In February 2020, NEWaukee, Startup Milwaukee and The Commons will permanently launch Co:Lab – a civic accelerator that delivers a deeply engaging and experiential opportunity for a select group of Milwaukeeans to change their city for the better after a successful pilot program in 2019. Through the Co:Lab program, participants will apply their diverse skills, build new connections into the city and work together to produce a high-impact solution for a real community issue.
"We intend for Co:Lab to serve as a resource for young professionals eager to ‘do more’ in their hometown and to have a true impact by using their skills to support local neighborhood organizations. Co:Lab is an intersection for personal, professional and community development to take place in a whole new way. " explains Angela Damiani, CEO of NEWaukee.
The pilot program positively impacted not only the neighborhoods who received funding to implement projects but also the 17 young professionals who participated in the program and significantly increased their ability to engage within communities that are not their own, take risks and persist through failure.
"The methodology of thinking and collaboration working in the Co:Lab environment was incredibly eye-opening, as a Milwaukeean and as a professional. What we learned went so far beyond just the project we worked on." - Chad Tessmer, Chief Marketing Officer at Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center
In addition to gaining exposure to new neighborhoods throughout Milwaukee, through a series of workshops, participants are able to build their skills in design thinking, rapid prototyping, leadership and management. Participants gain exposure to various community leaders throughout the program from city government, business improvement districts and other civic organizations who are involved in this program.
"Through our work with The Commons, we've met countless emerging leaders passionate about addressing social challenges in Milwaukee," notes Michael Hostad, Executive Director of The Commons, an initiative of the Greater Milwaukee Committee. "Co:Lab presents a unique opportunity to explore those ideas and provide a platform for implementation."
Sourced from business improvement districts, community foundations or community nonprofits, the challenge areas are pitched to the program participants based on the tangible and true needs of a given area of the city of Milwaukee. Challenges can focus on, but are not limited to: job growth, building capacity for civic engagement, public health and safety, or urban planning and infrastructure.
Participants in the 2020 Co:Lab cohort will work on challenges brought forward from a diverse group of neighborhoods including Clarke Square, Lindsay Heights and Riverworks.
"The Clarke Square Neighborhood Initiative is pleased to welcome the unique Co:Lab partnership to the neighborhood with a focus on West National Avenue. With growing momentum literally being built, we know that we must be prepared to harness that positive energy along with seeking the necessary financial, social, and market resources that will help this commercial corridor live up to its potential." said Ian Bautista, Executive Director of the Clarke Square Neighborhood Initiative "We are confident that neighbors of all types will stand to benefit from this collaborative work."
"What we invest in today will shape Milwaukee moving forward; we’re applying the entrepreneurial skills of passionate young professionals to challenges that our neighborhoods face, empowering residents and strengthening our community," said Matt Cordio, president of Skills Pipeline and Startup Milwaukee. "Co:Lab is an unprecedented collaboration between organizations committed to building a better Milwaukee."
At the end of the program next spring, teams of participants pitch solutions to particular challenge areas during NEWaukee’s Big Impact event, a crowd-funded gala in which the proceeds of the ticket sales will support the realization of the ideas generated by the Co:Lab participants.
The Commons, NEWaukee and Startup Milwaukee seek community and corporate partners eager to engage with the community to provide program sponsorship and enroll employee participants. Programming is set to begin in February. To apply to participate, please visit colabmke.com.
The Commons, an initiative of The Greater Milwaukee Committee, is a bold collaboration between a growing number of Wisconsin colleges and universities, our local business community and the region's entrepreneurs. The program blends startup venture creation with corporate innovation and layers on a network of mentoring professionals to give a real-world experience designed to attract, develop, and retain the most talented and motivated minds in Wisconsin. Visit thecommonswi.com to learn more.
NEWaukee is a social architecture firm that specializes in community-based signature experiences centered on high-profile issues of importance for the city of Milwaukee. NEWaukee also provides consumer, employer brand and talent engagement services to employers looking to attract and retain talent necessary to grow their businesses. Visit newaukee.com to learn more.
Startup Milwaukee is an organization that provides entrepreneurs with access to mentorship, capital, talent and a community of like-minded entrepreneurs. Startup Milwaukee works with digital companies with scalable business models with the vision of making Southeast Wisconsin among the best places to launch and grow a high-growth company. Visit startupmke.org to learn more.