Since inception, NEI has been committed to inclusion and social equity as a driving value. Through NEI’s work it has been reinforced across grantees that equity is imperative to growing the overall economy. The conscious commitment to inclusion and equity is necessary to make the “new economy” a new economy for all. NEI’s work in this area has been informed and guided by PolicyLink, a national leader in social equity and economic development strategies. NEI has developed the below principles as guides for its work, and spends time with each grantee to design equity metrics related to any grant dollars received.
- There needs to be a set of distinctive social equity metrics for both the high tech and the local place-based accelerators of the Innovation Network.
- There needs to be an affirmative social equity approach that pushes to identify those who need access to the resources which the Innovation Network will provide.
- People of color, women, and people in poverty need to be directly and explicitly included in the Innovation Network’s social equity objectives.
- There needs to be as much focus on equity as there are on viable market opportunities in the companies who are supported via the Innovation Network.
- “Market” and “equity” are not in opposition to the Innovation Network strategy.
- There needs to be a deliberate focus on building cohesion into what is currently a fragmented entrepreneurial network. The rebuilt network needs to be inclusive in all relevant aspects.
- There needs to be a more direct focus on identifying and engaging and funding those leaders/individuals/organizations/intermediaries that are “ready” to embrace social equity outcomes.
- Parties to the Innovation Network need to accept that NEI cannot play in every economic development “bucket” and will focus its social equity objectives appropriately to the Innovation Network strategy.
- The Innovation Network is centered on the creation, support and expansion of firms and the promotion of business activity through the accelerators. The linkages to the other strategies need to be established, but those may well be outside of the direct responsibility of the Innovation Network.
- There needs to be access to resources not only for those who are creating new businesses, but also to those with existing small and medium-sized businesses, particularly owned by Detroiters, located in Detroit, paying taxes to Detroit, and employing Detroiters.
- There needs to be intentional connections of the job opportunities which the new companies will provide to those in the community.
- There is a need for incentives to encourage the High Tech Accelerator’s (HTA) to stay in Detroit and give first options of employment to Detroiters and those of color, women, and low income individuals whenever possible.
- There needs to be some consideration of how to increase diversity in the future pipeline of HTA entrepreneurs.
- The improvement of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education in schools and universities serving low income communities and people of color is an important related societal goal without which a diverse high tech sector could not flourish.
- There needs to be a limited focus on “supply-side” labor market and training intervention within the social equity measures related to the Innovation Network.
- There needs to be a focus on providing those who are creating jobs with the support and resources they need to fill those jobs in an inclusive way.
- This is not about just filling the jobs, but also by the quality of the jobs in terms of their benefits, wages, flexibility, growth potential, and other features.