SiX wrap up and funding announcement: Apply now!
One hundred Pittsburghers met at the New Hazlett Theater on the Northside last week to form the most eclectic editorial board in town. They weren’t planning the next edition of a publication but rather, working on advance copy for the headlines of the future.
Brought together by the Social Innovation Exchange (SiX), an initiative of The Pittsburgh Foundation led by Pop City and The Sprout Fund, the participants last Monday night were met with the following premise:
The year is 2015. What makes the news? You
create the headlines. As newsmakers for the night, you’ll sit on editorial boards and tell the story of social innovation in Pittsburgh through headlines about the people, places and projects creating change in our region.
Tasked with envisioning how the changing face of Pittsburgh will appear three years from now, participants were challenged to not only write the headline, but to brainstorm community-led grassroots projects that could be launched in the present to help bring about that future goal.
To help kick off the process, keynote speaker and veteran social innovator Josh McManus shared some of his experiences re-inventing the future through large-scale civic initiatives like Create, Here
in Chattanooga, Tennessee and dHive
in Detroit, Michigan.
Starting off with a mantra of “The next big thing is a million little things,” McManus detailed his recipe for social innovation success. Josh illustrated each concept with an example, such as the Main x 24 effort to turn Chattanooga into a 24-hour city by hosting a full day of public programming that brought the city’s Main Street alive with parades, music, performances, and a chili cook-off.
In closing, Josh reminded participants to “love the problem, not the solutions,” keeping in mind that as challenges change, so too must projects, programs, and organizations evolve to meet the new conditions.
With that, the event transitioned into small group discussions, and with each table moderated by a local media personality, the mock editorial boards got down to the business of writing the future. Framing their discussion through the lens of social innovation, participants discussed new and creative approaches to meeting tough social problems, and crafted potential news story headlines that could describe Pittsburgh’s future.
At Sharon Walsh’s table, the editor of Public Source facilitated a discussion all about Pittsburgh’s regional transit challenges and landed on a story titled “You Can
Get There from Here.” Recognizing the absolute necessity of public transit in a community needing more connections, Sharon’s group settled on a public awareness campaign that partnered transit advocates with sports teams to launch a fundraising drive called “Bucks for Butts” that would see a portion of each sports ticket purchase helping to fund a seat on a bus.
At Pop City (For Good) editor Marty Levine’s table, the theme was building bridges. With a headline of “Students Lead Program to Bridge Pittsburgh Neighborhoods,” participants in Marty’s group discussed ways to encourage cross-community collaboration through student-led programs that connect young talent with community organizations in need of specialized skills.
At Jenelle Pifer’s table, the WESA reporter led her group through the complexities of immigration and multiculturalism and came up with a story called “Yinzclusion: Pittsburgh Leads as Model for Multicultural Community” that describes a future where new members of Pittsburgh’s diverse community add their own unique spin to the city’s old traditions.
With eleven groups presenting tomorrow’s
headlines, nearly every group’s story involved creating more connections between communities in Pittsburgh. Whether through improvements to physical space, programs for cross cultural collaboration, or outreach efforts promoting inclusion, connectivity was the theme of the night.
As the event wrapped up, The Sprout Fund promised upcoming funding opportunities to support projects that could advance Pittsburgh toward the kind of future described in each group’s headline. Today, Sprout announced two Requests for Proposals:
- Building Public Support for Public Transport with funding for projects that engage with, celebrate, and promote public transportation
- Fostering Multicultural Collaboration Initiatives with funding for projects that encourage collaboration between diverse cultural agencies and innovative community programs
to read the full details and download application materials. Complete applications are due by November 30, 2012.
With so much focus on building connections within and across communities in Pittsburgh, the next SiX event will be dedicated to exploring these ideas in more depth.
Add your voice to the Social Innovation Exchange and attend the next SiX event on Monday, November 5, 2012. Stay tuned for registration details next week here in Pop City.
Ryan Coon is with the Sproud Fund, a partner in the SiX initiative.
Photographs copyright Rob Larson