The Commons, NEWaukee and Startup Milwaukee launch civic accelerator

Co:lab aims to address social challenges

College students in The Commons prototype an entire business in one intensive weekend.

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 09:04 pm

Student innovation program The Commons, social architecture firm NEWaukee and entrepreneurship community Startup Milwaukee announced today they plan to establish a new “civic accelerator” to apply entrepreneurial thinking to social challenges.

College students in The Commons prototype an entire business in one intensive weekend.

The accelerator, called co:lab, will host two cohorts of about 25 participants per year. The first is set to begin in January. Co:lab will target young professionals, and the organizers have called on corporations to encourage their emerging talent to participate. The participants will be split into about five teams and trained in design thinking, rapid prototyping, and leadership and management skills.

“We’re looking for corporate partners that want to send young talent into neighborhoods in their community to not only give back to the community, but to develop their leadership skills,” said Matt Cordio, co-founder and president of Startup Milwaukee. “This is really a great development opportunity for young professional emerging talent leaders and we expect companies to invest in sending their employees to this as a professional development opportunity.”

Business improvement districts, community foundations and nonprofits will present their challenges to co:lab participants. Among the potential areas of focus are job growth, building capacity for civic engagement, public health and safety, urban planning and infrastructure.

At the end of the seven-workshop program, a gala will be held, with ticket sale proceeds going to fund the solutions coming out of co:lab.

“This new accelerator marries the strengths of each of our organizations in a vital way that supports the community at large,” explains Angela Damiani, chief executive officer of NEWaukee. “Through an intentional design, 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. ”

“Through our work with The Commons, we’ve met countless emerging leaders passionate about addressing social challenges in Milwaukee,” said Michael Hostad, executive director of The Commons, an initiative of the Greater Milwaukee Committee. “co:lab presents a unique opportunity to explore those ideas and provide a platform for implementation.”

Those interested in applying to co:lab are asked to visit

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Molly Dill, former BizTimes Milwaukee managing editor.

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