thrive brings a competitive and competent pool of IT talent to the marketplace.
 
“Thrive is fortunate to have mission-aligned, client partners who were early adopters of this disruptive business model,” says Dolan. “Our services also met a real need for their growing organizations.” CareSource and Crossroads are two area employers that have partnered with Thrive in its first year of business.
 
Dolan points to personal stories from Per Scholas graduates as evidence that the program, one of only two of its kind in the nation, is working to transform lives.
 
“I was living my dream as a stay-at-home mom when I found myself widowed at 31 with five young children to raise,” says Thrive software QA analyst and Per Scholas graduate Kelly K. “I had a few part-time jobs paying around $10 per hour and was getting increasingly distressed because I didn’t have any marketable skills to find a job that pays a sustainable wage. The Per Scholas software testing course was my ‘hail Mary,’ and now that I’m working at Thrive, I have a bright future and my family’s lives are changed.”
 

2017 Neighborhood Summit will feature how-to workshops that prompt big ideas


Greater Cincinnati's distinctive neighborhoods are growing at a remarkable pace, and it's thanks in part to events like the upcoming Neighborhood Summit.

The 15th annual Neighborhood Summit, which will take place March 11 at Xavier's Cintas Center, is presented by Invest in Neighborhoods, in partnership with the City of Cincinnati, the Community Building Institute, LISC and the CDC Association of Greater Cincinnati.

The event attracts hundreds of community leaders and volunteers, city officials and nonprofit professionals for a day of discussions focused on helping groups work more effectively to improve the quality of life across Greater Cincinnati. The summit also features grants and awards for community members whose projects and efforts are making a difference or bringing a neighborhood together in a new way.
 
Last year’s Neighborhood Summit drew more than 600 attendees, with the theme of “Making Your Place” that highlighted community gardens, arts festivals, neighborhood beautification projects and other placemaking initiatives.
 
According to Summit chair Elizabeth Bartley, event planners send out a community survey each year in late summer to gauge what is topically important. A steering committee made up of various Cincinnati leaders then compiles that feedback into guideposts for selecting speakers and sessions.
 
“Like everything else, the Summit evolves and changes to fit what’s going on in our city,” Bartley says. “When it was first started, many neighborhoods simply did not know how the city worked and what was available to them.”
 
Bartley says the Summit has evolved to feature a series of how-to workshops where participants can learn about everything from grantwriting and applying for city services to getting insurance. Breakout sessions are subdivided into seven key areas: health, housing, economy, transportation, education, infrastructure and safety. Click here for more information on this year’s workshops.
 
“Anyone can join in at any time to any topic, roll up their sleeves and work in small groups toward brainstorming ideas and identifying actions that can be taken, whether large or small,” Bartley says.
 
Bartley thinks that level of knowledge sharing among leaders is what makes the Summit impactful. “I have heard many exclamations of, ‘I didn’t know you were doing that! What a great idea!’ and that’s the spark that builds collaboration,” she says.

The Summit is free to attend, however registration is encouraged. Click here to RSVP. Anyone wishing to attend the kickoff dinner Friday, March 10 can purchase tickets here
 
Vendor tables are available to non-profits, city departments, and community organizations for $135.
 

Nonprofits to pitch goals and strategies to the public at SVP's Fast Pitch


On March 1, 10 area nonprofits will compete for $30,000 in award money at Social Venture Partners’ fourth annual Fast Pitch competition. Much like startup pitch nights and Demo Days, the event will pit the organizations against each other in three-minute presentations.

You can read about last year's winners here.
 
SVP is part of an international network of 3,500 partners that invest their time, talent and grant money in innovative ways to help strengthen local nonprofits. The organization’s goal is to enable its investees to make the region a stronger and more vibrant community.
 
The event helps the public learn about different nonprofits and what the innovative work they’re doing in the community. The Fast Pitch program begins with 25 local nonprofits, which were chosen from a total of 45 applicants. After three and a half weeks of practicing their pitches, the nonprofits competed in the semi-finals, and 10 nonprofits were left standing.
 
Those 10 groups have been working on their pitches with D. Lynn Meyers, the Cincinnati Ensemble Theatre’s producing artistic director, and Jay Shatz, an Emmy-award winning report.
 
The nonprofits that will present at the Fast Pitch finals at Duke Energy Convention Center are:
 
Adopt-a-Class, Price Hill: A group mentoring experience that connects businesses and civic groups with students, inspiring a corporate culture of teamwork and philanthropy while giving hope and a vision of what is possible for the youth of the future
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, Over-the-Rhine: Each year, its education program sees 50,000 students from 200 schools in three states.
Cincinnati Union Cooperative, OTR: Partners with individuals and organizations to create worker-owned businesses that sustain families and communities.
Circle Tail, Pleasant Plain, Ohio: Provides service and hearing dogs for people with disabilities, at no cost.
Crayons to Computers, Norwood: Serves the educational and imaginative needs of kids in Greater Cincinnati by providing donated items from businesses and the community to teachers for use in their classrooms.
Drug Free Clubs of America, Glendale: A voluntary program where high school students, with parental permission, submit to voluntary drug testing.
Faith Community Pharmacy, Florence: Provides necessary medications and pharmaceutical care to those who are unable to pay for it.
Per Scholas, OTR: Opens doors to technology careers for people from often-overlooked communities.
Women’s Crisis Center Green Dot, Northern Kentucky: Focused on preventing power-based personal violence.
Wordplay Cincinnati, Northside: A community of experts, artists, volunteers and donors who strive to equip K-12th graders with learning programs that focus on reading, writing and communicating.
 
Since its inception, the Fast Pitch finals has grown from 100 attendees to 550 last year; this year, they expect about 750 people to come. With that growth, there will be something new at this year’s event: the audience will get to vote for an Audience Choice Award.  
 
Tickets are $45-60 and can be purchased online; doors open at 5:30 p.m., and the event starts at 6:30 p.m. There will be a cash bar, small bites and an after-party for everyone who attends.
 

Sustainability advocate Rob Richardson joins Cincinnati mayoral race


Amidst a period of unprecedented growth for downtown, Over-the-Rhine and Cincinnati as a whole, sustainability advocate Rob Richardson, Jr. recently announced that he will join the 2017 mayoral race. His "One Cincinnati" platform emphasizes innovation, inclusion and a personal belief in the city motto of “Juncta Juvant” (Strength in Unity).
 
“Rob’s ultimate goal,” says campaign manager Daniel O’Connor, “is to leverage the expansive variety of talent and resources our city offers to provide and expand opportunities to all people that live here, regardless of race, gender or neighborhood.”
 
As chairman of the Board of Trustees for UC — the second-largest university in the state and the city’s largest employer — Richardson has forged relationships with leading sectors that include business, education, local startups, technology, community activism and more. It's an integrative approach that has allowed him to move outside the political realm, and one that he feels will enable him to leverage Cincinnati’s ever-growing pool of talent.
 
A teacher once told a 13-year-old Richardson that he was not intelligent enough to go to college. In response, his mother instilled in him the belief that limited expectations don't matter, reminding him at every turn that, “You define yourself, for yourself, by yourself.”

How does Richardson define himself? As an innovator and a person who actively pushes back against the status quo to find unique and effective solutions to any problem.
 
Richardson reinforced that conviction at the press conference where he announced his decision to run. He said that the election is not about the streetcar, west side vs. east side or a battle between political parties, genders or races. Instead, Richardson said, the election is about the type of city that we want Cincinnati to be, now and in the future.
 
To learn more about Richardson — the person and the candidate — visit www.robforcincinnati.com or his campaign’s Facebook page.
 
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