Igniting Change in Memphis


LaunchYourCity, Inc. co-president Andre Fowlkes presents the second in a series of guest posts for the Harvard Kennedy Business School’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation. LYC has had the opportunity to work closely with the Ash Center around their Project on Social Innovation and Stephen Goldsmith’s The Power of Social Innovation. You can read Andre’s full post here.

LaunchYourCity understands the significant challenges that come with efforts to create the jobs of tomorrow. Tremendous obstacles stand in the way of efforts to develop early stage startup companies—including severe Memphis entrenchment, high aversion to risk and new ideas, prescribed funding, and the curse of professionals who assume that they know what’s best for communities. Further, LYC believes in many of the principles highlighted in the book “The Power of Social Innovation” by Stephen Goldsmith, and acquired from a relationship with Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation.

Yet LaunchYourCity knew, dating back several years ago, that it would have to build momentum in the community in order to disrupt but at the same time create reform. One vital component of the LYC business model was to create a “Vortex” of Social Change. Only by aligning the right service providers with the right “market makers”–those who can provide the resources or the demand needed—would real transformation start to take place…

LaunchYourCity’s Vortex of Social Change has been in the developing process for 18 months. It has been gaining momentum slowly but steadily. Already the tool has helped shed light on how to better access and collaborate with local and state governments, quasi-government agencies focused on entrepreneurship, nonprofits and foundations investing in this space, private companies offering mentorship and dollars, advocacy and communications organizations with the capacity to reach the masses, and so many more.

By building this model, LYC has been able to better gauge status and where the gaps are.  For example, we have seen tremendous growth in the number of entrepreneurs served and in the accelerators that groom them, but the “market makers” are hedging in their provision of resources. Many are waiting for more results—a not unexpected mitigation strategy reflecting their aversion to risk…

In order to achieve our mission of creating more high growth enterprises, we must push harder into the unknown. As a first step, creating the Vortex of Social Change for Memphis showed us that a key point of intervention was the need for more national support to better rally local resources to their optimal capacity.