Tools for Social Innovators

Tools for Social Innovators

So much has happened since I last posted. The world has been changing at a tremendous rate. Now, as much as ever before, is the time to speak up and act on behalf of human rights and the environment.

In support of those who continue to make our world a better place for everyone, I have created a new website called Tools for Social Innovators.

Tools for Social Innovators is an online library of tools to help people solve big social and environmental problems AND make money to sustain these important efforts. You’ll see that the tools are categorized into three sections:

  1. Tools for Social Innovation, which help with the process of innovating solutions to social and environmental challenges.
  2. Tools for Social Entrepreneurship, which provide guidance on how to build enterprises (in any sector) that tackle social, environmental, and economic challenges.
  3. Tools for Your Mind, which help you become the leader you need to be in order to help make the world a better place.

I created this website to provide the tools & strategies people can use to embark on social innovation in any sector. After studying business and public administration, planning and policy, I started noticing that many of the tools and strategies I was learning about could be shared more broadly and used across sectors, but often weren’t.  Also, I found that there was no single place on the internet where all the tools available could be found in one place. So I decided to create it.

This website is the culmination of work that I’ve been focused on for years. I’ve worked with non-profits and for-profits, including a consulting firm, a think tank, a startup accelerator, local and national non-profits, and governments. This website takes all the tools and strategies I’ve learned over time and gives them to you… for free.

Because it’s up to us to make this the world we want to live in.

With love,

Marianne

Webinars on How to Redevelop Commercial Vacant Properties

For those of you who weren’t able to make it for the webinar series this summer on how to redevelop commercial vacant properties and business districts in legacy cities, I’ve included the links to the archived webinars for your viewing pleasure!

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PLANNING FOR COMMERCIAL VACANT PROPERTY REUSE
This first webinar provides an overview of the first steps of any commercial revitalization process. These steps involve gaining an understanding the targeted property type and the specifics of its context, developing a plan for commercial revitalization that leverages the advantages of commercial vacant properties, and coordinating cross-sector partnerships around a framework for action. We also provide guidance on how to select an appropriate commercial vacant property reuse, maximizing the “match” between the property and its reuse.

TOOLS & STRATEGIES FOR COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE REDEVELOPMENT
The second webinar supplies tools and strategies that can be used to address the unique challenges of commercial real estate redevelopment. Additionally, strategies for motivating property owners to reuse commercial vacant properties and for gaining site control are covered. The webinar provides tools and strategies that, together, can help practitioners in a variety of contexts return commercial vacant properties to productive use.

TOOLS & STRATEGIES FOR BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT AND DISTRICT MANAGEMENT
Commercial revitalization requires the productive reuse of redeveloped spaces. This webinar lays out strategies and models for managing commercial districts in addition to specific methods for developing and attracting business tenants. Methods for developing existing businesses and attracting desirable new economic uses are described as part of implementing an overall business district management approach. The combination of commercial property redevelopment and long-term business support programs may increase the potential for successful commercial revitalization.

TOOLS FOR OVERCOMING FINANCIAL GAPS
Since the costs of commercial vacant property demolition, clean-up and redevelopment can be prohibitively high, established and creative financing sources will be necessary to undertake each of these activities in the future-especially in weaker markets and legacy cities. Various sources of capital from the private, public, and non-profit sectors, as well as how they can be used, will be described in this webinar.


I presented these webinars in partnership with Greater Ohio Policy Center (GOPC) and the Ohio CDC Association during the Summer of 2015. In 2014, GOPC, in partnership with the German Marshall Fund of the U.S. and the Center for Community Progress, released the publication Redeveloping Commercial Vacant Properties in Legacy Cities: A Guidebook to Linking Property Reuse and Economic Revitalization. Utilizing the guidebook as the basis for these webinars, each webinar featured expert panelists with on-the-ground experience in webinar subject matter.

Business Leaders Want Walkable Downtowns

Hundreds of American companies see unique competitive advantages to being located in a walkable downtown neighborhood. These locations are helping companies attract and retain talented workers, build their brand and corporate identity, support creative collaboration, be closer to partners, consolidate operations, and support triple-bottom line business outcomes.

Core Values: Why American Companies are Moving Downtown is a new report from Smart Growth America in partnership with Cushman & Wakefield and the George Washington University School of Business’ Center for Real Estate and Urban Analysis. The report surveys nearly 500 companies that have moved to or expanded in walkable downtowns over the past five years, as well as interviews with 45 senior-level staff at those companies. The report sheds light on why these companies chose a walkable downtown and what they looked for when making their decision.

“These companies chose a walkable downtown location to help them better compete for talent and resources,” said Geoff Anderson, President and CEO of Smart Growth America. “That tells us two things. First, that creating these kinds of places is a crucial economic development strategy for cities. And second, that companies which haven’t considered a walkable location may be at risk of falling behind.”

Continue reading

The Water & Sewer Infrastructure Crisis: Potential Paths Forward

By Marianne Eppig and Samantha Dawson

Our nation and its legacy cities are facing an impending infrastructure crisis: water and sewer systems are failing and require reconstruction and modernization as soon as possible. Most of these water and sewer systems were built immediately following WWII, meaning that they are approaching the end of their useful life. In some places, the infrastructure is already beginning to fail, leading to water main breaks, housing floods, sewage overflows into the environment, and public health crises.

While the national bill to upgrade this infrastructure has been estimated at around $1 trillion, costs for addressing Ohio’s existing water and sewer system deficiencies are estimated to be around $20.84 billion, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers.

To meet federal clean water mandates, cities must find ways to finance these needed infrastructure overhauls in short order. So far, many cities around Ohio have been ratcheting up water and sewer rates. The city of Akron, for example, has increased rates by 71% in one year. Other cities around Ohio have raised rates between 30% to 50% or more within the last two years.

Greater Ohio Policy Center is currently looking into other financial tools that can be used to restore Ohio’s water and sewer infrastructure systems. We will be discussing these tools with a panel of experts at our upcoming 2015 Summit on June 9th during the following session:

Finding Solutions to Ohio’s Water Infrastructure Challenges

Ohio cities, large and small, must address the critical behind-the-scenes challenge of modernizing their water and sewer infrastructure to avoid potential serious public health crises and environmental degradation, and to create capacity to attract and support businesses and residents.  However, Ohio’s cities are struggling to find ways to finance the complicated infrastructure overhauls needed to address these challenges, comply with federal mandates, and even support on-going maintenance. On this panel, experts will discuss the scope of these infrastructure challenges along with innovative financing approaches and sustainable solutions necessary for Ohio’s cities to function smoothly and accommodate regrowth.

For more information about the Summit agenda and to register, click here.

Graduate Students Innovate Strategies for Rust Belt Revitalization

Rust Belt cities—like Cleveland, Detroit, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Warren, Youngstown, and Buffalo—have some of the most pernicious challenges facing urban areas today. Concentrated poverty, aging infrastructure, population and industry loss, swaths of vacant properties, and decades of underinvestment are just some of the issues confronting these cities. And yet, now more than ever before, these cities have an opportunity to attract new populations who crave vibrant places with character.

The question is, how do these cities strategically invest in their assets and tackle their obstacles to benefit from this renewed interest in urban living? How can they become great again?

As a graduate student in the City and Regional Planning program at OSU’s Knowlton School of Architecture, I started a yearlong independent study to attempt to answer these questions and to innovate solutions to Rust Belt city challenges. Twelve other masters students in the City and Regional Planning program signed up for the course, and together we spent the 2011-2012 academic year researching, brainstorming, and writing about potential solutions for the Rust Belt. As part of our research, we visited Pittsburgh, Youngstown, Detroit, and Flint during our Spring Break and spent time talking to local leaders and learning from grassroots efforts. By the end of the year, we created a publication compiling our articles on our individual topics and solutions.

The publication that we created is titled 13 Strategies for Rust Belt Cities, and you can download it for free here:

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Each article in the publication presents an innovative strategy to address a Rust Belt challenge, such as:

  • Tax code to reduce the number of inner city vacant lots,
  • Chaos planning to bring life into urban cores,
  • Multi-lingual signage to accommodate diverse populations,
  • Policy to protect the Great Lakes,
  • Reuse of abandoned rail lines,
  • Free rent to incentivize migration back into the city, and much more.

Together, these articles paint a vision for what the Rust Belt could be within our lifetimes. By promulgating these ideas, we hope to contribute to the conversation about how to implement strategies for addressing the region’s obstacles and providing avenues to revitalization.

Rust Belt Renaissance

Click the above image to be re-directed to MSNBC’s video clip.

In this segment of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Details magazine’s Jesse Ashlock discusses ways in which young entrepreneurs are creating a “Rust Belt Renaissance.” In a clip from his article in Details, Ashlock states:

“The Motor City is just like the buckle on the Rust Belt, an entire region whose very name speaks of decline and decay but which is now determinedly–and definitively–finding its way forward. In fact, while the rest of America has staggered under the weight of the Great Recession, the innovators, entrepreneurs, thinkers and doers in cities like Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Buffalo and Youngstown have raced out ahead, leading a Heartland renaissance whose effects are being felt from coast to coast.”

A few of the organizations that they mention include A Piece of Cleveland, Slow’s BBQ in Detroit (just went there this past weekend!), and the LaunchHouse in Shaker Heights.