Effectively Organizing to Solve the Problem

By: William Generett Jr., J.D.
Like many social problems, the work necessary to connect underserved communities to the innovation economy is very complex. It is a problem that cannot be solved by one sector alone. A public private partnership comprise of a diverse set of stakeholders must come together and work together to solve this problem. To organize the public private partnership a committed anchor institution should take the lead in organizing this public private partnership.

The Pittsburgh Central Keystone Innovation Zone (now Urban Innovation21) was spearheaded by Duquesne University. Duquesne University, the second largest university in Pittsburgh, created and implemented a campus wide strategic plan that focused its efforts on working to uplift the Greater Hill District community. As result of this strategic plan was Duquesne University’s decision to reach out to the Hill House Association (a nonprofit organization that was leading economic development activity in the area) and to seek approval from the state of Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (BFTDA Program) to create the Pittsburgh Central Keystone Innovation Zone. The President of Duquesne University personally asked a consortium of some of the region’s largest anchor institutions (educational institutions, foundations, a financial institution, healthcare system, city government, county government and some of our region’s largest nonprofit organizations) to formally become members of the the PCKIZ. The ask by the President of Duquesne included asking stakeholders to commit to a multi-year financial commitment to fund the Pittsburgh Central Keystone Innovation Zone’s operations and a commitment by the organization to appoint one of its top leaders to serve on the board.

The elements necessary to create a successful public-private partnership are as follows: 1) Strong Partner that is willing to start and organize the partnership 2) Partners from different sectors: corporations, nonprofit organizations, financial institutions, government and foundations 3) Best to organize around a common problem that all partners can rally behind. 4) Partners need to be committed. Partners should be financially committed to the partnership. (Work to secure a financial commitment over a period of several years.) There must be a realization that the issues to be addressed by the partnership will not be solved in a short period of time. All partners should sign an Affiliation Agreement that legal binds them
to honor their commitment.

William Generett Jr., J.D.
President and CEO
Urban Innovation21