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How To Engage A Diverse Community

Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Posted by Darrin Redus

Minority Business Early-Stage Capital SummitWhy don’t more minority entrepreneurs, particularly African American and Hispanic entrepreneurs, attend the array of technology based workshops, seminars, and events throughout the region, or join more of the organizations focused on emerging industries and technologies? While this is somewhat of a rhetorical question given that I’m not completely unaware of why this phenomenon exists, I pose the question nonetheless as I believe the variety of responses to this question can inform some larger strategies around inclusion for our region, state and nation. JumpStart recently put on a groundbreaking event in collaboration with a host of regional and national diverse partners entitled – Transforming the Landscape of Business In America: A Minority Business Early-Stage Capital Summit, which attracted over 250 diverse entrepreneurs, investors and stakeholders to a world class event focused on preparing more minority entrepreneurs for high growth ventures that are likely to attract angel investment and venture capital. We had a terrific mix of ethnicities, genders, and backgrounds present for the event, which got me thinking about why this rich diversity doesn’t take place on a more regular basis. A few thoughts came to mind:

  • Minority leaders must create a sense of urgency around the need to get involved in the industries and opportunities of the future.
  • Event planners and tech-based organizations must jointly promote their events and activities with media partners that cater to unique audiences.
  • Guest speakers, panelists, or participating members must consist of and represent the diversity that exists within the community.
  • The messaging as to “who should attend” must speak directly to the variety of “pain points” that different audiences are experiencing or are likely to experience if they fail to act.
  • Minority entrepreneurs and stakeholders must be far more proactive in seeking out and attending events or joining organizations that are not necessarily “minority focused” but address universal issues and challenges that impact all constituents.

While the above list is by no means all inclusive, and each point could easily consume volumes of information on its own, I’d like to pay particular attention to the final point which basically places the responsibility on each individual to simply get involved. 

Ultimately you are responsible for you –- period. To the extent that you recognize that learning is continuous, and we all must continue to broaden our skills, competencies and relationships, I urge those of you who have not historically been proactive in joining associations or attending events focused on emerging industries, technologies, and strategies to do so at your earliest opportunity. To assist you in this effort, please refer to JumpStart’s event postings frequently for upcoming events taking place throughout the 21 counties of Northeast Ohio, and beyond.

I also urge event planners and “mainstream” associations and organizations to rethink your promotional campaigns to ensure your partners, messaging, and strategies are as diverse as the communities that you serve.

Collectively we can truly make a difference in better engaging more of our diverse community. 

Darrin is Chief Economic Inclusion Officer of JumpStart and President of JumpStart Inclusion Advisors. He founded and ran his own strategic planning and management assistance firm and spent 16 years in the commercial banking and finance industry. Darrin has an MBA from Baldwin Wallace College and an undergraduate degree from Mount Union College. He has led a series of workshops and seminars on matters of economic development and diversity.

Tags: angel investmententrepreneurJumpStartJumpStart Inclusion AdvisorsminorityNortheast Ohioventure capitalwomen entrepreneurs

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