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EmcArts: Inclusive Economy Labs

Deadline: March 15, 2017

EmcArts is seeking a new Community Innovation Lab partnership. The focus of this Lab is pre-determined: building inclusive economies within American communities. This Community Innovation Lab is a 21-month pilot that will explore and advance work around the many ways communities enhance their economic strength – such as, but not limited to, business development and entrepreneurial cultivation, workforce training and quality jobs, finance and investment vehicles (whether traditional or pioneering), nurturing cooperatives, or financial literacy/fitness.

Community Innovation Labs represent an unconventional approach that brings multiple viewpoints together to address complex social challenges in new ways. The Labs use artistic processes to build trust, explore new possibilities, and advance arts-based strategies for systemic change. As interventions in local systems, the Labs are designed to help community stakeholders from different sectors work together in innovative ways in response to a specific challenge they are committed to tackling.

Each Lab will first provide a carefully constructed research process for citizens to build the local community’s awareness and understanding of the current situation around their take on economic inclusion. Local stakeholders will then bring multiple agencies and interests together across sectors over an extended period to explore and prototype a variety of adaptive responses to complex challenges in achieving more inclusive economies. The ultimate goal is not only to launch innovative programs and activities in this area, but also to increase adaptive potential and capacity across each community as an embedded asset in achieving sustainable financial and economic health in the future.

A Community Innovation Lab is most useful in places where:

  • There is a social challenge around economic inclusion that is complex – one that has resisted traditional planning, needs a systemic approach, and requires the involvement of multiple stakeholders, perspectives, and sectors to develop and carry out new strategies
  • The arts have the potential to play a vital role in bringing stakeholders together across boundaries and contribute to strategies for change in response to the challenge
  • The community has a track record of cross-sector collaboration to make progress on tough local problems, and momentum around a specific challenge

The specific framework and timeline is as follows:

  • Phase 1 – Initiating a Lab (approximately 6 months): EmcArts works with local Conveners to customize key elements of the Lab design to the local context, clarify the focus of the Lab, engage local artists, engage a small group of local Champions, and recruit larger groups of Lab Members, who represent the social diversity of the system relative to the stated challenge. Research is conducted to gather stories and perspectives from local stakeholders, who each bring a different insight on the challenge. Outputs produced from research are used in Phase 2.
  • Phase 2 Unfreezing the Status Quo (approximately 7 months): EmcArts facilitates a series of carefully crafted Intensive Workshops for a core group of 30-40 Lab participants, as well as a series of additional community gatherings to engage a larger cross-section of local stakeholders and influencers. Activities increase shared understanding of the challenge, begin to unfreeze the status quo in the system, develop trust, and organically catalyze participants into cross-sector working groups for new systemic initiatives.
  • Phase 3 – Accelerating Innovation (approximately 8 months): Up to three cross-sector working groups that emerge from Phase 2 can opt in to further facilitation support from an EmcArts team to foster their emerging arts-infused strategies for economic inclusion, maintaining momentum and pivoting towards testing strategies in action.

Amount: Lead support for the Labs covers $200,000 – the costs for EmcArts’ program design, facilitation, and logistics. Local conveners will need to raise a community matching grant of $100,000 to cover local costs. One partner will be selected.

Eligibility: Ideally, letters of inquiry will be jointly submitted from a coordinated group of two to three local stakeholders or organizations. Community stakeholders may include local arts organizations, city agencies, community foundations, academic institutions, and community-based organizations.

Link: http://emcarts.org/articles/rfp-preliminary-notice-inclusive-economy-labs

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