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One Year In: Partnership for Inclusive Innovation Driving Opportunities Across the State

As COVID raged across Georgia last Fall, a team of corporate heavyweights, academics and politicians teamed up with one goal: to help Georgia become the technology capital of the East Coast.

Just over 12 months later, the organization, christened the Partnership for Inclusive Innovation – or PIN for short – has launched pilot programs across the state designed to scale technologies in forgotten communities, supported agricultural innovators, funded a program to develop entrepreneurs and fund startups across rural Georgia, developed an early-stage venture fund and given Georgia college students hands-on experience along the way. The end result: tangible progress towards the organization’s key goals: to make Georgia’s innovation economy more inclusive by geography and demographics while supporting the state’s existing entrepreneurs and seeding a new crop of innovators.

“When PIN was launched, we knew Georgia had an entrepreneurial spirit that was unmatched,” said Debra Lam, Founding Executive Director for PIN. “We also knew that our innovators had uneven access to resources, and that for Georgia to become the technology capital of the East Coast, we had to broaden our reach, engage a more diverse set of leaders from across the state, and deliver what they need to succeed. We have done just that with tremendous success.”

The organization has focused its efforts in three areas since its establishment, with a focus on statewide economic and community impact:

  • Economic Opportunity – Through its Innovate for All program, PIN helped establish Georgia’s first MESH network in partnership with the theClubhou.SE to expand entrepreneurship training, access to startup capital, and financial support for Entrepreneur Support Organizations in Georgia. To date this effort has helped launch five regional innovation hubs dedicated to serving underserved entrepreneurs. It also helped launch the Working Farms Fund in Georgia, the first and only program in the U.S. to offer end-to-end support for next-generation farmers, preserving two farms and with plans to preserve two more. PIN has also established a seed program leveraging more than $1 million in funding to help communities launch locally proven programs, services or technologies ready to scale, and is actively fundraising for a $35 million early-stage technology venture capital fund focused on underrepresented communities and underinvested sectors of the economy statewide.
  • Community Research – The Partnership launched programs in multiple communities to help improve community services, develop smart and sustainable transportation solutions, create data solutions that improve public safety, and leverage technology to improve community services. It also started a “Smart Communities Challenge” to provide selected communities access to an array of resources to help drive innovation. So far, more than more than 170 “smart” technologies have been activated across 16 communities through this effort.
  • Student Engagement – With a goal of developing a new generation of leaders focused on public service, innovation and technology, PIN launched the Smart Community Corps, a summer cohort of students who work in local communities to support PIN projects that are dedicated to advancing innovation, technology and opportunity. In the summer of 2021, the team invested more than 5,200 hours in PIN projects.

PIN, funded by a mix of public and private dollars, has invested more than $2.8 million in these efforts so far. The organization anticipates an additional round of up to $1 million in funding for its Innovate for All programs.

“My desire from the start has been to elevate and enhance Georgia’s entrepreneurial economy in an equitable way,” said Georgia Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan. “I could not be prouder of the work of Debra, Bud Peterson, our board and everyone engaged in the program.”

Artice courtesy of Metro Atlanta CEO published November 15, 2021.