Equity and Collaboration Must Lead In Cleveland’s Race toward an Innovation Economy

The month of February is the national marker to emphasize the stories, contributions, names, faces and experiences of Black Americans throughout history. I celebrate Black History Month with pride, yet I, like others, know that Black history is American history. Therefore, it is not in our best interest as a country to relegate it to just one month in the year.

The notion of what is not in our best interest got me thinking about how what we do today will shape history tomorrow. Today, innovation and technology undoubtedly are blazing the path towards tomorrow. Ideas that solve problems at scale through technology and innovation are creating startups, growing jobs, and expanding the economy and opportunity.

As I reflect on what this means for Cleveland, for people who look like me (Black/Female) and for our region overall, the intersectionality of Innovation, Collaboration and Equity hits me hard (just like the intersectionality of feminism in Beyonce’s acclaimed Lemonade album.)

Innovation is the gateway to the future. We have the opportunity to reimagine, build-upon and ultimately create solutions to relevant problems. If Cleveland is going to be a destination and leader in innovation, then we must ensure innovators have an environment that is supportive, that encourages ideas, that invests in those ideas, embraces risk and celebrates innovation culture.

Perhaps you have learned, like I have, that if an idea is good then somebody else has already thought of it. To this point, collaboration is the secret sauce to growing innovation in Cleveland. The more alignment, coordination, cooperation and intentional investment we have focused on innovation the better. More is more. Anything we do in the name of innovation should have multiple partners, points of intersection and shared goals.

Equity – the determinant of who benefits and who bears the cost is a fox we are still chasing. Our track record has demonstrated for 400-years that Black and Brown people’s labor and talent has provided unearned benefits to white people, persisting across industries, the economy and our lives. Today we can acknowledge the injustices of the past and intentionally build an equitable and inclusive tomorrow. In Cleveland and across the region we must commit to and execute consistently on strategies, practices and policies that prioritize and support equity and inclusion.

Many of the elements necessary for a viable innovation ecosystem are colliding across the region to create synergy and traction towards our collective future. I am encouraged knowing our best days are ahead of us and the future is nearer than we think. JumpStart recognizes this synergy too. Our active partnership in the Cleveland Innovation Project, Midtown and ongoing support of diverse entrepreneurs, in part, demonstrates our embrace of an inclusive economy.

As we forge ahead, pioneering towards tomorrow, I encourage all of us to think about how we can champion innovation and collaboration while demanding equity in our work.

Posted in Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Entrepreneurship