Dream: Foster innovation through partnerships

Dream: Foster innovation through partnerships

Back in the day, if you had a good idea, you told someone. Now, if you have a good idea, you can act on it. Free online education, open-source design software, digital prototyping resources, crowdfunding-it's essentially facilitating what I'll call the democratization of design. Now everyone is a potential entrepreneur.

What if you could make a buck while doing good as well? We call this a social enterprise: a business which provides a service or a value that has a socially forward component. If there is more of an emphasis on social enterprise, then there will be more businesses that are doing more good-not just lining someone's pockets but actually affecting social change. If it is making a buck, then it's self-propagating.

[The Columbus Idea Foundry] is an example of a social enterprise. The Franklinton Development Association is a nonprofit. The city granted [a vacant warehouse in Franklinton] to them. Then, they casted out for a tenant they thought could bring sidewalk life, art, technology, education, entrepreneurship. They picked us. But they're seller-financing us the mortgage, so instead of our money going to a bank, our money goes right back to a nonprofit who then disseminates it to the neighborhood. So it's a private-public partnership, a for-profit, nonprofit partnership.

I absolutely think there's room for more types of these relationships [in Columbus]. If there are prospective, socially forward missions that can be monetized, then I see a role of groups like the city or The Columbus Foundation or other organizations to provide some seed money, provided that the organization then gets on its feet and stands on its own. And I would like to see more of that. I would like to see cities, philanthropic groups and venture capitalists embracing the designer-as-consumer or consumer-as-entrepreneur model, where if you have a good idea, and there is a root to make a few bucks for it, then we'll seed you. If you produce a community that fosters innovations, creativity, businesses, technology, then that becomes your city vibrancy; that becomes the draw to bring other people in. -As told to Michelle Sullivan