Last updated on October 8th, 2019 at 01:36 pm
Milwaukee-based civic accelerator Co:Lab will permanently launch in February with a focus on addressing challenges brought forward by the Clarke Square, Lindsay Heights and Riverworks neighborhood groups.
Student innovation program The Commons, social architecture firm NEWaukee and entrepreneurship community Startup Milwaukee launched Co:Lab as a pilot program in March. The program targets young professionals and trains them in design thinking, rapid prototyping and leadership and management skills, which they then apply to social challenges.
Business improvement districts, community foundations and nonprofits submit their challenges for participants to solve, with a focus on areas such as job growth, building capacity for civic engagement, public health and safety, or urban planning and infrastructure. The program also connects participants with leaders in city government, business improvement districts and other civic organizations.
“We intend for Co:Lab to serve as a resource for young professionals eager to do more in their hometown and to have a true impact by using their skills to support local neighborhood organizations. Co:Lab is an intersection for personal, professional and community development to take place in a whole new way,” said Angela Damiani, chief executive officer of NEWaukee.
The pilot cohort included 17 young professionals. The challenges included: finding ways to make the Modjeska Theater an iconic community gathering place in the Mitchell Street neighborhood, finding ways to harness the excitement behind Doors Open Milwaukee to gain new residents who will take advantage of Avenues West’s Live, Work, Play Homeownership Incentive program, and creating engagement among young professionals who work in the Granville BID area.
The 2020 cohort will focus on challenges presented by Lindsay Heights/Marketplace BID #32, which encompasses North Avenue, from 8th to 27th Streets, and Fond du Lac Avenue, from 17th to 27th Streets; Clarke Square Neighborhood Initiative, which focuses on the area encompassing Pierce Street, from South Cesar Chavez Drive to South Layton Boulevard, and South Cesar Chavez Drive, from West Greenfield Avenue to West Pierce Street; and Riverworks, which includes Riverworks Development Corporation, the Riverworks Business Improvement District , and the Harambee Neighborhood Improvement District.
At the end of the program, teams of participants pitch solutions to particular challenge areas during NEWaukee’s Big Impact event, a crowd-funded gala in which the proceeds of the ticket sales will support the solutions presented by Co:Lab participants.
“What we invest in today will shape Milwaukee moving forward; we’re applying the entrepreneurial skills of passionate young professionals to challenges that our neighborhoods face, empowering residents and strengthening our community,” said Matt Cordio, president of Skills Pipeline and Startup Milwaukee. “Co:Lab is an unprecedented collaboration between organizations committed to building a better Milwaukee.”