- An all-volunteer inclusivity task force, brought together by startup accelerator CivStart, will host its first meeting on Thursday to begin work on a roadmap that will guide govtech organizations in "hypothesis-driven experimentation, iterative product releases and validated learning" around racial equity and inclusion.
- The task force is led by co-chairs Jennifer Bradley, director of the Center for Urban Innovation at The Aspen Institute, and Douglas County, NE Commissioner Chris Rodgers. "[Their] experiences as a woman and Black man, respectively, working in and around state and local government were important factors in asking them to be Co-Chairs to ensure a continued focus on the additional barriers faced by underrepresented entrepreneurs," Nick Lyell, chief impact officer at CivStart, told Smart Cities Dive.
- The other task force members include a diverse array of local government leaders, technologists, investors and entrepreneurs. Nine of the 19 members are women, while seven are from Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities.
|Jennifer Bradley||Director, Center for Urban Innovation, The Aspen Institute|
|Chris Rodgers||Commissioner, Douglas County, NE|
|Evan Absher||Senior Program Officer, Kauffman Foundation|
|Hadeel Al Tashi||Labs Manager, WeWork Labs|
|Zach Beecher||Chief Operating Officer, C5 Accelerate|
|Judi Lynn Brown||Founder & Chief Impact Officer, Civic Makers|
|Bill Eger||Energy Manager, City of Alexandria, VA|
|Kristina Francis||Principal, Marathon Fund|
|Niles Friedman||Executive Advisor, Star Insights|
|Elle Hempen||CEO, The Atlas for Cities|
|Stacey Jackson||Global Business Dev. Manager for VCs and Startups, AWS|
|Anthony Jamison||CEO, CivStart|
|John Katt||Director of Tech, Development & Data, Office of the NYC Public Advocate|
|Kevin Limehouse||Innovation Director, Charleston County, SC|
|Dara Macan||Director of Global Business Development, SourceLink|
|Alejandro Manzanares||City Solutions Program Manager, National League of Cities|
|Juliana Meija||Founder & CEO, Street Entrepreneurs|
|Laura Naramore||Director of Public Sector, The MITRE Corporation|
|Brian Purchia||Founder & CEO, Riff City Strategies|
CivStart first teased its task force in early June along with the release of a Framework for Inclusive Govtech Ecosystems, which identified a number of opportunities for entrepreneurs, nonprofits and investors to consider in developing diverse govtech ecosystems. That announcement followed the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, which led to a national conversation around racial inequities in every American system from policing to business.
At the time of the June announcement, CivStart CEO Anthony Jamison, a Black entrepreneur and a member of this task force, shared his experiences with navigating the business landscape as a person of color.
"From a personal experience for me ... I found myself getting extremely frustrated with the process of creating a startup in the beginning," Jamison told Smart Cities Dive in an earlier interview. "Identifying those roadblocks and those barriers, those were things that I felt like I had to deal with a lot more significantly than individuals who don’t look like me."
With the launch of this new task force, CivStart hopes to develop action plans for each major sector in ecosystem-building that will foster inclusivity for any entrepreneur who may face barriers due to race or other identifying factors. CivStart will then adopt the actions into its own work and encourage others — including other accelerators and startup incubators — to incorporate the actions as well.
"This isn’t just an exercise in patting ourselves on the back," Jamison said in a statement. "This research won’t just live in a report. We are excited that it will be put into immediate practice at CivStart and in our partnerships with underrepresented founders, local government innovators, investors, and industry leaders."