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What's Happening

Category: Inspiration from the World

What We’re Reading

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • January 3, 2018

“Over the last decade there has been an explosion of interest in collaboration, open innovation, and crowd engagement. Many companies are moving away from a model in which products and services are created through a closed, top-down, expert-biased process and toward open, crowdsourced, user-driven strategies. Nonprofits, philanthropists, and community groups are also embracing cocreation as a response to the challenge of tackling pressing problems in an increasingly complex world.

And yet, while the language of cocreation is en vogue, relatively few organizations are applying cocreative strategies to innovate boldly. We celebrate the solutions resulting from design competitions and open innovation processes, yet few of the results lead to systems change or profoundly shake up what is considered possible. Despite all the rhetoric of cocreation as an important tool for innovation, it appears that the majority of such efforts are doing little to challenge the basic structures of problem-solving. Meanwhile, our world cries out for designs that reimagine the way we do pretty much everything if we are to solve pressing problems like climate change, extreme inequality, and poverty.

After a two-year interdisciplinary research study exploring cocreative design processes in the nonprofit and for-profit sectors, we have concluded that only a small percentage of cocreation efforts are actually creating systems-changing solutions aligned with the stated needs and priorities of the participants, let alone with the possibilities for innovation that such approaches offer. We were left wondering why the majority of cocreation endeavors fall short of their promise and potential, so we set out to find an answer.”

Read “Creating Breakout Innovation” in its entirety.

“Wow, Syracuse. I want to go there:” Welcoming Economies Convening + Northside Tours

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • October 16, 2017



Next week, organizations, business owners, and individuals across the United States will convene in Syracuse to learn more about “cutting edge policies, successful programs, innovative ideas, and a network of trailblazers in our emerging field of immigrant economic development.” The Welcoming Economies event begins on Monday, October 23rd and ends on the 25th.

The Convening features a number of workshops and community tours. We’re most excited about:

1. Northside Tours

On Monday afternoon, participants can choose from several tours, three of which focus on the Northside: Building Community Amidst Constant Change: The Realities of Northside Micro-Neighborhoods; Food on the Northside: The Language that Needs No Translation; Creating safe and inclusive spaces for Faith: The Journey of Converting a Historic Church into a Welcoming Mosque.


2. Ignite Talks and Welcoming Reception

The first day of the conference ends with a fast-paced session where organizations give a five minute presentation about innovative ideas they’re adopted. The Talks are emceed by Nicole Watts of Hopeprint and Joe Cimperman of Global Cleveland.

A My Lucky Tummy pop-up follows the Ignite Talks, with food from Burma, Pakistan, Somalia, South Sudan, and Syria.


3. Community Organizing Case Study: Perspectives form Organizers and Community Members in the Near Westside Peacemaking Project

This panel is made up of leaders and participants of the Peacemaking Project, an innovative community organization model, that will share best practices with attendees.


We’re also excited to see the debut of a video about New Americans in Syracuse and their impact on the small business and workforce industries. Here’s two teasers to get you just as excited as we are:


To register for the conference, visit the We Global Network’s website. For those in Syracuse, you can use the local discount to save money on your registration. Go to the registration page and click on “Enter Promotion Code” in blue at the top of the registration form. Enter code LocalDiscount and press “Apply Code.”

This conference is hosted by CenterState CEO and  WE Global Network, a program of Welcoming America in partnership with Global Detroit. For more information about the Welcoming Economies Convening, visit CenterSatte CEO’s website.

Building Bridges for Economic Inclusion: Welcoming Economies Convening Comes to Syracuse

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • May 17, 2017

WE Convening


This October, CenterState CEO and the Welcoming Economies (WE) Global Network will host the 5th Annual Welcoming Economies Convening: Building Bridges for Economic Inclusion in Syracuse. This three-day conference “weaves together cutting edge policies, successful programs, innovative ideas, and a network of trailblazers in our emerging field of immigrant economic development.” While the schedule of events are still being developed, the Convening will feature a community tour, workshops, presentations and more. Individuals and organizations can register here under the Early-bird Special to receive a discount on the conference.

The WE Global Network is a program of Welcoming America in partnership with Global Detroit. Their mission is to “strengthen the work, maximize the impact, and sustain the efforts of local economic and community development initiatives across the region that welcome, retain, and empower immigrant communities as valued contributors to the region’s shared prosperity.” To learn more, visit the program’s website.

To get an idea about past Convenings hosted in different Rust Belt cities, check out these recaps from 2016 Philadelphia, 2015 Dayton, and 2014 Pittsburgh.



Visioning Voices Re-imagines Public Space on the Northside

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • March 9, 2017

Visioning Voices


WHAT: Visioning Voices Community Speaker Series, a free reoccurring event from SUNY ESF’s Center for Community Design Research. The series takes place in different places throughout Syracuse with the goal of growing healthy neighborhoods.


WHEN: Tuesday, March 21 beginning at 2:30 PM

Guided walking tour of N. Salina Street:  2:30 – 3:30 pm

Presentation by Nate Hommel and intervention site visit: 4:00 -5:45 pm

Community dinner: 5:45-6:15 pm

Workshop: 6:15-7:30 pm


WHERE: Assumption Church, 812 North Salina Street


“Take useless spaces and give them back to people,” encourages Nate Hommel, University City District Director of Planning and Design and the speaker for this month’s Visioning Voices series and workshop on the Northside. Nate will take participants on a walking tour of the North Salina Street corridor and a nearby community space, and will present some of the work he’s done in Philadelphia transforming underused public spaces. Check out the video below for a brief overview of Nate’s efforts!


This event is free and open to the public. Although it focuses on the Northside as the “host neighborhood” concepts will be applicable across communities. Participants can attend one or all of the event’s components by registering at the Visioning Voices Eventbrite page.

To learn more about the event, join the Facebook invite and follow SUNY ESF on Facebook.

Local Artist Inspired by the Northside

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • December 6, 2016


Photos by Photo By Frank Ordonez, The Post-Standard

Last month, Syracuse.com’s Marnie Eisenstadt published an article that explores the life and career of local artist and former Syracuse University Professor, David MacDonald. MacDonald “fell in love with pottery by accident” at a young age and used art to express his feelings about life as a black man in America. Today, he finds inspiration in the vibrancy of the Northside.

“As a young man, MacDonald’s work focused on what it felt like to be a black man in the U.S. in the late 1960s and 1970s. It was social protest. ‘Then I realized that my work was about being angry. And being frustrated,’ says MacDonald, whose beard is completely white now. ‘I would try to find something to be pissed off about and try to turn that into a body of work.’

As he got older, MacDonald realized it was too hard to stay angry . . . He refocused on his African heritage, incorporating African patterns into his designs.

MacDonald’s work now is also inspired by the modern day as much as history. His ‘figurative urns’, made this year, are based on an image from a bleak winter day on Syracuse’s North Side. He was eating a slice of pizza in his truck after running an errand. From the corner of his eye, MacDonald saw beautiful colors billowing. It was Somali women, dressed in traditional African robes, walking down the sidewalk.

In a bleak landscape, they were beautiful movement. MacDonald captured that in his clay. The urns curve like a woman’s figure. The geometric patterns wrap around and around: You can’t help but move to see the rest.”

To read the article in it’s entirety, visit Syracuse.com.

NDC Visits Syracuse

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • October 27, 2015

NDC for website

Today is day two of intense workshops and discussions with the Neighborhood Development Center (NDC), a Minnesota-based organization whose work “building neighborhood economies from within” has inspired our work throughout the years. We’re excited to bring some of our city’s stakeholders together this week to explore and learn from NDC and their model for harnessing entrepreneurial talent and enacting place-based revitalization.

To learn more about NDC, visit their website and “like” them on Facebook.

Two Blokes and a Bus

Written by Emma Voigt1 Comment • May 29, 2013

Just as we started getting excited about new food trucks starting in Syracuse, I learned of one becoming a sensation in my hometown of Bloomington-Normal, Illinois. Two friends, experienced in the restaurant industry, found an old London double decker, and followed their entrepreneurial inspiration. In the fall of 2012, they began serving internationally inspired dishes out of that refurbished 1958 London double decker bus they call, ‘Miss Victoria.’

A life-long anglophile and food enthusiast, I was eager to dine on the bus. I followed Two Blokes and a Bus on Facebook before I finally made it back to central Illinois. While on holiday in Illinois last week, my family and I chose a lovely evening to walk out to the bus, which according to the Facebook page, was parked about a mile from our home that evening.

We smelled the food cooking before we saw the bus. Neighbors—all drawn out by the enticing aromas, greeted each other in the queue. A woman in front of us joked that a make shift block party was forming in the parking lot. This mobile ‘bustaurant’ was bringing neighbors together.

After ordering our food from the side window, we headed upstairs to find a seat. European style seating—if there is an open spot, you are welcome to it. My family and I slid into one of the long booths across from another family.  It was their first time on the bus too. We were all clearly happy to be there, and they gave the food brilliant reviews. After they left, some loyal bus regulars joined us. We chatted about how great the fresh local ingredients were, and when our food arrived we all took pictures of one another’s dishes. I had steak kabobs with sticky rice, one of the blokes’ most popular items. The food is beautifully presented in traditional street food trays.

Before long, Steffan Block, one of the two owners, came up to check on us. He shared stories about England, and how the bus got started. By the time I finished eating, I actually felt like we were all old friends.  We finished the meal with Panna Cotta, eggless custard, topped with mango ginger. About to leave, we bumped into another acquaintance, and took time to catch up. In this fun and friendly atmosphere, you certainly do not want to rush your meal.

Steffan says there are some other mobile food businesses starting in Bloomington-Normal this summer. He has been helping them get started. In the world of food trucks, the more the merrier really is true. Larger cities have events where dozens of food trucks come to the same location to offer food and entertainment.  Some cities even have food truck hubs, where multiple trucks park and share an indoor seating area. We hope Syracuse’s food trucks will create the same sense of connectivity the blokes achieved in Illinois.


Food Truck Collage

Read up on Syracuse’s food trucks and carts at the following links:

Columbus Baking Co.

Fresh Crepe Co.

Gannon’s Ice Cream cart

Lady Bug Lunch Box

PB &J’s Lunch Box

Recess Mobile

Stevie’s Street Eats

STIR Mobile

Tortilla Jacks

Inspiration from Homeboy Industries

Written by Emma Voigt  • April 17, 2013

In the midst of an economic recession, the task of providing social services to an underserved population is growing more and more daunting. In some census tracts on the Northside, the poverty rate is as high as 30%. Homeboy Industries, in Los Angeles, California, tackles a similarly heavy task. In 1988 Father Greg Boyle founded Homeboy Industries to address the need for youth employment opportunities. Their work continues to impact the lives of young people throughout Los Angeles.

Currently, Los Angeles County is home to 34% of California’s poor, and 75% of youth gang homicides in the state occur here. The Homeboy organization focuses on formerly gang-involved and incarcerated men and women. Their model combines a range of services including: employment services—job preparation and placement; mental health services—individual therapy, substance abuse counseling, and group classes; legal services; curriculum and education—GED preparation, and a partnership with Learning Works! (a program that specializes in the education of young people); Solar Panel Training and Installation—preparing students to take a national certification test; and a charter high school offering life skills and enrichment classes.

Twenty-five percent of the funding for Homeboy’s services comes from its seven social enterprises, which include: Homeboy Bakery, Homeboy Silkscreen & Embroidery, Homegirl Café & Catering, Homeboy/girl Merchandise, Homeboy Farmers’ Market, Homeboy Diner at Los Angeles City Hall, and Homeboy Grocery (distributing products through regional grocery chains). In 2012, the businesses were estimated to bring in about $3,500,000 per year. By providing employees with a living wage, they are able to provide for their families while learning valuable soft and vocational skills. Homeboy employs between 240-280 people per year.  As Northside UP works to create a social enterprise, we believe Homeboy Industries’ approach is transferable to other settings.

Homeboy attributes their foundation of success to making programs and opportunities easily accessible for clients—everything takes place in gang-neutral downtown Los Angeles. By keeping all services in one location, clients are more likely to access all Homeboy has to offer, and because they are more engaged, they are more likely to successfully complete programs. In certain parts of the Northside, as many as 36% of residents do not have access to a vehicle.  Northside UP plans to focus its initial social enterprise efforts on improving the quality of life for residents of bourgeoning neighborhoods.

Homeboy Industries has found the primary driver for gang-involvement to be lack of alternative options and opportunities. One hundred percent of Homeboy’s clients are low-income, 99.9% are people of color, most have PTSD or complex trauma, most were abused or abandoned as children, all witnessed violence, and most have only an elementary school reading level. Gang-involvement is largely an effect of poverty. Yet, Homeboy points out that to children who must walk through various gang territories to get to school, who have never seen anyone graduate college, or are homeless, “joining a gang does not always seem like a bad (or particularly big) decision.” In order to break the cycle, better options and opportunities need to be made available.

Homeboy provides second chances to those of whom the rest of society has discounted.  The organization is an outstanding example of rethinking a flawed system.   By engaging in social enterprise, Syracuse can do its part to offer alternative options and opportunities for the underserved in our community.  By increasing opportunities, we can reduce costs and drive economic revitalization.  Perhaps most importantly, by creating opportunities, we enable the people in our community to make positive life choices that result in positive life changes.

Credit: www.facebook.com/HomeboyIndustries

Credit: www.facebook.com/HomeboyIndustries

Credit: www.facebook.com/HomeboyIndustries

Credit: www.facebook.com/HomeboyIndustries

A Model for the Northside

Written by Emma Voigt  • February 27, 2013

The Northside has a unique asset in its diversity.  Hundreds of refugees resettle on the Northside each year.  These New Americans combine skills, trades, and recipes from their homelands with their new neighbors’ traditions. As a historic point of entry for New Americans, the Northside’s lifelong residents claim heritage from across Europe.  Because of its history of diversity, the neighborhood is beginning to attract young, artistic entrepreneurs of every background imaginable.

Northside UP has been developing ways to help this diverse group cultivate their innate entrepreneurial spirit and change the neighborhood by harnessing the power of business.  By pairing our existing programming with the simple idea of a traditional bazaar, an idea with far reaching added benefits began to grow.  As Northside UP assembled a team of partners to create this shopping experience, we came across the example of the Midtown Global Market (MGM) in Minneapolis, MN.  This space illustrates many of our hopes for the Northside market.

MGM began when community groups and local business owners came together to convince city officials to save a long vacant building in 2003.  The idea was to create a place that could utilize the formerly vacant property to showcase the neighborhood’s ethnic diversity and entrepreneurial energy.  The Neighborhood Development CenterLatin Economic Development Center, and African Development Center worked with other business development partners and advisors to build the vision.  Through these partnerships, MGM was able to launch and offer training, technical assistance, lending, and other support for entrepreneurs.

Today, the market houses many diverse businesses including specialty groceries, prepared food, sit-down restaurants, arts, and crafts.  A shared commercial kitchen, located in the market, enhances the experience.  Professional chefs, caterers, food trucks, and other food manufacturers who need certified space, may use the kitchen for their culinary delights.  Access to high quality shared commercial kitchen space helps new and small businesses succeed by cutting overhead costs.  The kitchen also offers a growing schedule of cooking classes.  Customers can find food prepared in the kitchen along with cookbooks, magazines, kitchen utensils, and chefs’ tools at Kitchen in the Market’s retail store.

Like Syracuse, Minneapolis also resettles a large refugee population each year.  Each wave of new Americans brings refreshing ideas to the area. Northside UP sees the marketplace as an ideal means for infusing the business community with new ideas. By incentivizing incubator graduates to locate in vacant storefronts in bourgeoning neighborhoods, they will catalyze ongoing revitalization efforts.  It is encouraging to see success stories emerge from other like-minded endeavors. The Northside’s diverse residents add vibrancy to this corner of the city each day. Once they have access to the appropriate support, tools, and opportunities, they will help strengthen our city’s economy.

To learn more about Syracuse’s project, check out the video on the Huffington Post and be sure to vote for Syracuse!


Photo Credit: http://www.startribune.com/politics/blogs/100374339

Photo Credit: www.ndc-mn.org

Photo Credit: www.ndc-mn.org

Developing Justice

Written by Stephen Aguayo  • September 18, 2012

At the present moment, it seems as if our city is the site of an extreme make-over. From new hotels to the adaptive re-use of old hotels to the facility upgrades of our universities, hospitals, shopping centers, and business corridors, anywhere you go there is a good chance of encountering construction projects. Cities all across the country, especially along the rust belt, are reinvesting in their urban cores in an attempt to create a post-industrial identity. And Syracuse is no different, as this once industrial city is becoming a champion for environmental principles and the spirit of collaboration. A renewed focus on urban revitalization can help businesses flourish by attracting new middle-class residents and consumers with expendable income, but an influx of new money may alter a neighborhood’s identity. So, what affect does the rising cost of living have on long-term residents in these neighborhoods?

In Atlanta, Georgia, the FCS Ministry (Focused Community Strategies) has been working in the city’s core for thirty years. When founder Bob Lupton decided to move his family into the city, he quickly became aware of how urban revitalization has the potential to push out current residents. To that end, FCS Ministry was created. This organization focuses on identifying strategic neighborhood residents who can work collectively to foster neighborhood pride and leadership among both long-standing neighbors and newcomers, alike. In addition, FCS is the central link to a web of activity including, but not limited to: an economic development group that operates a market placebike shopcafe and refugee crafting group; a nationally recognized youth development programaffordable community housing developersentrepreneurial assistancea program to care for older residents; and service opportunities contributing to the overall revitalization efforts. FCS Ministries strives to create a mixed-income community “with both social and spiritual vitality as well as economic viability.” As our city moves forward, we must keep in mind FCS Ministry’s mission and build our community upon a sense of social justice and a respect for our neighbors.


Photo Credit: http://fcsministries.org/